Yesterday at our local competition, the head judge used this exact phrase during the opening ceremonies: “Essentially, if an adult is touching the robot, you’re doing something wrong.”
I’d never heard it phrased that way before, and it was like a revelation.
I know that this phrasing is NOT part of the current VEX IQ rules. The rules have been quoted many times here, and the head judge used that official wording as well. " adults should never work on or program a Robot without Students on that Team being present and actively participating." However, that official phrasing has always struck me as frustratingly vague. It doesn’t say that adults can’t work on the robot. And what does “active student participation” mean?
In my career as a coach, I’ve definitely “touched the robot” a lot. The line is blurry, and the slope is slippery. As the deadline nears, and the kids’ interest wanes, “active participation” become spotty. I’ve also had a few dad’s “take over” and pretty much build the drivetrain or lifting arm or whatever themselves, because their kid was asked to build that part of the robot during a team meeting, and their kid just wasn’t interested.
Furthermore, this rule is obviously only enforced for the judge’s awards, and not for the main scored competition. I’ve seen plenty of obviously mentor-built bots (little kids struggling to carry a robot that’s bigger than they are) doing well or even winning the scored challenges.
So, why not make this rule official?
“Adults may not touch the VEX IQ pieces during robot construction, and beyond installing the software, adults may not touch the keyboard or mouse during the process of defining the robot’s program.”
You have us signing an official release at check-in.
Why not have an official agreement that every adult and every child signs at check-in, which states: “No adult touched the robot during the build process, and no adult modified the robot’s program.”
That slope is much less slippery.
And yeah, some adults might lie about this, but I think that having the kids sign such a contract too would give those adults pause. “Am I going to coach my kids to lie on an official contract?”
At our local competition, mentor involvement is the elephant in the room that everyone tiptoes around. The coaches get a kinda nervous look when talking to each other… I’ve had coaches ask me for programming tips, etc.
So why not nail it down and make it crystal clear for everyone?
This will still leave the door open for mentors to design a robot conceptually and then wield their students like brushes to build the design. This goes against the spirit of the competition too, but at least forcing students to build 100% makes it much harder. And students are encouraged to build off-the-shelf designs anyway (like Flexbot), which weren’t designed by the students, right?