Competitions are unfair

These competitions are unfair. They ask that no adults help kids with robot design and execution but a big majority of the groups that come for the competitions are Robotix labs or groups like Magikid. The students pay big bucks to get trained and have dedicated coaches to help them come up with a robot design and train them. These coaches even accompany them to the competitions and are constantly coaching them. At inspection, the teams are specifically asked if all the building is done solely by the team members without adult help. On one end you have kids come up with the original design competing with robots built by labs that are catered to robotix and this makes it very unfair to those who are honestly plugging away to prepare for these competitions. Our last competition was even sponsored by Magikid and most of the team that won and went to states were all the Magikid teams and they all had the exact same robot design. If there are any judges or sponsors in this forum, I would appreciate some explanation to this.

Unfortunately, this is bound to happen in any competition. This is why notebooks are part of a lot of the qualifying judged awards. The notebook is the way to prove that a team had designed the robot. Although, there are some certain suspect engineers designing robot CADs for teams and outright just shipping a physical bot. But, this is why we have the notebook.

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Hi! I can understand your frustrations and I think it would be difficult to disagree with your sentiment. That being said, it doesn’t only occur in Vex. You can go to BSA pinewood derbies. science fairs, art contests, etc and see the same thing. It’s difficult, if not impossible to control.

I’m sure you’ve heard this next part, and don’t want to hear it again, but please bear with me - keep doing what you are doing, and do the best you can do. In the long view of you life, winning robotics torunaments are almost meaningless. My son graduated with a mechanical engineering degree last year. He immediately had a job working for a large, advance manufacturer. At no time during the interview process did anyone ask if he had won a Vex tournament when he was in 7th grade. At no time were they going to increase his salary because he went to Worlds. He had multiple internships before graduating - none of them cared about his Vex career, either. He graduated debt free - none of his scholarships were from Vex or for winning tournaments .

I do believe that participating in Vex helped him develop the skills that make him a good engineer - design process, troubleshooting, collaboration, planning, testing, etc. BUT that’s because he and his team mates did most of the work on their own. Focus ion developing the skills and improving, not on winning.

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That’s life buddy. Pay and skills gaps are always going to be a thing. Practice and funding are your 2 most important things.

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Hi Jo123, welcome to the forum, sorry you are having a bad experience.

I’ve highlighted some words in your first paragraph.

This document is the Student Centered Policy guide. It’s pretty long but it is very complete.

I’m just going to focus on Mechanical design for now, you can do the other sections on your own:

The bold in your post and the bold in the policy cover the same things. Roboteers can get training / teaching. Someone taught you how to read and do math, it follows that someone can (and my often made point is should) teach you how to build a robot. STEM for pay programs do that. They can help guide the roboteers in their process.

What they can’t do is build the robot. The policy is very clear on this.

Sadly, in some cases the roboteers do the work has morphed into “parents / adults / teachers” can not do anything. I call this the “dump and run strategy” Some adult comes by, dumps a $1000 of VEX parts on your table and says “Please build a World Championship Winning Robot” and walks (quickly) away. This, as any sane person could imagine is doomed to fail. A common example I use with parent like this is “The 1968 VW air cooled engine has about twice as many parts as the winning V5 robot from last years World Championship. I’m going to dump those VW parts on the table, how long until you get a running engine?” The surprised pikachu faces and the “umm never” comments are priceless. “Then why do you expect your roboteers to do the same thing?”

You asked about sponsors. STEM Robotics has been a sponsor of events since 2007. We’ve run over 100 events across that time. Also during that time the people that run STEM Robotics have mentored 100’s and 100’s of roboteers, new mentors and teachers. Events at the local level are run for a low cost by volunteers.

But this long story is pretty much useless to your present position @jo123 Your path forward is pretty simple, but pretty hard. On the web are 100’s of videos about VEXIQ robots. Look at them, can you see the mechanisms they use? Learn about them. There is a vast resource of VEX IQ training materials. Education - IQ - VEX Robotics Get an adult to help you get access.

But your best bet is get the Policy guide shown above and take it back to your mentor / coach / parent / adult / bigger sibling, etc. and go “the rules say you can help” and get them to work with you. They don’t design or build the robot, but they can (and should) help you learn.

Good luck on your robotics adventure!

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It’s not about the robot, it’s never has been about the robot, it’s never going to be about the robot. The robot is only there to keep fingers occupied while you cram design, engineering, math, physics, strategy, communication, cooperation and teamwork skills into their brains. - My first mentor (thanks Paul!)

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Hey I’ll take it :upside_down_face:

Anyways, it is fine that the mentors are mentoring their students about the various mechanisms and principles of robot building (that is their job).
However,

If they’re hero bots, that’s fine (honestly though, I prefer students at least put some jank twist on it on their own). However, if it’s not the hero bot or the IQ version of a clawbot, then that’s a problem. It is natural for big organizations to have bots that look very similar (because all the teams are talking and bouncing ideas off of each other, which is a good thing), but each should have at least some minor differences.

If I were you, I would take inspiration from their robots. I’m not saying outright copy them, but see what works and what doesn’t.

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Math teachers teach you and give you advice but not the answers on the test. Unless the coaches were building the robot for them, its allowed. Coaches are allowed to give advice and even give ideas for the robot like maybe you could add this or something but its allowed.

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Thank you all for all you comments especially to Chris for the encouragement. Yes thats exactly what we tell our son, to not worry about winning but his experience is going to pay off in the future. We can very well afford those labs, but we have told him he will learn much from tinkering and building than from a coach who is next to you giving you step by step instructions.
About the engineering notebook, if one can be taught how to build a robot step by step, they can also be taught how to fill in steps/ pictures in the notebook. These coaches travel with the team to the competitions coaching them till the very last minute because their salaries are based on if the group makes it to the world.
Also Foster, VEX knowing its going to allow groups like this to participate has to have statements like this in their policy statements at least for legal reasons. To me it reads as anyone may help the student with anything and even if you are going to guide them step by step with building the robot as long as the coach does not touch the pieces and snap it its fine (which even if they would build the whole thing for them, there . The line between coaching, giving ideas vs giving them step by step guidance is pretty thin. It can fool adults like us but kids see right through it. They saw it in the competition when kids bring robots that are built and work the exact same way and also have the exact same game strategy. All this is too much of a coincidence for us or the kids to naively believe that the kids of all ages just came up with the exact same idea just by coaches “sharing ideas” with them. I agree they cannot control how much guidance the kids get from the coaches but at a minimum they should prevent these labs who are there just to make money from participating in the competitions or it will eventually just be a ground for these labs to advertise their work and get more business as it already has.
Yes there are lots of videos and resources online, but you cannot just reconstruct those robots just by looking at them and figuring it out unless someone who knows robotics has some solid ideas on what parts to put together and make them work.
So to conclude yes there are integrity issues with this competition as in many things in the world. There will be any time money is involved. Its just sad that its brought down to a level where kids are involved. We teach them early what our world is all about and all at the same time we want to make this world a better place to live in.

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This is more like math teacher showing you the answer to the question during the test and asking you to copy it.

Well, instructions exist. Example hero bot. And this happens during a lot of competitions example in my vex v5 competition this one school had the same design except each team had a small twist. Were the coaches building the robot its allowed.

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I have also seen at our competitions that some coach’s snoop around other teams area. Is this legal?

Tinkering builds creativity, a critical skill.

Guided tinkering / mentoring / instructing builds quantifiable skills and hard knowledge to move from hoping and wishing it will work to knowing mechanism “X” will perform in “Y” manner.

It will not hurt for your kid(s)/team(s) to get official instruction regarding:

programming
drivetrains
good build techniques
4 bar lifts
cascade lifts
linkages
continuous chain lifts
clamps/grippers
image sensors
distance sensors
gears/gear ratios
autonomous programming

I’ll throw you a bone on that last one:

On my (small) channel, I also have some other howto videos along with a fun video on m&m robot.

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Yes.
But you know what you can do about it? Beat them…

I don’t know about you, but after building a robot from the ground up, I drive it a lot better because I know each and every quirk, and when I drive it’s like meshing my mind’s ideas with my mind’s strategies.
I applaud your kids building their own bots. However, copying someone else’s bot means that the kids don’t know the bot; it’s meta features are simply something taken for granted. By building your own bot, you know the bot, and you know the strategy, and you can improvise, improve, and innovate more easily. That means that though they might have a significant edge, you have an edge too.

But even if everyone else is cheating,

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

… Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

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any chance you would rework that for VEXcode ? Modkit has been obsolete for a few years now.

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to be fair, magkid is really good but i understand your frustration.

This is flawed for two reasons

  1. The hero bot instructions are accessible to anyone online, you don’t have to pay to view them
  2. The hero bot is intentionally viewed as a starting point, not a full-blown competitive robot ( I’m not saying that hero bots can’t be competitive, but if we look at the top teams for the past couple of years they have never been hero bots)

Personally, I’d say that what you described is more like the math teacher showing their favorite student the answer to the test.

Yes, this is called scouting, and it’s meant to help find out what teams might be competitive during the competition. I know dang well that there were a lot of people in my pit today, seeing my skills/ teamwork scores.

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Will see what I can do.

We also have a vrc robotmesh version on the same YT channel… but it’s got the same defunct issue. Hate they stopped development of their desktop version.