How to determine multiple robots are identical?

since identical robots becomes a more and more serious problem, especially in China.
Do we have a way to determine identical robots?
And how could we determine which one to DQ?

Technically, having a robot that is completely identical to another wouldn’t be a DQ in itself. There could be teams that are entering the same tournament with a ClawBot, especially if they are rookie teams themselves. In fact, I think @meng said in the 8059D reveal thread that there were two teams in Singapore that worked in isolation from each other, yet came out with pretty similar designs. So there is a plausible way that two or more teams come out with similar, if not identical, designs.

However, award-wise, the judges should be able to tell based on interviews and notebooks which robot(s) is/are a copy of another, versus being an innovation, where you take this from one robot, another from another robot, and so on, and you put them together to create something new. It only puts them out of the running for awards, but there isn’t exactly a rule that says you can’t copy another robot’s design.

What rule would either robot be breaking, in order to merit a DQ?

What judged award would a “copied” robot not be eligible for?

You have to consider if there are reasons the robots aren’t disqualified other than “not being able to tell” … you can often tell, and no one gets disqualified. It’s because the teams aren’t doing anything against the rules at all.

I always get uncomfortable when I see post like this.
Why especially China?
I am very sure this is not an unique China problem.
And I hope it is not purely based on what you saw on YouTube.

And let’s be honest - currently there are only that few ways of achieving effective scoring.

In SingVex, there were tons of robots doing reverse dumpster. But did the teams came together before that to look at each other designs? Absolutely not.
Reverse dumpster has been around since Clean Sweep and then followed by Sack Attack.
And the claw design - it was very popular during Gateway (before the NZ bots took over).
There was really nothing new in all these concepts.
In SingVex, yes… There were lots of dumpster and claw bot, but the implementations were different. I wouldn’t say anyone copy anyone.

It is just about design convergence, and not copy.

Another more recent examples:

  • during early to mid nbn season, we saw lots of 8059a lookalike running around in the world (and winning awards as well), but it was no issue. Simply because teams realised that they can’t win States or Nationals or Worlds with a robot design that was identical to the rest.
  • during nbn Worlds, there were lots of discobot lookalike (and btw, they were definitely not just from China), but there was no issue at all.
    The concepts can be the same, but the implementation will allow the cream to rise to the top :slight_smile:

There’s always going to be the element of design convergence. It’s just a question of how soon or later that happens.

Plus, I’ll be honest here and say that my team’s robot that won my state’s NBN tournament was based off 8059A. It was rickety, but still good. We went to Worlds though with a different, original robot. That’s coming from a team who first heard of and got into VEX Robotics only 4 months before state. We didn’t know much at the time and we built the robot in only one month, ending only a week before state. It’s quite normal for rookie teams to look to other robots for their own.

Thanks for posting this. I, too, cringed at the sweeping generalization. It implies that the initial poster has proof of this “increasing problem” and implies that the duplication was for nefarious reasons - not simply practical ones - as you point out in your post.

We would all do ourselves benefit by worrying about following the rules ourselves and letting Vex police its own program.

Thank you, Meng. We need to be very careful here when making sweeping generalizations, especially towards an entire country.

I believe the rule OP is referring too is this: https://vexforum.com/t/answered-one-driver-on-different-teams-at-different-events/32532/1

I don’t think there exists any practical way of telling if a robot is the same, it seems more of a “you shouldn’t do this” type of rule. If there are two identical robots at the same tournament on different teams it is obviously legal. If a robot appears to have switched teams between tournaments, it could be illegal, but it would be hard to tell if it was the same robot or not. I do not believe the intent of the rule is to consider identical robots the same robot and thus illegal.

Why is it that we so often feel the need to bring “China” into conversations such as these? Over the past couple of years there have been quite a number of posts that make sweeping accusations or generalizations about “China” or “Chinese teams” and it’s rather unsettling. If there are specific team numbers you’d like to use as an example, that is fine, but making a generalization about an entire country (however, it seems many times people do not even know what or who they are referring to when they say “China” or “Chinese”) can be quite offensive.

This is not only directed towards the author of this thread, but please do refrain from making statements such as these. On this topic specifically, I know for a fact that this is not purely a “China issue,” and do not even think that this is more common in China than it is anywhere else.

A quick reminder: it is not against the rules to build a robot that is an exact copy of another.

And it is a good idea to document your design process to win a judged award.

Also, Seemingly identical robots may have different performance due to build quality.

There is nothing about being DQ’d for this reason in the rules, but teams/organizations using a clone-bot strategy (among other reasons) can be excluded from judged awards based on the Student Centered criteria in the Judge Guide on RoboticsEducation.org.

Don’t forget code and driver skill. A well designed, well constructed bot can be clumsy to the point of uselessness if not properly programmed and tuned. Even a well coded robot can perform poorly if the driver is not well practiced with it.

I would wait to see the overall performance of robot, driver, and team before rushing to judgement. That said, I’d find it questionable if two or more robots were exact clones when compared side by side. It really won’t happen like that unless the teams used the same CAD or collaborated. Even if the first team published enough video/pictures of the robot such that subsequent teams could copy it well, I would expect several differences. Then I would be curious about the engineering notebooks and how they came to the same design rather than immediately getting mad that the robots seem to be copies.

I’ve deleted one post from this thread for being inflammatory.

Lol… i think copying is everywhere… I mean look at every vex game… A lot of the robots are almost identical since people started posting designs on YouTube and the forums, why cant we just let teams do whatever they want and let skill and dedication to robotics be the deciding factor of the winners and losers of the competitions…

I’m implementing a new policy of creating a video response to any post of mine removed from this forum, this will be the first.

I will answer this issue for all of you.
First of all, I’m a chinese teacher/coach. I don’t mean that all chinese teams are copying others robots or students can’t bring other’s idea into their robot.
what I ment, literally, is identical robots.
Say someone have 99999A~K, and their robots are all the same, is this illegal?

I bet most of you never saw this before.
This is a picture taken in “2016 Asia-Pacific Robotics Championship China Qualifier” during Agust.
THIS is what I’m talking about. They are under the same team number and have like at least 20 robots identical to each other. Before finals, HS seed 1 and HS seed 2 are from them and head of referee gave seed 2 DQ. But seed 1 could always choose one of their own team.

Many chinese teachers and students feel uncomfortable with this, like me.
Like most of chinese teams, we only have 1 team for MS and 1 team for HS. But companies like this, they would brought in 20 or even more team into the competition, dominated the competition and also ruined it.

This is quoted from "Information for participant in 2016 the Tenth Asia-Pacific Robotics Championship "

Actually, I had seen this before… for many years.
We were involved in Asia Pacific (or APAC) since Singapore (was it 2008?) till Macau (2014?).

Think the official stand is that it is legal… as long as the different robots are driven by different students.

But I would still say that it is definitely not an unique China problem/issue.
Even in Singapore, or in other countries, it is not uncommon to see teams from the same club/school having identical or similar design robots.

Trust me - i do understand your frustrations and how you are feeling. I have been through that stage too.

It is about changing the mindset or culture of the robotics scene. Granted that it is definitely many times easier to do that in Singapore than in China, but someone over there just got to start the change at some point of time.

But looks like the organiser seem to recognise the issue as well and have taken steps to alleviate the situations (eg. limiting each club to 4 teams, etc). And I certainly think this is a good start.

I would like to jump in from an educator perspective. Clubs and programs will have different learning objectives to meet the needs of their community. Consider that US education model came about to meet the needs of industries that wanted laborers to have common, easy to teach skills so they could work in specialized roles that were distributed around the country. Think Ford mass production. If you really wanted to appeal to Henry Ford, you would probably want to show you could mass produce identical robots with the same build quality with a labor force with limited training needed to achieve it. The US has a lot of innovation going for it, largely due to the wide variety of education policies implemented around the country, even within a region and school district! The result is we see a wide range of teaching and learning styles, and the robotics programs reflect that. I really like the breadth of robot designs that are created by teams at regional competitions.

Bottom line, I would not be so dismissive about what appears to be a systemic flaw, but rather try to envision the context that produces such situations. As a judge, I would welcome the challenge of discovering the genesis of the design in the picture about, credit should go to where credit is due.