Direct Parent/Coach Involvement

Hello all, this has been a question I have had for the past couple months that everyone seems to have a different answer for so during a competition are parents/coaches allowed to work directly on a robot without any student involvement. I feel this puts teams at a disadvantage who only use their students as their resources. I also thought that Vex was supposed to be a competition with little/no coach involvement in terms of design and building. I ask this because at the majority of the competitions I have been at this year there was at least 2 cases of this. So if this is against the rules can someone link me a direct quote from the rulebook that proves this and if this is a regular occurrence can teams be punished for this and if so what is the proper procedure to report a suspected team? Also let me know of your opinion of this is. Thank You in advance.

It is from the Key Concepts area of the Judge Guide (which can be found here:.)

Note that it is not disqualifying to the team in the overall competition. But the judges “should not” reward the teams with judged awards. Note that “should not” does not have the same force as “may not” or “must not”; both those are edicts against, while “should not” is less strong.

Although there is NO specific rule against it, I (and other event partners), having observed this occurring, have gone to our judges and requested that the offending team be removed from any consideration for a judged award. We will then pull the coach/mentor aside and inform of what we observed and what we have told the judges. I don’t have a problem with an adult lending a hand in repairing a robot in the pits as long as the students are doing the bulk of the work and the adult is just another pair of hands to expedite the fixing the robot. However, I have witnessed examples of adults working on a robot (or programming the robot) with NO students around. In those cases, I follow the procedure above. If it is at one of my events, I will speak to the coach/mentor myself, if at another event, I will inform the event partner. Unfortunately, there is NO way to enforce a total ban on adults building, designing or programming the robot as no one has the resources nor the inclination to visit every possible build site.
As a coach/mentor for many years, I am VERY hands off. And that was as true when my son was a team member 12 years ago as it is now. The robots are the student’s robots, NOT mine. I think there are valuable lessons for them to learn by occasionally failing. My job, as I see it, is to make sure they are working in a safe and professional manner, to answer questions should they ask (and more often than not, answering their question with a question) and on occasion, if I see something I think is a little questionable, I might ask why they have chosen that path. I let them give their explanation. However, I have never told them they shouldn’t take a particular path not told them they should take a particular path. That being said, I am proud to say that we have been one of the more successful programs in the state of Wisconsin. but my role is to put the students’ in a position to succeed (or fail, but to learn from the failure).

Every team will find it’s own dynamic. I can’t say I’ve seen much in the way of “adult built” robots here in BC… probably because they’d get their butts kicked soundly by the student built robots. There are few adults who can put the time in to keep up with the top teams… and even if they did, the judges would catch it themselves during the judged presentations. Adult help might be good to get a team up and running, but when it comes to winning awards I think the students can do just fine on their own.


Although on the surface teams with more adult assistance seem to have advantages over purely student driven programs, overall student driven programs are more successful. All of the legacy teams I can think of (62, 1103, Discobots, 2915A, etc.) are student driven. Students are going to be more motivated to have their own work succeed than any adult; what’s the point in winning against other high school robots? When I take into account what students gain from the program when they are self driven and motivated to do well, having adults work on the robots directly is detrimental.

This has been a topic of debate for a long time. There is practically a wing at the Library of Congress dedicated to this topic. To take a stroll through the spectrum of differing opinions, you might start here:

Or here:

And while many wise mentors have expressed an opinion on it here and in that spectrum of differing opinions, perhaps the wisest was set forth here (as quoted in a post from the first link above) being as it is official.

Karthik noted as follows:

[The exceptions in the original question came from the Skyrise Game Manual ,G4> and <SG4> pertaining to the drive teams and handling of controls]