Next level is not really next level

I feel this year’s game design is a failure. The tight restrictions really made this year’s game all about driving and little about design and programming. It’s just not as fun and intriguing as the previous years.

My team saw your post a while back and wanted me to respond. I told them I would if they didn’t change their mind after a period of time. As you might have guessed they didn’t. Before I begin let me preface my entry by saying coming up with engaging games year after year must be quite the design challenge in itself. So by posting I hope my feedback will be taken as constructive criticism and not a personal attack.

I may be wrong but when I first saw Next Level the number one thing that jumped out at me was: No More MegaBots. By limiting what the bots can hold and by creating a very restrictive work space Bots were going to be alot smaller. I’m also pretty sure the designers expected many teams would finish because the rules were changed to make sure completion times were kept. As the season has progressed one design seems to be the one everyone has settled on. Which is kinda strange since the MCs at last yrs Vex IQ worlds said they liked how Ringmaster created so many different designs while the EDR/VRC people were all pretty much the same. I would even go back another year and say Crossover’s finals highlighted a number of unique design ideas as well.

So I guess my team kinda agrees with you a bit. They don’t think it’s a failure but they have admitted this years challenge was more of what you can’t do instead of coming up with new an inventive ways to do things you can do.

To end, Next Level = lots of driving practice.

I completely agree. It did eliminate those MegaBots for sure.
The side effect is it’s all about driving and not much building.
More importantly, it’s difficult for the kids to have a sense of “robo-nality”, as there are so few design options.
In the previous season, the kids took great pride that they were able to build a bot that’s different from everyone else - not quite as capable as those “MegaBots”, but still very effective. That gave them a lot of motivation to watch, think, and learn.

1 Like

I’d argue that is a positive thing. Our organization has seen robots at the World Championship and the US Open from certain areas of the world where it is obvious that the students didn’t build the robot. It’s refreshing to see in this game that a complex design doesn’t get u as far as being adept at driving.

In my opinion it levels the field.

Things go in cycles. That’s what makes it interesting.

And while a slightly modified “Flex” works, there are teams that have come up with rear stingers to help drag hubs, the front hurding fingers to make it easy to wrangle a large number. One of my roboteers has a “kicker” that causes the hubs to jump enough to get them over the blue blocking plates.

I always tell people, if you don’t like this years game, just wait, there is a new one coming up.

Here is my take on it… This year game is what I would refer to as a “hook” game… Easy to play, the stock bot can be competitive with minimal design changes, rules restricted designs so that teams were very limited in their designs for the bots…VEX IQ had a banner year for growth and this game will attribute to more growth next year. My new teams enjoyed being able to be competitive with little engineering effort above FLEX and my more experienced teams nailed their designs within the first month and then got a little bored with the challenge. I’m really hoping that the game design cycle stays the same in that we will get a harder game that will be more of an engineering challenge to be successful as we had when we went from HIghrise to Bankshot. This year was all about the drivers… At our State Championships … the difference between 1st place scores and 6th place scores was less than one stacked bonus hub… we lost in the finals when our partner flubbed the gold hub but fortunately there was a double qualifier and our top skills score earned us a bid. That being said we now have a practice schedule that has 40 hours of driver practice leading up to worlds… BEST LUCK TO ALL!

At the Heartland Regionals I saw straight bars, 4 bars, reverse 4 bars, a 6 bar and linear type lifts and one that put a small linear lift on the end of a 4 bar. I saw active and passive manipulators/claws. I saw drive trains that had all omni wheels, all regular wheels, a mix of both and 1 with treads. I saw direct driven 2 wheel and 4 wheel drive trains, chain driven and gear driven.

I think it was a great opportunity to experiment a lot .

@ChrisR246. Pictures! We want pictures! One of the things I’ve campaigned for is close up pictures of all the quarter finals robots.

I want my teams to stand on the shoulders of giants.

1 Like

Didn’t get any but will try to get some at the US Open of ones I think are interesting and share them here

I can see both points of view.

At first when I saw certain robots and realized that maybe the praying mantis style hooks would be the big thing that would make the robots ultra competitive. I thought then that maybe all of the teams that I am with would design the same exact thing with the hooks and I would have to steer them in different directions to keep with the unique designs. Ultimately everyone decided to put hooks in some weird way or another.

But come the Hawaii Elementary and Middle School State Championship, I saw that there were a multitude of designs that worked so well with each other. From modified Flex Bots to even one that could drag 5 hubs over the blue barriers. My teams realized that this would be the year that driver skills would be the most important in terms of how these robots would perform. Even just looking at the skills for certain states and regions it was clear that any robot with any type of design could win the teamwork championship.

I have seen teams with these so called MegaBots that ultimately failed because they did not capitalize on what their partner could do. For the Hawaii region it became apparent that anyone could win the champions spot. The first and second place teams both had modified flex bots. I was thoroughly impressed with the level of competition that arose from my state.

With 3 out of my 4 teams going to worlds I guess we’ll find out what the competition will be like for these teams. Many of them are practicing their driver skills because they know how important it is while others are drafting designs for their robots in case they want to make improvements.

Good luck to everyone at worlds. I predict that the finals at worlds will be something that we don’t expect. Maybe even the MegaBots might not win their division.