Ok so now that this season is closer to the end all the teams are competing and finalizing their designs. What I see from a Refs stand point is that 95% of the robots are the exact same. Where is the originality where is the innovation that Vex teams are know to have. This year looks like an exact copy and paste of the Gateway year. Most teams are using the side roller method to pick up Buckyballs and are using a “slightly” elevated chassis to get over the bump.
Please I would love to be proven wrong and would like to see some originality. The only thing original I have seen is there are two types of arms, a 4/6 bar or a Scissor lift. One of the teams I mentor took some initiate and built a rocker drive system that has a low profile but clears a bump with ease. Where is the rest of the Innovation?:confused:

This topic is brought up just about every year. The double side roller intake was first introduced by team 4886A at the beginning of the season in June (maybe later, I saw it in May). It’s since been proven to be the most effective design we’ve seen. There’s no reason a team should limit its own performance for the sake of originality. Just look at Sack Attack and Gateway. Design convergence has simply become a fact of VEX.

Innovation still exists though. The introduction of the catapult is one example, and we’ll probably see more like it later on in the season.

Déjà vu all over again.


  1. this is partially the game itself. with a game 2 years ago with similar game elements, the “win” design is obvious

  2. the main point of the game is to win. so if there is an obvious design that trumps all, why waste time “trying” other methods if this one is tried and true?

  3. usually nearing worlds, there will be a few “Green egg” robots. (some succeed, some fail). these robots are specialize to beat the “mainstream NZ” robots. so if those robots were released ahead of time, then there would be time for others to implement a counter for it

but yes, for the elite teams, it does get boring
when you can make a world class robot in 2-3 weeks from scratch, creating something different is fun for a change

Winning is just a scam Yes the titles and the trophies are nice but there is no experience gained from copying a winning design. There is not enough originality between robots. Yes there are always the hidden counters i.e Green Eggs (44). The main focus of robotics competition isn’t the events or the game its to gain the knowledge and experience to become an engineer or at least a community player. Teams should try and strive to better themselves in the engineering field and not on the 12’x12’ foam field.

Sorry I’m ranting a little bit but there need to be knowledge gained from this not just trophies.

Define the “exact same”? From a very literal standpoint, it is quite difficult to have two robots be the “exact same”.

I don’t know how long you have been involved with VEX, but it happens every single year that a few ideas are seen and utilized by many teams. I’ll grant you that side rollers are being used, as in Gateway, but then, they were also used in Cleansweep, Elevation, and Round Up to some extent. This year, you also have big ball rollers, hanging mechanisms (Every team I have seen has done this differently), drive trains.

These examples are top, top robots and quite different. Keep in mind also that many of the most original robots do not surface until worlds.

As I touched on before, much more has to be done than elevating the drive train and slapping on some side rollers. Things that set teams apart that you may need to look closer at:
Hanging Mechanisms
Intake quality (My team and other teams have spent many hours tuning intakes)
Driver Skill
Implementation of “common” drive and lift

That’s three? :stuck_out_tongue:

So even though we know that a circular wheel is better we should try square wheels?
Do cars change 100% from car to car?

Thousands of man hours has created something very good. It is possible to think of something better yet unlikely and knowing what to change is part of being an engineer.
Knowing that building something new isn’t as important as building something better and knowing that deadlines very much impact what should be built is engineering.

So exactly what is wrong with design convergence?
that it is less fun to watch? Go to Nascar sometime

Design convergence is natural. Teams adopt aspects of design that they see work into their own robot. Every once in a while there is a new innovation that works well, and it is quickly adopted by other teams.

However, there is originality. It comes in how you solve little problems in your robot. Sure, you can build a six bar, however, the way you build it is what sets you apart from the other teams. The ideas are similar, but execution is different.


or, if you prefer…

This can be bad but honestly it will happen no matter what. We all want to have the best robot and at this point people are doing less experimenting and more building with what they know works. I personally have just switched to a 4 bar (or perhaps 6 bar, still building) on my robot simply because my scissor lift was not working very well and I have never built a 4 bar. I want to try as many designs as possible so that I gain the most out of VEX.

This is fantastic

Our view on design convergence is that while it seems like we all have the exact same robot the small details set us apart. For example, 21b has a very similar intake to most teams, however they managed to execute it in a way that is incredible. Is the design original? Not really, but the execution is. On the other hand while we have realized we probably wont design an original sub-system; we have tried to implement small original ideas, such as the passive lock on our intake.

Be the change you want to see in the community and ban the teams you mentor from building “generic” designs then.

There is a reason design convergence and a lack of uniqueness occur - The ideas work.

While my robot isn’t entirely a cookie cutter clone, it still is at its most basic a six bar with a side roller intake and I don’t see that changing.

Important as the design process may be, it doesn’t win you competitions anymore in any region with consistently strong robotics problems. Driver/Programming/Strategy practice and skill is far more important when it comes to winning tournaments and matches.

Winning is a priority for my team, therefore we are not building a wallbot or other unique design, despite it potentially being a far more interesting goal.

Many of you might say this gets away from the point of robotics and learning, but I think that is a biased perspective that completely ignores the millions of jobs that aren’t hands on in the design process.

We have a robot that is almost entirely unique; none of its mechanisms (outside of the drive train) are found on any other robot in this or any year’s game. The thing is, we’ve been working for 20-30 hours a week, every week since Worlds to get where we are now. We (3 man team) have over 500 man hours each put into design, programming and build time. Oh, and we’re still not done optimizing the Autonomous modes, or making final tweaks to the wiring and fixing what seems to be an slowly dwindling number of small things that can change how the robot runs.

In comparison, we built a six-bar side roller intake in 8 days. Which is slow by many teams standards. The difficulty and time commitment required to design a unique robot must be weighed against the potential benefit. Building something you legitimately think is better than or can beat the general design is great. Building something different to say “Look at me! I’m special” is a waste of time and energy.

Our team mentor always says: “Sure, you can copy a design… as long as you make it better.” In other words, we follow the philosophy that inspiration and using other teams’ ideas is acceptable if and only if you make it work better than the original: make it unique in your own way and contribute to its function.

A good example of this would be the goal capping wallbot from Gateway. I don’t know if the team that used said design was the “creator” of the wallbot concept, but they added to it and improved the design to be their own, and this is why i don’t remember any wallbots specifically from that year EXCEPT the one that capped goals.

4 of the 6 teams that are original. One has chassis being an 8 wheel rocker drive with an over head intake roller on a scissor lift. Another has a planetary wheel base with a top roller on a 4 bar linkage. The third team is using a reverse 6 bar with an claw method( cant divulge to much on their claw). The last one uses a tread intake method with a basic “H” drive. The last 2 teams are not super competitive so they are rookies getting their feet wet and building every thing under the sun. All of the teams have won design awards in the state and one has the excellence award already and qualified for the state championship. So the teams I mentor are far from the cookie cutter robot that is just the Side roller.

I have thought about this a good deal. Was it a mistake to release the design everyone is using now at the start of the season? Maybe, maybe not. The fact is that someone else who had the same design would have released it by now anyway, and the same design convergence would be occurring.

Is this design convergence a bad thing? Yes and no. I would argue that the good outweighs the bad. Some teams miss out on the opportunity to design a completely original machine, but they gain the opportunity to build a machine that works well. This keeps students more interested and involved in robotics than they otherwise would be. It is much more satisfying to have a robot work than not.

When I was new to the Vex competition in Gateway, I helped build a piece of junk which sat on the tile every match and finally moved during the last match of the day, although it was unable to score. I was ready to quit. But luckily we shared a pit table with the legendary team 44, Green Egg Robotics, who helped us by giving us advice and lending us parts. It was only thanks to them that we were able to drive the robot at all that day. We came back the next tournament and placed second with a robot heavily inspired by theirs, and I was hooked. They went on to win the World Championship that year.

Some things about design convergence in the Vex competition world:

  1. Any robot design can be copied by anyone else.
  2. The build season is long and good ideas will be copied, refined, and the refined ideas also will be copied.
  3. This evolutionary design process over the course of the season favors balance between competitive and cooperative approaches.

I like to think of the season as both cooperative and competitive. Sure, by sharing my ideas with the community, my competition will be tougher, directly lowering my chances at winning. But I hope that they will return the favor, and I will improve as well. This way, everyone’s robots improve, and the whole scene becomes more competitive. By viewing the competition season in a cooperative light, the ultimate goal is to generate the best possible robots by the end of the year. Of course it is preferable to be the creator of those robots, but I think most would agree that the more excellent the top robots, the better.

Sharing of ideas does this in two ways. The most obvious is that people copy those ideas. To begin with this may seem like a bad thing (where is the originality?) But those teams that desire greatness will not settle with a “cookie cutter” robot. They will come up with original ideas to improve the design. Their build quality and clever improvements will set them apart from the average teams.

Then there is another group of teams that will ignore the status quo and pursue nuclear, game breaking robots. These will either be whopping successes or more likely horrendous failures, but either way are great learning experiences for those that attempt them.

In past seasons, we have mostly only seen early game originality that steadily moves toward convergence as the season progresses. My hope is that by getting design convergence out there early (as it is inevitable) some more late game originality will develop.

Also, as others have pointed out, in real life companies copy each other.

I think design convergence can be a good thing, and by getting it out of the way early we have more time for late game originality. The competition season can be viewed cooperatively as a chance to get the best possible robot at the game into existence.

Here’s a little observation from an 8th-year VEX mentor and now RECF guy:

  1. Even if they are shaped the same, the best robots are full of little engineering details that set them apart. I’ve seen a LOT of VEX robots and some just stand out for elegance, ingenuity and efficiency. Even if they kind of look like other robots, they aren’t.

  2. You cannot see programming. Good code is something else that sets the best teams apart from the others.

Every once in a while, though, a 2W (Gateway) comes along and makes you think, “why didn’t I think of that?”

I think that, especially this year, good programming is going to win matches. It’s always helped, but in Sack Attack it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal. The Autonomous bonus is huge, though, compared to what most matches are scoring. Often, the margin of victory is less than 10 points, meaning that bonus is literally winning matches for some teams.

Reliable, excellent, and varied Autonomous modes are the most important thing that we look for in partners while scouting. You can have the best drivers in the world, but you’re still going to loose when your opponent has a 25 point lead at the start of driver control.

One point that hasn’t been addressed (or I just missed it) is the importance of strategy in games where descoring is no easy feat. Your driver and your coaches can have a bigger influence on the outcome of a match than your robot in some cases. For example:

I won’t mention names, but my team often meets a specific opponent at most of our tournaments. We’re always comparable in skills as well as general game-play. Our robots are nearly identical this year and we have the exact same robot skills score. Our opponent has taken the robot skills champion over us in all tournaments we’ve participated in based on tiebreakers or standard wins.


We have yet to lose a single match to said team in qualification or elimination rounds. This still holds true after four tournaments and seven or eight match-ups.