Online Challenge Improvements



First of all, congrats to the winners of the 2019 Online Challenges!

Now that the Online Challenges are behind us for 2018-19, I would like to hear everyone’s constructive feedback and suggestions to improve the online challenges for 2019-20. Before you post, I just want to make it clear that I am simply a volunteer judge for the online challenges, and I have little power in making any potential suggestion a reality. I am sure many of you have suggestions, and so do I, however, I can not guarantee anything will change for the next season, but I will do my very best to support and pass on any good ideas that the community may have to the Online Challenge Coordinator, Taunja Weber (@tweber).

If you have any suggestions, improvements, and/ or constructive feedback, I ask that you please explain in detail the suggestion and why specifically you think it would be an improvement. I also ask that everyone be respectful and to do their best to keep this thread civil. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing the communities ideas. If you wish to keep your idea or feedback private, you are more than welcome to PM me.


Maybe they could have a little more specific set of guidelines for challenges. I get that they want a wide variety of entries, but for example, in the Promote Award challenge, many teams didn’t meet the guidelines and were still finalists. Maybe if they limited the topics to one topic, it would help with the problem.


My main suggestion is to do without the online voting. Having a lot of votes gets you nowhere. It is pointless and a waste of time. Also, you should make teams stick to the deadline. Deadlines should matter. Entries that missed the deadline should not be allowed to be a finalist!!!


@sparklinteach and @5SRobotics, thank you very much for your comments.

In regards to having a more specific set of guidelines, I am not quite sure what you mean as I do believe that the guidelines are very specific and clear on what must be included, and in what format(s). Could you please elaborate on this? Also, in what specific ways were entries not meeting requirements? My personal thought on limiting the topics is that most of the entries would be very similar. It is nice to have unique and diverse entries, but you aren’t wrong, it would simplify things and make things easier for entrants and judges alike.

In regards to teams sticking to the deadline, please read this quote from @Rick_TYler. Sometimes there are technical difficulties, and we shouldn’t keep people from submitting the entries they worked so hard on just because of a website issue. I do agree that students should do their best to submit as early as possible, but it doesn’t always happen. Deadlines creep up on even the best of us.

In regards to online voting, I agree that voting is mostly pointless in the way it is currently set up, but I think that it has potential to be a good feature that enhances the online challenge experience. I don’t know what that looks like exactly, but my initial thought was that voting would only be implemented in the finalists’ stage. What are your thoughts about improving the voting system rather than getting rid of it altogether?


@AidenPyle In regards to online voting, I agree that voting is mostly pointless in the way it is currently set up, but I think that it has potential to be a good feature that enhances the online challenge experience. I don’t know what that looks like exactly, but my initial thought was that voting would only be implemented in the finalists’ stage. What are your thoughts about improving the voting system rather than getting rid of it altogether?

I think a possible improvement to the voting system would be to limit to students from other robotics teams. At the moment the voting system is just a race to contact the most people you know and get them all to push the button on your entry. It’s a good thing the votes don’t affect the outcome, as they are very much unrepresentative of the actual quality of an entry.


@2775Josh What if voting was limited only to those that have submitted an entry for that season, and they can’t vote on their own entries, but also making it a requirement to vote on three entries minimum to be consider for a finalist?


Brilliant! That is a fantastic idea that I would like to see implemented!


Sorry, I should’ve been more clear. When I said improving guidelines, I meant that if an entry doesn’t necessarily meet all of the required guidelines, they shouldn’t be allowed to be finalists. In some of the challenges, there were a few entries who were finalists and clearly didn’t follow some of the guidelines. So maybe they could be more strict on entries that didn’t follow the guidlines.


Regarding the public voting, what if voting is not about picking the winning entry, but really about maximizing involvement? What other benefits might come about when team members ask everyone they know to look at their entries? Could it spread the STEM educational message of the program? Just about everything in this program is not really about robotics competitions choosing winners and losers. You (youth) should be proud of your trophies and other awards, but please remember that these are not the point.


It would be nice to see the challenges that were absent from this year’s list (namely game animation, recycling challenge, and the one where you took apart something, sponsored by Texas Instruments)


More communication definitely. Online challenge results came out a day late with no official communication, and even on the day they did come out there were rumors flying about teams getting emails that they one. I understand if it takes longer and has to be delayed, but it’s unacceptable that they didn’t advertise the fact.


I agree. I would love to see something like this in the future of online challenges.

I also strongly agree with this, but at the same time, I do feel as though voting should have some say towards who is a finalist and/ or winner. I think the biggest question we need to ask, is how do we set up a voting system that maximizes involvement, but at the same time is a fair and unbiased method of helping select finalists/ winners?

Well, according to the rubrics judges follow, an entry should not (in most cases) move on to the finalists’ stage if it doesn’t fulfill a basic requirement. If that basic requirement is something like a word count or similar, and it is a little over or under, there is some leeway for things like that, but most other binary guidlines must be followed like in what format the entry was submitted, or such. Generally, all of these are caught as there are multiple judges looking over every entry, not just one. From my perspective, I feel as though it should be stated that an entry may or may not be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed (if it doesn’t already say that). Keep in mind that we don’t want to punish students for small mistakes because everyone worked very hard on these entries.

I personally have no idea why they got rid of those challenges, but I do know of one new challenge in the works that I believe Taunja Weber mentioned in another thread.

To be fair, Taunja Weber who is running the online challenges is juggling online challenges and VEX Worlds at the same time as she is the volunteer coordinator for RECF. I can’t speak on her behalf, but I know that she is incredibly busy and working very hard at this time of the year. In addition, teams that did win should have been contacted, however, I don’t know at what time or day that would have been.


My suggestion is to add back the four online challenges that were not an option as entries this year. It was upsetting how the Game Animation Challenge was not one of those options since it has been since Bridge Battle.


The Game Animation was a good challenge, crossing a lot of good skill sets.

But the participation was low in comparison to other challenges, which was unfortunate.


I completely agree with you on this and have had the same thought. However, the fact that the on-line challenges can lead to a spot at Worlds elevates the intensity surrounding them. That being said, I think using the number of votes as a metric about whether one entry is better than another is not a good idea. I mean, if an individual looked at all the entries and truly voted for the one they thought was best, that would be one thing. But, my suspicion is that organizations send out an email with a link to specific entries and ask people to vote for them. In that case it just becomes a popularity contents and a test of how much energy the members of a particular group have and has nothing to do with the actual quality of the entry. Like you say, voting is great to get the community involved but beyond that, it really isn’t worth much. What really matters is what the judges think.


There is very little correlation between popularity and quality, which means that sometimes the popular entries are very good and sometimes they are not so much. It would be nice to have the top vote-getters be named as a finalist to reward the efforts of the team to promote their challenge and the whole Online Challenge program, even if they are not real contenders to win.


Regardless, they should bring VRC Game Animation back. I loved that challenge. I’m making my unofficial entry to this and will be uploading it to my channel.