Competing in tournament with a basic clawbot

I know you have started flame wars in the past, and I want to keep everything civil, so this will be my last post in this thread.

I wouldn’t consider wanting a robot that wins more matches than it loses “hyper competitive.” I may be a hyper competitive person, but even unusually bad teams exceed the scoring capabilities of a clawbot. Because a clawbot cannot move the mobile goal and can only reach about 22" in height, the clawbot mathematically can’t score more than 40 points. I score more than half of that in autonomous.

You don’t need a robot to go to a competition. If people lack inspiration, they should go to a competition as spectators to get new ideas and motivation. The original question was whether a clawbot would be a competitive design, not whether taking a bad robot to a competition would be inspiring.

I have been a VRC competitor for 3 full seasons, and in that time I have won almost as many competitions as I have lost. I have also devoted the better part of probably 150 weekends to robotics and built around 20 different robots. As such, I would consider myself to have gotten a lot out of vex. The lessons I’ve learned, the friends I’ve made, and the memories I’ve forged would have been 100% impossible with a clawbot. Thus, in order to get the most out of robotics, I would say a clawbot is entirely the wrong approach.

But that’s just my opinion. @TheColdedge, if you sincerely believe building a clawbot is a productive use of your time, I’m not stopping you.

As a competitor with a hyper-competitive mindset (albeit with a slightly less than competitive robot), I’m actually on the same side as him.

A flame war is usually a joint effort. Besides, this isn’t even close to a flame war. This is still a peaceful discussion.

Rearranging your post a bit, but some things that I want to say here are relevant to points made earlier in your post. The original question was, “Is [building a clawbot] common or is it acceptable? Or they should not enter into competition if they don’t build some fancy custom robot?”

Nowhere in that post is competitiveness even mentioned. The OP simply wanted to know if they would be looked down upon if they had a clawbot, and even if a clawbot was accepted, if they should compete with a clawbot.

Again, we do not care about competitiveness right now. I would argue that it is far better to go to a competition with a clawbot than to not go, and also that it is far better to compete with a clawbot than to go to a competition and not compete. By virtue of the nature of VEX, you cannot go to a competition with no robot and still compete. If you don’t compete, you are missing out on a lot. Sure, you can still go browsing all the other robots all you want, but you lose the experience with the format, working with an alliance partner (and all the helpful discussions and tips that may result from this), and even the possibility of being in the final bracket at small enough competitions.

Unusually bad robots being worse than clawbots? On occasion, but if you build a clawbot according to the directions and leave a little time before the competition for consulting the forum for troubleshooting, it ~should~ work reliably. I have built robots that are objectively inferior to clawbots because of my own inexperience. I have qualified for state with robots that are objectively inferior to clawbots.

As for the bit about your robot, good on you, I guess? To be very blunt, we are not talking about you right now. If anything, we are talking about you at the beginning of your first season, 3 years ago.

I 100% agree with you. If you, or any other person, spent 3 years in VEX, and was still working with nothing better than a clawbot at the end of that, I quite frankly would be very disappointed in that person. Fortunately, building, or even competing with a clawbot once does not doom you to a future of mediocrity. Every single competitor has to start somewhere. From there, if they are interested, they improve, and they build their own robots. That place doesn’t have to be a clawbot, it can be a better robot, or a worse robot, or someone else’s open source robot, but everyone has to start somewhere.

(Just out of curiosity, when you started robotics, had the club already existed? Were you working with someone who had competitive robotic experience?)

A bit of anecdotal evidence, there’s a robotics class at my school mostly geared towards bringing in new recruits for the competitive team. The first thing we make every new member do is build a clawbot. In teams of 5 8th graders, this takes about a week (5 days, 1 hr per day). No significant time lost, and they gain the knowledge, or at least the experience, of minor building. The following week, they all get about 30 minutes to play with their bots, and then we sit them all down and ask a crucial question: “How could it be better?”

And in my opinion, that is what will drive robotics. I may be presuming a bit much here, but it seems like your internal drive led you to become so devoted to robotics, not the fact that you built a thing that didn’t have a VEX stamp on it. Those who can’t or don’t want to continually improve the bot, striving to be better, usually switch out of the class after a few weeks. For those who answer the question, there’s an opening on the middle school team. The fact that they started with a clawbot doesn’t preclude them from ever being better; it just gives them a solid, albeit formulaic, place to start.

His time? I would hope not. Your time? I hope the same. My time? Certainly not!

But is building a clawbot useful to the OP? I would argue emphatically yes.

To the OP (if you managed to make it through all of my rant) - my suggestion is to build a clawbot, modify it to be better if you have time (the clawbot building shouldn’t take ~too~ long, I estimate about 10-15 person*hours of work for new students), and compete with it. Take notes at the competition, and start building from scratch as soon as you get back.

This is almost never true, but maybe you’ll PM me again instead.

This is 100% incorrect, but @puzzler7 already covered that.

I am not a 6th grader, but I have been around this scene since Clean Sweep, so i know a thing or two about building a robot. So no, building a claw bot would not be an effective use of my time, but I don’t build robots, I help kids build robots (generally they build and I provide constructive feedback).

I certainly have our new students build the various proto-bots because some of them have never turned a wrench and need the tutorial. I do think that they provide fantastic learning opportunities for new students, and actually competing in a event is 100% more inspiring and educational then just watching. Its all about positive engagement.

I’m not here to start a “flame war” or whatever, I just have had positive experiences sending students with proto-bots and thought that the OP might appreciate hearing that it’s been done, and can provide a fantastic learning opportunity.

lets stop this before it does become a “flame war”

That really isn’t necessary. No one is being inflammatory.

A difference of opinions is not a flame war. I think Cold Edge and I have much better things to do than start a flame war over a clawbot! We’re coaches providing a coach’s perspective. We both feel that as a learning device that clawbot has merit. I don’t think Vex would sell them if they didn’t agree.

From someone who hasn’t been participating in the conversation, it seemed like things were getting a bit heated and personal, with the “hyper competitive mindset” jibe

yeah. I have zero emotional attachment to this post.

I would also plug vex’s advance claw bot, that bad boy is actually kind of capable.

That is a legit mindset though. Some teams are solely focused on winning, and that’s 100% okay. I mean my team is that way and I love it.

But as an educator you have to be able to detach yourself from that mindset and look at the value that failing provides. check my tag line, I am all about my students trying and failing as long as they learn.

You won’t win with a claw bot, but it will provide lessons to newbies, and that’s what i think is important.


Carry on.

Some years ago, I mentored two middle school teams. One of them competed with a very slightly modified clawbot. They did well, actually, since they had documented the changes to the clawbot in an engineering notebook and they had autonomous code that scored a bit, and they could drive pretty well. They made it to the state tournament.

But how they did that year is immaterial, really. Those same core team members got the taste for it. They liked the competition. They even (unbelievably) liked the process of being interviewed by judges. They kept going. Last year as sophomores they were unbeaten in the Black division at the US Open. They were in the top 50 in World Skills, which got them to Worlds. At Worlds, they placed 8th in driver skills, and 37th in skills overall. They did okay in their division (14th; one of @TheColdedge teams was 13th), were picked for the tournament, but were eliminated in the quarter finals. They’ve won their division’s Community Award at Worlds two years in a row.

And that happened because that very first year at the very first tournament, their coach (not me) convinced them to go compete with a modified clawbot. It was a bit tough to get them to go, because their standard was what they had seen at the nearby high school facility, EC3: DR4B and Scissor lifts driven by World-ranked teams. But she was insistent. They were all but embarrassed by their own perceptions of team ineptitude. But she pushed them to go, and to try. I’m glad she did.

So yeah, I think clawbots are worth it.

Can confirm, these guys were good.

Although we were in fourth. nm that nationals

I’m actually unsure what you are referring to we ranked 7th at worlds…

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I was referring to the ranking out of qualifying, which is all I could find at RobotEvents for the division. I had a screenshot that showed some of the other numbers, but I couldn’t find division final rankings.

Ah, yeah Cerberus isn’t my team. They’re one of Indiana’s best, but not mine. We won State with them.

Oh, sorry. Thought they were because of the naming scheme.

Ah yeah. Understandable

The big point for me is that everyone likes to “do better.” But as a wise mentor once told me, the most important part of “doing better” is the doing.

Going to a tournament to watch can be interesting and you’ll learn some things. But by “doing” it instead of watching it, you’ll learn things you never knew you were missing. So entering a tournament as a beginning team with a functioning robot is way, way better than just watching. I remember how at the first team meeting following that first tournament, the coach filled the board with “lesson’s learned.” Hearing “battery management” while watching people change out batteries at a tournament is one thing. But running back to the pit because the robot won’t go and you’re in the queue to take the fields and nobody can tell which battery they used last…that drives it home.

Time management.
Reading a VEX qualifying schedule.
Waiting in the Pits to talk to judges
Scouting alliance partners
Scouting opponents
Making sure everybody stays hydrated and nobody gets “Hangry”
Learning when, and when not to change the code in the robot
Learning never, ever, to make changes without having multiple backups

The coach and the team had discussed some of this before the big day. But nothing drives it home like doing it. You can’t learn that while watching, you have to do it. A clawbot will get you all of that.

100% this

Technically, the battery is dead. It wouldn’t drive at all. :slight_smile:

I’d also say it depends on the level of students in your program. If this is their absolute first experience with putting things together, doing anything “custom” is going to be a bit overwhelming. Building a clawbot with instructions and everything is a good confidence builder towards being comfortable with making things with VEX parts. From there they can analyze how lifts, drivetrains, chassis, and to some degree programming works and suggest modifications to make it better. After the clawbot it’s a good chance to show the students the other parts they have to work with that wasn’t part of the clawbot kit to help start the discussion on modifications. There’s no rush to compete, but I definitely DO recommend that they compete the first year. The experience is invaluable.