Here to propose a new approach in allocation of worlds spots.
One thing that I am sure everyone can agree on is that it is just not realistic to have enough worlds spots for every teams that want to attend. And hence the purpose of having a model of allocation that will work for most teams/regions. Again, I am being careful not to use “all teams/regions”.
With more than 20 000 teams and more than 60 regions to deal with, it is also inevitable that we will have different ideas and ideals on how VRC and VEX worlds should be like, eg. some teams preferred to make it as competitive and exclusive as possible, while some will prefer to use it to inspire teams (so that they will put in more effort for future seasons), etc.
I have listed down some of the possible tensions that need to be balanced off:
- Competitiveness vs exposure
- Meritocracy (i.e. by either tournament results, online challenges, etc) vs Growth rate (i.e. number of teams in the region)
- Education vs Competition
I must say that all these 3 tensions listed that intertwined with each other. It might be difficult to totally isolate them. But I will try to elaborate on them.
Hiding this part as the elaboration is a bit long-winded.
- Competitiveness vs exposure
Speaking purely from the viewpoint of a competitor, certainly one would expect the world championship to represent the highest level of competition. I mean, that’s why we want to attend worlds. The exposure, the interactions etc are all great. But the main intention is always to test ourselves against the best of the bests and see how far we can go.
And throwing in another point for international teams (as compared to USA-based teams) that will need to spend a big deal of money and resources to attend worlds, imagine the horror when they found themselves playing with and against clawbots and pushbots.
And to some of the USA teams that might have spent hundreds or thousands of hours on their robots, it might be a bit difficult for the students to reconcile with the fact that actually there isn’t a need to work so hard to make it to worlds.
To the competitors, surely there must be other ways or platforms to provide exposure and to inspire all these teams?
I believe I am making this viewpoint on behalf of many teams out there that are feeling this way. And as an educator and teacher saying to my fellow teachers, please do not dismissed this viewpoint from the students.
It is a valid concern, and it should not and cannot be just easily swept under the carpet with the reasoning of providing exposure and inspiring the beginning teams.
Don’t get me wrong, providing exposure is important. Inspiring students to go into STEM is vital. But do also bear in mind what sort of values do RECF want to promote or encourage. The last thing is that I’d want to see is that students going away with the wrong impression that there are easier ways or shortcuts to success (i.e. making it to worlds for this case) and hard work is not necessary.
- Meritocracy vs Growth Rate
I have mentioned about this few years ago.
Allocation of worlds spots can be seen as a continual spectrum – with one end of the spectrum representing teams making it to worlds solely by performance/achievements and the other end representing solely by the number of teams in the region.
Clearly either way is not healthy. So it is about how and where do we scale it to?
Currently the allocation is largely (not totally) by the number of teams in the region. Personally I think there is a need to shift it a bit more to the other end.
I still believe that allocation by number of teams in the region feels more like rewarding the EPs more than the teams themselves. And conversely, we are also penalizing the teams just because the their regions are smaller or not having as many teams.
To all the EPs out there – please don’t get offended. You have my utmost respect in putting in all the efforts in making events possible. But end of the day, VRC is a competition for the students (and not the EPs)?
- Education vs Competition
I want to make it clear that I don’t subscribe to win at all cost. As much as I want my teams to do well, it should never be at the expense of the values that we can inculcate in them in their journey to success.
So to all teachers and mentors out there – please blow the whistle or raise the red flag if you think that some of the members are not doing the right thing, eg. plate-switching, dad-bots, etc.
VRC is an amazing platform to get the students addicted to STEM. Getting them to strive towards being world champion is a motivating and inspiring goal for the teams. But the values and integrity involved should be rated higher than being world champions.
This new proposal aims to strike a balance between all these tensions.
And important note – this proposal is only pertaining to High School VRC. But I am sure if accepted, we can work out a similar arrangement for Middle School VRC.
- Rebranding of Signature Events
The idea of Signature Events was first started in the 2018/19 season. The main intention is to allow provide teams with a “worlds-like” experience, interacting with teams from other regions/countries and hopefully inspiring them.
Here’s a summary table of Signature Events from 2018 till this season.
I do not have enough knowledge of USA geography to know which teams are from which regions, etc, hence it is not easy for me to figure out how many teams attending Signature Events were from out-of-region or from the same region.
And what I am going to say will faced some resistance from EPs – I feel that this “worlds-like” experience should be not measured by the number of out-of-region teams, but we should be looking at how many international teams or countries are involved?
For some regions, it is just not too difficult to get teams to drive across States lines and attend the event. But is it really providing a “worlds-like” experience?
Moreover, looking at some of the forum posts regarding signature events, I am really not convinced that all the signature events were done in high standard. Again, I am not targeting the EPs. Many times it is just unfair and unrealistic to expect EPs to host a worlds-standard event.
As it stands, signature events have made worlds qualifications more towards a pay-to-win model? If you can afford to travel and attend more signature events, then you will get more opportunities to try to get qualifications to worlds.
I understand the part about providing incentives to attract teams to register for signature events, but it is just not fair to teams that couldn’t afford to travel and it is certainly not achieving the original intent of having signature events.
And signature events do not make sense to teams that can only afford 1 trip per season (which I believe this is the category where most teams are in). Imagine I can only go for 1 trip – will I go for signature event or for worlds? If I attended signature event and I clinched a worlds spot from there, I wouldn’t have any money left to go for worlds.
My proposal is to rebrand signature events as a “2nd tier” worlds, or something like a super-regional of sort.
If you are ranked #17 in your States that only qualify the top 16, then you have qualify for this 2nd tier worlds.
And instead of having more than 10 signature events, restrict to maybe 4 or 5 “super-regionals” that will also served as the 2nd tier worlds.
And all these super-regionals or 2nd tier worlds can be held slightly before or after the actual worlds. But definitely towards the end of the season.
The advantages are as follow:
a) By having it in a “super-regionals” approach, we will have a few EPs coming together, pooling their resources and hopefully the quality of the event will approach more “worlds-like”.
b) A 2nd tier worlds will allow many teams to extend their season and definitely those that attended it will be inspired and motivated to work harder.
c) It is no longer a pay-to-win model. In fact, this will realign signature events to its original intent of providing exposure to teams and also a platform to inspire them.
d) And give this 2nd tier worlds a few years to run, hopefully we can shift the students’ perspective from “worlds or nothing” to something more holistic in nature, i.e. it is not the end of the world even if I can’t make it to worlds, there are still other things for me to look forward to.
- Reinstatement of worlds qualification via global skills ranking
To make it clear – I am referring to back to the good old days that teams can qualify for worlds by being the top 35 teams (for High School) in the global skills ranking.
I am not referring to using skills ranking for double qualifications situations – this double qualification hardly happened outside USA.
When these 35 spots from skills ranking was removed (and reallocate over to signature events), the reason given was that this skills ranking was promoting undesirable behaviours. But it was never clearly stated what exactly was these behaviours.
Speculation was mainly plate-switching. Some organisations with multiple teams or even alliances were “sharing” robots for skills runs.
But this is something that is right in the alley of the mentors’ responsibility – to ensure their teams are doing the right thing.
Moreover, plate-switching can happen for signature events as well.
And now with Live Remote Skills being successful and established, I am sure we can regulate skills events much much better to ensure things are done above board?
I am not proposing reinstating all the 35 spots back to global skills ranking, but maybe 15 spots?
And considering this year we are allocating 18 worlds spots for online challenges, surely 15 spots for global skills looks reasonable?
The advantages of having global skills ranking:
a) It extends the season for many teams that did not qualify for states or worlds.
b) It gives teams hope and a reason to continue to work hard for.
c) There is just something magical about this global skills ranking, you can call it bragging rights, etc, but it just gives many teams the motivation to keep improving their robots and their driving and programming skills. And this is literally engineering design process in action.
d) It is region-neutral. It does not matter where are you from, if you are good enough, then you can go for worlds. It is the most levelled playing field for qualification for worlds.
- All division champions deserved to be invited back for the following year worlds
This will definitely helped to tilt the scale a bit more back to performance-based? And really, if RECF is willing to allocate 3 worlds spots for a 40 or 60-teams signature event, then surely being the division champion in worlds deserved to be invited back as well?
Again, this is region-neutral. So it is not bias towards the big or small regions.
Where do the spots come from?
I expect people to ask this golden question.
I am proposing 20 spots for division champions in worlds and another 15 spots for global skills ranking.
It can be easily done by crawling back that 30+ spots from signature events.
And with worlds now in a bigger venue hosting 10 divisions, I do hope all these proposed numbers will be able to fit in.
And lastly – this is an appeal for small regions. Currently most of the small regions have at 3 spots for worlds. Please keep it this way. Please do not reduce it. I really find it impossible to grow any regions with only 1 worlds spot.
@DanMantz - i know you are busy with worlds currently. But maybe this might make a good read during your post-worlds break