Do we need to divide teams by competitiveness at Worlds?

There has been some discussion about making match-ups more fair for teams based on ability. (sorry I tried to reply to another message but it didn’t go through) I think changing the worlds layout by dividing everyone by competitive/less competitive could create a bad atmosphere. Basing anything on average score throughout the season could have some very negative effects. For example, there would be more pressure on teams to win and score high every match in every tournament. This could foster more “strategy” involving the lesser scoring robot to move out of the way and let the high scoring team do their thing. I already do not like this kind of talk, but I see it happen everywhere. There’s a reason it is called a teamwork challenge. Regardless of a team’s ability, a strategy involving both teams should be encouraged. Mentors should also be letting their students do the talking, even if language is a barrier. There are many lessons to be learned in the way teams interact with each other.

Coming from a competitive team, I understand where the frustration comes from. I’ve had kids who felt other teams had more favorable match-ups at the state and world level. I explained that the match-ups are completely random and not worth losing sleep over. The only thing you can do is be prepared and figure out strategies in advance that can maximize a score in a routine with actual teamwork. Nobody likes a bully, and that’s what more competitive teams become to less competitive teams.

I don’t believe the answer is in dividing teams up. The experience of Worlds is amazing, but I think teams need to temper expectations if they are realistic to how high they can score. However, at the end of the day, we should not lose track of what Vex IQ is all about. This is an excerpt from the REC page: (The VEX IQ Challenge fosters student development of the teamwork, critical thinking, project management, and communication skills required to prepare them to become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.) Notice, there is no mention of adults designing/building/programming so that their students can win. You really have to ask yourself what are your goals as parents, mentors and students. If your main focus is on winning then you have already lost.

I did not always think this way. I wanted so badly for my son to win. He has the talent but sometimes life just happens. He’s got 1 more year of eligibility in IQ, but he’s going to move up to VRC because he is ready. People with more wisdom than myself explained one of the main goals of Vex IQ, which is to prepare students for Vex. The analogy I use now is this…Vex IQ is like learning to ride a bike. At first you put on training wheels. Once you’re able to ride without the use of training wheels, you should take them off…and move up to Vex. If adults ride the bike for the kids, then they’ll never be able to move up to Vex. In other words, we are not setting up our kids to succeed if they are not learning. It is very frustrating to see my students have to compete against a bunch of adults or even an entire country.

How can we fix this issue? First of all, most people probably don’t think there’s a problem. We can start there. My suggestion is to put more focus on excellence. I like the many changes to the World Championship this past season, but I think an excellence award should be given to each division. Maybe there can be recognition for 1st through 10th place for excellence. This can also be done on a regular tournament level. Give teams incentive to strive for excellence at Worlds by awarding grant money or something. Our number one goal when entering a tournament is to win Excellence. Anything else is gravy. I do not think most teams think the same way. Winning Excellence should mean that you are doing something right. Your program is actually fulfilling the goal of preparing the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.

Having said that, I admit the growth of Worlds is a concern. There are many good teams that miss out on the finals. The level of competition varies greatly so the scores can be skewed depending on schedule. Perhaps more teams should be considered for the finals. I mentioned this in an earlier post. Expand the playoffs to involve more teams per division while also including wildcard teams. I don’t believe REC is allowing for more teams every year for the money, but the proof is in the pudding, so we’ll see if they respond to our concerns. There is a way to accomplish REC goals without losing the competitive component, which is probably what attracts people to Vex IQ in the first place. But like with everything in life, change starts with discussion. Let’s open it up.

Sorry for the long message. I will now step off my soapbox.

I love it. I think it’s more to get them ready for life than for VEX, but point well taken all around. I think I will have more to say after thinking it over, but I think it’s a great place to start.

Sankey, I agree, Vex IQ is more for getting our kids ready for life. For the serious students, Vex is the place to be if robotics runs through their veins. But whoa, talk about competitive…being ready is also knowing that there are no training wheels like in IQ. Good luck to those who move up to VRC.

I changed my tune about the whole competitive discussion…like it or not, if you’re going to have a world competition, then it should be competitive. I hope the discussion continues.

Ah, crap. Just posted in…-worlds-format

Basically comes down to depends on the goal. This is IQ. It will already be competitive as you approach Vex metal (EDR)/VRC. I also posted about our IQ graduates to middle school onwards… ie what they said about this.

Also this topic comes up every year and is scattered in many posts. It is more of a formal topic this time.

I got so excited about VEX the first year my oldest son competed in VEX EDR. I loved the way alliances were picked. How you could get a competent teammate of your choice, but then you were also forced to pick a less experienced “newbie” team for your 3rd team. This gave that 3rd team the opportunity of playing with more experienced teams, and if their alliance won, the “newbie” team qualified for States. So all of these “newbie” teams were getting carried along to participate in the big events. They got more excited about becoming a great team, and they became the experienced teams of the future. Seemed like an ingenious way to grow the VEX program. So, long story short, I love having less experienced teams at the big events.

IQ has been a bit more frustrating. Because of the “sudden death” aspect of the IQ finals, our team never actually won a tournament. After qualifying rounds, they were ranked in the top 2 for at least 4 tournaments (including States and Nationals). They qualified for Nationals and Worlds through Excellence Awards, 2nd place Teamwork Challenge, and Top 50 Skills. So I know there are many good teams out there that are not actually winning Tournament Champions. Don’t really know how we could open Worlds up to more teams that don’t win teamwork, but have innovative, functional robots. There were quite a few teams at Worlds who were having trouble driving simple robots.

My kids were lucky at Worlds Division Finals to get paired with a robot that did not do the same thing they did (score all the fence balls). If their ranking would have dropped 1 team, they would have been the same style robot and not able to score over 71. I wish there could be more of a round robin ending with the top few teams, and less luck of the draw.

Also, my kids got a variety of responses to asking other teams to let them score the fence balls. Some wanted to get the highest score possible, and were glad to stand back. Others wanted to try to score “their” balls. It was a fabulous opportunity to teach my kids about communicating their wishes and also actually hearing what the other teams were willing to do, and then trying to make the best of each situation.

I did like how they separated EDR from IQ this year. I just wish IQ could have gone first. The IQ team wanted to support the High School team, and he was pretty overwhelmed and exhausted by the time IQ got started.

Also, how about a combination program between the two? Finale the EDR and Open the IQ all together so the IQ kids can see the big kids?

All in all, the kids were inspired, learned some, and had a great time at Worlds, and that is the most important thing, so EXCELLENT JOB VEX!! Thank you.