Prevalent Design choice

So at this point in the season, a lot of teams have figured into using a handful of designs, claws being the dominant one.

I’d reckon to ask, has anyone still seen side rollers be used a lot? I’m coaching a team and they’re having the debate of whether to stick with the side rollers, or go with the more efficient, effective claw. Particularly as it’s the one that has won the large share of all VEX Competitions here.

Good question. Our team noticed the same thing - but we just had to face the facts that we just didn’t have time to make a switch. Sometimes having an average robot with adequate time to program and practice driving it is better than an excellent robot that you are still building the night before a tournament (and haven’t had time to program or practice with it). We just had to be honest about our capabilities as a team and decided our time was better spent making what we had better. I know there are teams in our area that can seemingly come up with new robots for each tournament (these are experienced high school teams, not middle school teams - and at least one bombed in a blaze of glory at a tournament - so it is a risk) - but we are just not there at this time.

Plus, we did a thourough analysis at the beginning of the season using the design rubric that led us to our design (I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s unconventional!) but we want to teach our kids that an thourough analysis is better than just chasing a design “just because it works for another team.” You just can’t go to a tournament, see a design that is better and think you can just build it. As it is, we have spent months on our current robot - there is no way we could build a new, better one in a matter of weeks. If kids just chase other team’s designs each time they go to a tournament, they will never lock in on a design all season and will continue to be disappointed at each tournament.

So, I vote for “stay the course” and do a better analysis next year! I know it’s tough to talk kids off the ledge when they want to change, but it is better for everyone. As it is, we made one change to our high school design and ended up having to have tons of extra meetings and burnt everyone out - even the coaches. That model is just unsustainable.

Good luck!

I agree with Gear Geeks in that you should stick with the design you have as long as it is a solid robot and you don’t have the ability to create a new bot overnight. I would suggest improving your current bot as much as you can and maybe have a prototype for the claw on the side if you are able to and have the parts. If you make the mechanism for the clawbot in time and it seems better than what you have, you can switch. If not, you still have a strong side roller bot. Clawbots are not very complex, so it only takes a couple of people to make if you need to give a few kids a job while others work on main bot.

I agree, it is much better to stick with a design than to change designs all the time. Our robot is a pushbot which we have been improving on since the start, and it has done much better than my friends team, who has been changing designs every tournament it seems. It is better to stick with one design, even if it doesnt seem to be working. I would suggest improving your side roller bot as much as possible, so that way you can still perform well. In my opinion, it is better to have a inferior design that is well built than a superior design that is poorly built.

If you do want to switch designs, it is best not to do that right before a tournament, and to build it separately if possible. One of the teams at my last competition had completely destroyed their robot and couldnt finish their design in time. Plan ahead.

Student perspective here.

Personally, I think it’s much more fun to constantly change designs. One of the most interesting aspects of VEX Robotics, which has the same competition for an entire year, is keeping up with the ever changing meta game. My team constantly analyzes winning robots to determine what designs we should build next. There’s no way a robot built at the very beginning of the season and just gradually improved will remain competitive.

Sure, sometimes we’ve stayed up past 12 the night before or completely bombed a tournament, but our shared struggles have not only taught us the importance of foresight, planning, and timeliness in the design process, but also brought us closer as a team. Exploring new designs also gives you great versatility and improves your general knowledge of robotics and engineering. Just last month, to turn our claw into a hybrid, we had to build a rubber band deploy mechanism which we’d never built before, but now we can implement similar devices on future robots. Honestly, it’s not worth it to struggle with the same robot for a long time when the team is frustrated and doubtful that it has any chance of winning.

So as a student, I would say if you think your side rollers can’t be significantly improved and clawbots are the best design, go for the rebuild. Whether you win or lose, it will be much more fun and educational, which is the point of robotics after all.

Our sister team has decided that side roller don’t have the scoring potential that other more effective designs have. With side rollers you are not able to score that many objects into the far zone keeping your score limited. I personally think that it is better to make a robot that has the highest scoring potential in the game instead of a mediocre robot that is less competitive. Although the final decision is up to you, just some advice, if you see yourself wanting to got to worlds, personally I would change now and turn as you go along.

Depends on your side rollers. We had a 6 star side roller design that consistently got 5/6 stars in the far zone. It had a cycle time that matches most current clawbots. I’m pretty sure that’s not mediocre. It all comes down to how much time you want to put into a design. I was a side roller advocate all of the early season. We worked on that robot for 4 hours. We only changed because we saw another design that had a higher max star limit and could be improved upon. So, until you put 4 months into 1 design, always finding some way to improve, please don’t say that side rollers are mediocre, or I’ll start writing @Infinity Minus 1 length posts.

This is all great discussion! Now from a coaches perspective: what I have found is that the kids are not very good at estimating how much time something will take. In their mind, they want to rebuild a robot or make a major mod - but when you break it down ("we have 5 meetings, two hours each. That’s 10 hours. How long will the build take? how long will the programming take? how much time do we need to practice driving? how long did it take us last time we tried something similar…?) They will quickly realize that they are severely underestimating the time requirements. We had a discussion with our team where we talked about work/life balance then had them describe how much time they were willing to commit to robotics (as in, sure we could rebuild if you were willing to come four days per week for 3 to 4 hours - we currently meet two days per week for 2 hours) and all the kids stated that they had other activities, were struggling to get homework done, and wanted to maintain their work/life balance so they didn’t want to add more meetings.

Maybe that’s a discussion you need to have with your team. Some of the students that have posted on here are definitely committed to robotics and don’t mind working until midnight and devoting a large portion of their time to robotics. So they could pull off a rebuild. However, on the other hand, there are many students (families) that are not able/willing to devote that much time. And that’s OK. You get out of it what you put into it. That is a life lesson.

Editted: My first paragraph really oversimplifies the build process: build, program, drive because NOTHING ever works the first time. For anything we’ve built, we’ve run into roadblocks where we needed major changes and then done minor tweaks over time that significantly improve performance - and that adds quite a bit of time to the build/build cycle. So even if three or four weeks sounds like a long time to the kids, for other than the most advanced teams, the build/program/drive/redesign/reprogram/drive/tweak/drive/etc cycle is very long. There’s nothing worse than having a robot crap out in the middle of a tournament - then finding out later it was something really simple that could have been fixed “if only” we had more time prior to the tournaent. That’s why I argue (for most teams) to continue to tweak the design you have - because there’s still a lot to be learned there.

I’m going to second this, and add, if you can qualify yourselves for state early in the season, you can do this freely, as your results at your subsequent competitions don’t really matter. Obviously, you want something solid by January/February, but this gives you 2 or 3 months to experiment with no consequences.

I am going to agree with @Infinity Minus 1 , @puzzler7 , and others that rebuilding many times is the best. This is my fifth year of vex and I am easily able to build a decent robot from the ground up in two weeks of hard work. (My last 2 week robot won a competition). Obviously a 2 week robot is not usually going to be as good as one that took much longer to build, but if you pick a design at least a couple months before state, you could definitely be well optimized by state. Two months later, that same 2 week robot has gotten 97 combined in skills (unofficial). Not amazing, but better than my previous design ever could have done. For teams that are in their first and second years, sticking with one design might be better, but you lose a ton of potential by sticking with one design and never changing.

I was that sister team that moved away from side rollers. It was fun to experiment with, but Cameron’s reveal of that claw was a real turning point in moving away from side rollers. Along with 97917’s claw, these claws were picking up ~8 stars and launching them into the far zone, which is better than any side rollers I’ve seen.

As for rebuilding, I’ve seen rebuilding and keeping the same design both be very successful. 974X went to the first tournament and worlds with essentially the same robot. Obviously 974X was competitive at worlds, much less at local tournaments.


Yes… :wink: 3 out of 6 in a finals match. Both alliance captains had side rollers. (second seed vs fourth seed)

Why might claw bots be more effective than side rollers? I think you should improve on the side rollers because it has lots of potential and as others have said above, you have some background with the design as opposed to starting fresh. From a competitor’s POV, improving a design is more reliable as it gives you more time to work out fine improvements such as auton, driver skill, build quality, and work out reliability issues.

I see that your team is from around Pittsburg, have they competed in any Western PA competitions recently?

I think it is nice to experiment around with designs for a little while before sticking to a design. It is important to try out multiple different designs to see which ones you can build the best and are the most efficient. Of course by around January or so you want to have a design chosen, built, and quite improved as well. We have switched around our design 4 times this year, and every time we switched, we never regretted it because our robot always turned out better than the previous one. I don’t mean just the build quality was better, but also the potential of the design itself. So I think that it can be very helpful to rebuild as long as you pace and time yourself right and know plan out what you are going to do before you start making giant changes.