How do you deal with existing robot designs?

Hi. I am not sure how I am supposed to deal with the large number of robot designs that are available and discussed on the VEX IQ forums and you tube. The last robot contest I dealt with highly discouraged any posting of robots until the final competition was done to avoid clever design ideas from propagating. Personally I prefer this method since it encourages originality. Obviously this is not the case in Vex competitions and so I need to know the rules on whether portions of rather clever design ideas available online are able to be incorporated into other teams designs or if this is a violation of the rules. I am currently heavily confused on this matter.

Our team decided this year not to use YouTube for design ideas. We use it for specific things, like types of lifts, by not looking at Ringmaster bots. Not only is it possibly cheating, it also leads to design convergence. Last year, YouTube led to the proliferation of what we called Wall Pickers which picked the 4 balls off the wall. At worlds they were everywhere. Except on the floor at the end. The wall picker was ultimately limited in its scoring capacity.

Also, our team has bought in to this, if you’re copying someone else’s bot, you’re already behind them. Think of how much people don’t know about your bot by looking at it. Also why we don’t worry too much about people taking pictures or video of ours. They’re already behind us if they copy it.

In my professional life as an artist and designer, I begin every project with research. I use source material for ideas/inspiration. I use the internet to research materials and techniques and then use my creativity to interpret these and add new flavors into my work.It's just another tool. And my kids are more fluent in "internet" than I am. I would rather them look at VEX videos than the youtube "star du jour"

Our team has created some of those videos, so I think I’m on the other side of this discussion. We post videos because the kids love to make and share them. They love the Big Vex reveals, and can’t wait to join the party. They are also building a Vex community through the people they contact on youtube. By the time they will get to high school, they might have a network of robot friends from all over the world.

They do get the root of some of their ideas from the other videos, but they also get them from competitions, past years, and they always adapt or modify them to work on their own robot. I am forever grateful to other coaches at the competitions who take the time to inspire to my kids, show them a feature of their robot that my kid doesn’t understand, or help me with a problem. The community of mentors and students was the part of VEX that hooked me in the first place.

If IQ is about learning, teamwork and community, the internet is a great place to start.

Claymarks1 I agree with a lot of this. We had a healthy long debate on it before deciding. It can definitely speed up the learning curve and connect the community!

If you think that this is cheating you are in the wrong sport!

I forget the name of the team, but one of the teams in the finals last year was a wall picker that could also grab 2 of of the floor and score 6 at a time. It looked like half of the robot was just a drive base. They took the idea, made it better, and ended up being able to perform in front of thousands. This was a great invocation of the KISS principle. (I think they won…)

If your students want to have completely original ideas and that will provide them with the best experience, then that is awesome and I am all for that. Most of my students have no experience with vexiq and without the internet and getting ideas to get started they would not have a good experience.

They are also not building a DR4B just because they saw one on the internet. As of now they have about a week left to have a functioning robot, and after our first competition they can go from there. We are mostly 4 bars at this point.

If I had a group of 8th graders that have been doing this for 5 years they would have almost everything together by late June. It just depends on how much help try need to get started.

What is the best experience for your kids? If that is your driving question, you will be fine, and your kids will have a great experience.

The only problem with this is that we will have an even greater proliferation of dad bots. If we could will ourselves to just let the kids do it, for better or worse, them this will be undoubtedly the greatest pre engineering experience in the world.

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I believe that design convergence is something that is perfectly acceptable. Straight copying is not. It is obvious that a certain type of design will usually work best for each game and most top teams will end up using similar designs. My students won the Engineering Division Championship and took 2nd in the Finals with what was basically a modified Clawbot (take a look at the link).
I do see people’s points though - many times students aren’t really the ones doing a lot of the work.

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Saw this quote this morning in an awesome book about creativity. Thought it went with this thread perfectly! (Intention: critical creativity in the classroom by Amy burvall and Dan Ryder)


We actively encourage kids to look at designs on the web, on youtube and ABSOLUTELY at competitions. Most kids will take ideas and incorporate them into their own. Some try to copy the really intricate designs professionally done in China. I think they learn either way and that is the important thing for me. I could care less about winning. Most of the kids don’t care about winning. they enjoy the challenge. Same goes with all of our VRC teams as well.

All of my roboteers look at every resource they can to find bad ideas to discard, good ones to improve on. “I see farther because I stand on the shoulders of giants”

Question about professionally built robots in China, how do I get a job that will support me building IQ robots? Is China the only place?

As an aside most teams copy a professional built robot, this year it is called Stretch. :wink:

My question would be (after watching YouTube videos of the China robots) HOW do our “Stretch” or “Clawbot” modifications compete with something like that???
Our team qualified for the World Championship event in KY next month, and for 10-year-olds who were thrilled when they just managed to score 70+ points it’s really discouraging to see teams scoring 300+ points with a robot that was “supposed to be” built children in their same age group. :frowning:

Paul Copioli wrote a good answer here:

They are going to make an attempt to weed this out.

On the other hand (and I’m not being mean here) you chose Stretch for your teams to build and use as a base for improvements. Whats stopping any of us from taking the 300 point, professionally built robot from Robot-tube and using that as the basis for our design iterations?

You still have almost 4 full weeks, you can still do that. The question is, “Is it about winning or inspiration?” We just had a huge tournament at the regional level, with table coverings, balloons, a bomb robot and 2 foot tall trophy’s custom made for the year. Our roboteers are inspired. And that’s what I’m after.


Our kids already modified their Stretch/Clawbot hybrid with several ideas they gathered at the State Championship competition. It now has 5 omni-directional wheels so it can travel forward, backwards AND sideways, and it has an elevator-style lift that can either have a Stretch-like claw or a “passive” claw attached (just need to get both of them through inspection). They also figured out (thanks to a great tip from another team) that changing the size of their drive gear can make their robot go a lot faster. YouTube has actually helped them a whole lot with the coding, but I think we have a defective Gyro because the turns simply aren’t accurate enough. Might be the extra speed or the “slicker” omni-directional tires, but 10-year-olds tend to get frustrated quickly when things don’t work as they are supposed to (especially if their code exactly matches the code from a YouTube video, but their robot turns nearly twice as far as the robot in the same video). Our team has only 2 hours per week to practice during school time, so we’ve been throwing in as many after-school and weekend sessions as possible, but 4 weeks isn’t much to get all the “glitches” worked out.

@Mountaingal – good for your team to expand Stretch to have an H-Drive for easier motion! Did you end up with the motor forward of the wheel or the motor to the rear? How close to the center of the robot is it?

The omni wheels do have more slip, so it will be a little more wobbly with the Gyro. You said you are using code off of Robot-tube, and that you changed the gearing for speed. Is it possible that your double fast gears are the cause for almost double the distance in turns?

You’ve indirectly brought up a point that I’ve made across the year. Robot competitions have multiple arcs. Some teams their arc is from event to event. Some teams have an arc that ends with them winning a State level. A few teams have an arc that has them going to Worlds and placing/winning.

Teams on the first arc are good with an hour or so a week starting in October. They are just happy to be at events and doing robots. They swap driving around and their overall strategy is to have fun. Most likely they are running the out of the box basic driver code.

Winning States arc have teams putting more effort in, about 2 hours a week, some start in Oct, most start in September. They have done some iterations and they have simple strategy setups to pair with other teams. Maybe some custom code, but it’s pretty simple.

Teams on the Worlds Arc started last May and have put 3 hours in every week since then. They have done multiple iterations and have honed driving skills. On a four person team they have special skills and have broken driving down to the first 30 and the last 30. On a two person team one driver always drives first and has a set routine. The second driver knows pretty much where they will take over the robot and drives the second 1/2. On a multi member team there is some nuance, they can break into strategy matches. If their partner wants the dumper (since that’s all they can really do) the team switches into their “non dumper” strategy and the two roboteers that have practiced doing scoring other than the tray dump take the sticks. Other times the drivers most adept and the tray moves take over.

Their robot is programmed to help at all times while driving. So the robot knows that they are trying for the fixed pegs, it only lets the arm go down far enough to clear the wall, no farther. It has a mode that spins the robot to face the goals at the touch of a button so the driver doesn’t need to jockey around.

Different Arcs for different teams. It’s hard to jump from arc to arc in a few weeks without a ton of extra effort. It’s hard for States winners that now trying to jump on the Worlds Arc. It’s a lot of ground to cover (as you know) in a short time. Good luck with your team!!

The motor is located behind the “sideways” wheel (which is in the center of the wheelbase), for the simple fact that the robot needed more weight in the back, to balance out the weight of the lift with its claw in the front. It was actually funny to watch at first, because the lift our team created (also with help from an inspirational “Robot-tube” video) could extend up to a height of 32 inches (much higher than needed for the short posts in the Ringmaster Challenge), but when the claw was loaded with rings and the lift extended to its fullest height, the robot “face-planted” each time. That problem was solved with a bumper that stops the lift just barely above the height of the posts to deposit the rings. An extension of the wheelbase and laying the “brain” flat again (they had it vertical at first) helped balance it out too, so at least it doesn’t drive like a “drunken sailor” now (NO offense intended to any sailors! ;))

You might be correct that the increased speed with the gear ratio change could be causing the problem with the turns. Our coders currently have the turn speed reduced to 60% for the first 60 degrees of the turn and 20% for the remaining 30 degrees . So I will suggest to them to experiment with lower settings and maybe we can find a viable solution that allows for an accurate 90 degree turn without losing too many precious seconds.

Our team’s “arc” has been more like a “spike”, mostly because our robot seems to have a mind of its own. We just had a 5-hour practice session this afternoon and everything that had worked like a charm at the previous practice simply REFUSED to work today (with NO changes made in between). The brain’s display kept showing “missing device” for every single motor and sensor on the autonomous programs, even though they all checked out in the VexIQ Utility and also functioned in the “Device Info” and the driver controlled programs. This now makes the 3rd time we encountered this problem (luckily ONLY during practice sessions so far), but short of giving our robot a “brain transplant” there seems to be no fix for this, especially since it’s an intermittent problem with no discernable pattern. Maybe it’s the weather or the time of day, who knows, but this robot is completely unpredictable in whether or not it will function autonomously.:frowning:

@Mountaingal There was this thread about motors having issues. The consensus was it had to do with roboteers moving the robot around without it being powered up. The wheels spin the motors and the motors act like generators. That may be the root of your problem.

Sounds like your team has figured out the motor positioning. As close to the drive base center is the best, with the weight towards the back to keep it from tipping.

Are you using time for the turn? You might want to think about the encoders on the motor helping you out on the initial part of the turn. Counting motor/wheel revolutions is more accurate than seconds (seconds has issues with battery charge, friction of the wheels on the field, is the field flat in all places, flex in the chassis of the robot, etc.