I’m creating this topic to encourage civil discussion of rules <G2> and <G6>, competitive integrity, and where to draw the line between parallel innovation and cheating. I am not making any accusations of any kind towards anyone.
Recently, a team released a reveal video to multiple robots which appear to be identical. I will not be linking this video, as I do not want to direct any accusations towards them or give people easy access to harass them. If you know what video I am talking about, feel free to keep it to yourself.
If these bots are, as they appear to be, Identical down to the last screw, there are a few different ways this could have happened:
Every sister team worked together on one design and then built multiple copies. This is in my opinion the least illegal possibility, although I believe it would still be a violation of <G6> as there would be students fulfilling the role of designer for multiple teams.
One team designed the robot and other teams copied it exactly. This would be a violation because the build does not represent the skill level of the team.
Adults designed the robot and created multiple instances for the students to drive. This would be a major violation of <G2> and would go completely against the spirit of Vex.
Again, I am not making any accusations. There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation which I missed.
Where is the line drawn between having the same overall design and being an illegal copy? Obviously there are meta designs that emerge every year and no one can be faulted for using it when it turns out to be the most competitively viable. However, there should be a point where teams can’t use the same exact build.
Here are some screenshots from a public Discord conversation. I cannot speak for the reliability of any of these statements but they are things I have heard before
They are unlikely to judge well, but as a mentor, the programs that have copy cat teams are the ones that do really well year after year. The copy cats never work quite as well as the originals, but they are a great way to learn how to build a great bot.
Alternately I have seen middle school teams with the same bot as a high school team where members of both teams are siblings and work on their robots at home. There is no way to tell who is building what, but somehow both teams win the design or excellence award throughout the season, so something fishy might be going on in their Log Books. However, I have seen the MS team win Excellence over the HS sibling team at a competitions, so IDK if they just didn’t submit an HS logbook, or if they really convinced the judges that the robots had similar inspiration, but they did their own work.
Its just part of the game, and I would like to see how Judge Coordinators handle it.
What do you mean by an illegal copy? From my understanding copying a design is a perfectly legal. Going to a competition and taking pictures of someone else’s robots then copying is fine. Almost encouraged. Copying MOGO or DOGO’s cad screw by screw and copy and pasting code legal.
An illegal copy would be from my understanding a robot that has an Adult who has worked on or programed a robot without students. Or a robot that has been entirely built by someone not on that team.
Cutting parts to the right length and tightening nuts is not where the skill of building is at. Yes, you can legally take pictures of other robots and recreate certain mechanisms, even piece for piece, but once you get to the point of copying an entire robot exactly, it doesn’t matter who is physically building it- you are no longer the designer for the robot. At some meetings, when we are short staffed, a non team member will help mirror what I’m building to the other side of the robot, for instance. This is fine per G2, because they are not making any decisions about the robot, merely tightening screws.
I guess G3 could come into play here. It is totally against the point of Vex for many teams to have the exact same bot. I’m not talking about something like tower takeover where most bots would be indistinguishable to the average spectator, I mean screw for screw remakes.
If I had a set of identical robots show up to a tournament I was the head ref at, I would go to the judges and see if the team’s notebooks make it clear both teams were involved in the design process. If not, I would ask the teams point-blank if they had one team design it and the other copy. If they answer “Yes”, I’d inform the event partner of the issue and come up with a final call with them. I would think this would warrant a disqualification from the event and potentially the season. If they answer “No”, I could only assume they’re telling the truth and let them compete normally for the tournament and judged awards.
G6/G2 can be hard to enforce, but I think they’re well-written and further the goals of the program. Personally, I disagree with them. I think teams should be allowed to work in whatever way benefits their students the most. Some teams may need to build from plans, work more closely with adult mentors, or heavily piggy-back off of their sister teams to be able to participate. We probably all assume that the original post is referring to the teams with cloned robots that take the top seeds and pick each other to sweep the tournament, but cloned robots can happen at all levels. Students’ and teams’ circumstances differ and I believe it’s important that we try not to be judgemental or assume the worst in others.
Looks like additional programming tests will be conducted at future events in China to ensure that team programmers are actually understanding what they are doing. Because you need Chinese VEXForum account to access those files, I have put them in GDrive for y’all to see (unless you speak mandarin you will need to translate them).
I Take Chinese in school. I should learn how to apply this to robotics.
I think that a number of teams have code that they don’t really understand. Most people can’t really explain how pid works very well. I don’t think I could explain PID very well. Higher level of programing might be more copy and paste but idk.
It’s basically saying that in the 2021-2022 season, the top 16 teams in qualification, the top 3 teams in skills, and some other teams selected at random will be asked to complete programming assignments on a robot provided by the event organizer before they can move forward in the tournament (or move onto regional championship? I’m not exactly sure here). the test will be given after qualification and before alliance selection.
during the programming test, the selected team members (up to 2 people) will have 3 minutes to read the question and 20 minutes to program the robot. to pass the programming test, team members will need to write a program to make the robot complete the given task. sensors like limit switch and bumper switch will be included in the vrc high school programming test. multiple teams will be assigned to the same robot so teams will have to take turns to test their program.
during the programming test, teams are not allowed to use communication devices or borrow laptops/usb cables from other teams. teams are not allowed to have someone from another team taking the test for them or talk to people from another team during the test. violating any of the rules above will be considered cheating and will result in disqualification from the test (and potentially from the event).
and that is my problem with wholesale adoption of “I am doing xxx because PID works”… I ask “why does PID work there and no where else?” … [crickets] … or ask “what problem does it solve? did you consider alternatives?” … [crickets]… That is an indicator that the team is adopting a solution that beyond their skill level.
Taran, yes that is something when I am judging to ask about implementation and choice of libraries, and many judges do. That usually results in lower consideration in judging process compared to a team that state the problem they are trying to solve, possible solutions (stock configuration, libraries, or custom built by team (and latter is true learning …).
Teams who truly want to master solutions try it for themselves vs adopt someone else’s solution and not understand the implementation at all.
If the team is taking shortcuts by copying structures hole for hole that they saw in YouTube video or in-person, uses code library tuned in a way they can not explain… that is a clear example of a team who is operating out of they element according to G6 …
thankfully - not happen often.
Clonebots organization approach has significantly diminished in terms of one club one design…
Mail order robots - rumors - but have not seen it lead to a kitBot advancing to Worlds and placing well in divisions.
All this musing from fuzzy memories …
Overall teams are making good decisions in VRC, always a pleasure to see teams compete and learning from each other. It is not all doom and gloom. Truly impressed with having competition season made possible by teams who are driven to be their very best.
Is the internet allowed or are reference materials (APIs) provided? Are okapilib and such allowed? Stackoverflow or vexforum allowed?
Sorry for so many questions I’m just curious and can’t read Chinese.
that I don’t know, no where in the instruction said anything about API. regarding internet, it might sound weird but sometimes the event venue won’t provide internet to the competing teams. (take this statement with a grain of salt since it’s from my very limited experience with other competitions from at least 6 years ago)
I would assume so since there’s no restriction on the programming software. however I doubt the test will be this complicated, it seems like something that tests the competitor’s basic understanding in vrc programming
I don’t know enough to tell if Chinese teams actually use those two sites
The forum is getting interesting again… with some meaningful discussions happening
Regarding this issue - I always believe that teachers and mentors have to be the “1st line of defence”.
If the teachers and mentors are not concerned or allowing the students to do anything they want, then no rules or guides will be effective.
But it is really diffcult to regulate and there are so many grey areas. And I am very sure the worms that I am going to throw out of the cans will get some strong responses.
Eg. If it is ok to holecount (and it comes with instructions) Moby, then why is it not ok for a 1st-yr, 1st-time exposing to robotics, MS team to try to follow their senior’s design?
I know of many teams that will get the seniors to build a simple (non-Moby) robot for their juniors to try to “copy” and learn the basic and building techniques along the way. Most of the time, this will be the juniors’ 1st ever robot?
And these sort of basic robot designs normally will not be good enough to win any championship, but at least the junior teams will not get a thrashing or embarassed during regionals.
I would think that this is definitely one of the grey areas of whether is it consider as acceptable? And do note - no adults involved, just between seniors and juniors, and with the main focus of juniors learning to build a basic robot.
But I will be very concerned if this practice of copying the seniors continues into States or Nationals.
And regarding this - again… the mentors and teachers will be in the position to assess?
What I mean is - you are assuming there is only 1 designer for the entire club, but what if there are really 1 designer per team, but just that they really worked together to discuss and then bring the idea back to their own teams?
But normally if this is the case (of different teams’ designers coming together), there are still some minor differences to the individual robots - in terms of implementations of the ideas/solutions, but the general gameplay or approach will be similar.
But back to the point - is it wrong to have different designers from different teams to come together and discuss?
And @seenSeal has also mentioned another grey area - of some teams taking vids and photos of some meta and then holecount it. It is frown upon, but you can’t stop it.
And if this is legal, then how is it illegal for the juniors to try to copy the senior’s robot?
(I know I will get some reactions over here… but it is really food for thoughts).
I think this is over-simplifying matters.
Because if that’s the case, then there will be quite a number of season’s DQ issues to teams.
And I see 2 issues with this approach:
In pre-covid seasons, my club was one of those teams that will release multiple early season designs (due to the early season SingVex). The purpose was really to provide ideas to beginning teams to have something to fall back on and used. And hopefully the overall standard of VRC will improve.
So do we need to ban all forms of reveals?
It is really going down the rabbit hole if we are to trace who are the real orginator of certain designs, etc.
And besides, 99% of the designs are just a remixed or rehashed or various previous seasons’ designs.
And do we need to setup a “patent” Office for teams to lock in their “designs” ?
But you are totally right to say that end of the day, the EPs and judges will need to give the teams the benefit of doubts. And I presume most teams will answer “No”. So it is a kind of a non-question to ask if they have copied.
Yes… If I got it right, they started implementing this in 2019. It is their way of making sure the students are the one doing the programming, etc.
I do think we should give credits when credit is due - China teams have been putting in lots of effort in clamping down adult/trainer built robots in recent years.
In Singapore VRC scene, it is practically unheard of to have adult-built robots.
But in other robotics platforms, we do have “surprise mission” in our nationals as well. Teams that made it into the final rounds will need to surrender their mobile phones and get lock up in the hall for 4 hrs, and then the organisers will then release the surprise mission for the teams to build and programme their robots on the spot.
So perhaps this is something that RECF might want to consider? An additional category for worlds? We can call it “Speed Build” category. Teams to be given 1 full day to build and programme their robots on the spot
Hard to get the right tone for this response; @meng I do really respect you and your opinion. I hope this comes across as questioning assumptions rather than questioning you. I know your intentions are good.
You have absolutely hit the nail on the head with:
Why is avoiding a thrashing presented as a “good thing”? We learn more from failure than success, though I understand a desire to protect kids.
Yes, this is competitive robotics. Yes, winning feels better than losing. At the end of a tournament, only 2 teams will have won their last match though.
EDIT: Learning how to lose, how to turn that defeat into future success is a very important lifeskill
Why does this practice become more “concerning” as teams approach “higher stakes” competitions? This is a slippery slope, indeed. Prior to these high stakes competitions, teams have already internalized that winning matters more than how you got there.
Collaboration is a really important lifeskill, especially as you mention earlier that the type of interaction you are describing is older-student to younger-student. Teaching is often the best way to increase one’s own mastery.
I think where there are questions is “did the younger team copy the older team or did the older team build 2?”
I think the way that the Amogo/Dogo were done was fantastic. I would have no problem with seeing multiple of these robots; they are higher capability Moby/ClawBots. I don’t know why or how to explain, but seeing an organization with N teams all with Amogos seems less suspect than an organization with N teams of cloned highly tuned meta-bots. Maybe there’s not really one and its just an emotional response. Not sure. Maybe its that Amogo/Dogo were provided in a way that they are teaching tools that happen to be mid-level competitive, versus the impression that N highly tuned meta-bots were not the product of a single mind and then passed off to those who simply “drive” it.
I don’t think that copying a robot is a violation of the rules. If you see a design you really like, you should be allowed to copy it. Of course, if you can’t explain how anything on the robot works, then that is an issue. If you have an understanding of the robot and why things on it work, and you can make improvements to it then you are still following the design process and are playing in the spirit of the game. When you copy what someone else has done, you learn how it works and then can hopefully improve on it. As long as someone isn’t building your robot for you, then I don’t think it is an issue. For example, one of my sister teams copied AMOGO hole for hole. The last 2 weeks, they completely rebuilt the front to add a lift to the platform to account for AMOGO’s one major weakness. They did not copy anyone directly for this design, and used the design process to use what they learned building AMOGO and improved on the design. Copying people, whether a copy of one build technique or a whole robot, is just you learning how that works and giving you the opportunity to improve on it.
I don’t feel like I am oversimplifying things. This is the process I will use when I see cloned robots. It’s not perfect, but I have not seen guidelines from the RECF on how to implement these rules. Frankly, I don’t want to implement them, but I will always do my best to go by the rule book.
On the note of your program’s reveals: keep making them. I’m a huge fan of 8059 and based my designs heavily off of them. The hardest matches I can recall playing were against 8059A in division semis 2015. There are no rules against releasing your designs to the world. There are, however, rules against using a complete design which was not developed by your team. 8059 will never be disqualified for this… The many teams that mindlessly copy your teams’ designs, however…
No worries - I am not so easily offended… have been around long enough to develop a thick enough skin and shell. lol.
Actually you are right!
In fact I think I have explained it poorly.
because even with the simple robots, the junior teams are still getting thrashed! lol.
Think the objective is not about preventing thrashing, but rather, it is for the juniors to learn about building techniques and making sure they have at least a functioning robot that can moved and do some basic stuff, so that it will be a better tournament experience for them.
One side benefit that I notice so far is that because of the inferior robots, it actually motivated them to work on their strategy and gameplay - trying to figure out a way to beat a technically stronger opponents (Most of the time they will still lose though ).
I do think that once we are at States, Worlds or signature events, etc, it can’t helped but to think that the focus will be more about winning?
I mean, of course the students will still be learning from all the prep and the tournament experience. And every year, I do stressed a lot to the students about soaking in the worlds atmosphere and visiting top teams’ booth to learn from them, etc… but I do think it is natural that teams that made it to States and above will be putting more focus (as compared to regionals) on winning?
And I certainly would not expect a States (or Nationals or worlds)-going team to have zero design ability and can only do cloning of robots.
Not sure how to explain it - but if the juniors clone their senior’s robot or some other meta from online, we still can give the benefit of doubts of the junior team was just starting out and learning.
But once we are talking about higher level competitions, then all these “cloning” should not be happening. If the team can’t win with a robot of their own design, then they just don’t deserve to go to worlds - seems fair and square to me.
Then they just got to work harder and improve for the following seasons.
Again - there lies the responsibility of the teacher / mentor - if the teacher or mentor is allowing this to happen within the club, then all is lost (regardless of another 10 new rules) .
I get what you mean. The closest I can think of will be what happened during NBN.
Don’t get me wrong - i totally respect that particular organisation… but when you went to worlds, and then realised that you were facing off multiple N teams of very similar (not identical) robots from the same organisation, that bit of sour taste will start to set in.
I totally don’t agree to cloning. I always believe that at the bare minimum, teams should attempt to improve on any designs that they were inspired by.
But legally and technically, there isn’t much difference between holecounting a robot from the same club or holecounting a meta-bot?
But again - that’s another reason why I believe the key to enforce G2 and 6 lies with the teacher and mentor.
I believe that as teachers and mentors of teams, we have that obligations to make sure our teams are doing the right thing.
And I believe in this as well - even if it is collaboration of designers within the same club, no 2 robots should be screw by screw identical.
I think it is because there isn’t any foolproof approach of eliminating this issue?
Sorry if I used the wrong word of “over-simplifying”. What I am trying to say is that this approach mentioned will not reduce this problem.
I can imagine most of the time it will end up the judges needed to ask the students did they clone. And I can imagine 99% (if not 100%) of the time the students will say - “No, I didnt clone.”.
And then the benefit of doubt comes into play.
So it just doesn’t feel like it will prevent this mindless cloning issue?
Thanks. My students will be glad to hear that.
But sadly for these 2 seasons, we only managed to get into the lab after October
2015… which season was that…?
Edit: 118? gosh… I was asking my team to pay attention to you!!