Proposed new approach in allocation of worlds spots

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:

  1. Competitiveness vs exposure
  2. Meritocracy (i.e. by either tournament results, online challenges, etc) vs Growth rate (i.e. number of teams in the region)
  3. 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.

Summary
  1. 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.

  1. 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)?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 :stuck_out_tongue:

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Agree, 100%, given how similar World’s Divisions are to all but 2 Signature Events (WPI and Kalahari)

While we may still be feeling the effects of the global pandemic in terms of non-USA based teams, here are some numbers from RobotEvents. One can certainly quibble with whether places like China actually post all their events and teams and may be drastically undercounted, but this is none-the-less a reasonable starting place for discussion

Out of 8753 teams listed as “competing” in Robot Events this season (possibly in LRT only):

loc_country count
Andorra 2
Australia 64
Azerbaijan 1
Canada 341
Chile 1
China 241
Colombia 17
Finland 6
Germany 13
Hong Kong 14
Ireland 14
Japan 18
Kazakhstan 8
Macau 16
Mexico 79
Morocco 2
New Zealand 59
Panama 1
Paraguay 1
Philippines 1
Puerto Rico 16
Qatar 16
Singapore 18
South Korea 27
Spain 17
Taiwan 63
Thailand 18
Turkey 43
United Arab Emirates 2
United Kingdom 123
United States 7511

Which means of the 8753 teams, only 1242 are non-US-based. Again, probably China is undercounted, but I don’t have any insight into how significant that is. Do they have similar numbers to the US?

I think that there are also two goals in slight tension: RECF wants to increase participation - e.g. increase the 8800 teams to 10,000 teams - full stop. I think competitors (and possibly RECF, though within their boundaries of “student-led”) would like to see the “floor” of competitors raised. I know most people on the forums have self-selected into a more “competitive” mindset than the average (or below average) 8800 teams. And likely new teams are more likely to be lower than average than above average, aside from poaching teams/team-members from FTC/FRC or other competitive robotics venues. How does RECF grow participation outside the US? I’m not sure, but I’d imagine they’d be interested in listening to ideas.

I’d also be on-board with the Top 50 even of Global Skills getting a World’s invitation. The reality is that between this, Signature Events, prior-year Worlds Division winners, and Regionals Winners, the likelihood is that maybe 10 teams out of the Top 50 Global Skills would get in (e.g. it’s not reserving 50 spots, since teams there are already highly competitive and have other routes to World’s)

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Anyone know how many teams were invited from the waitlist?

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Benton County Fair VRC Signature Event
Total Teams: 29
In-Region: 20 (68.965%)
Out-Region: 9 (31.034)

HAUNTED: A Halloween Signature Event
Total Teams: 62
In-Region: 24 (38.709%)
Out-Region: 38 (61.291%)

Battle by the Beach Signature Event VRC-MS
Total Teams: 16
In-Teams: 8 (50%)
Out-Teams: 8 (50%)

Speedway: Tipping Point (VRC Blended) - Signature Event
Total Teams: 56
In-Teams: 25 (44.643%)
Out-Teams: 31 (55.357%)

Battle by the Beach Signature Event VRC- HS
Total Teams: 40
In-Teams: 37 (92.500%)
Out-Teams: 3 (7.500%)

WAVE @ WPI - VRC Tipping Point Signature Event
Total Teams: 80
In-Teams: 37 (46.250%)
Out-Teams: 43 (53.750%)

SCORE Showdown at Great Wolf Lodge (VRC) Signature Event
Total Teams: 40
In-Teams: 9 (22.500%)
Out-Teams: 31 (77.500%)

KALAHARI CLASSIC INDOOR WATERPARK VEX VRC Middle School Signature Event
Total Teams: 39
In-Teams: 35 (89.744%)
Out-Teams: 4 (10.256%)

KALAHARI CLASSIC INDOOR WATERPARK VEX VRC High School Signature Event
Total Teams: 131
In-Teams: 77 (58.779%)
Out-Teams: 54 (41.221%)

[Signature Event] Northeast Wisconsin VRC Showdown: Tipping Point - High School Only
Total Teams: 69
In-Teams: 32 (46.377%)
Out-Teams: 37 (53.623%)

[Signature Event] 4th Annual NorCal VEX Tipping Point High School Tournament
Total Teams: 76
In-Teams: 40 (52.632%)
Out-Teams: 36 (47.368%)

[Signature Event] 4th Annual NorCal VEX Tipping Point Middle School Tournament
Total Teams:
In-Teams: 29 (67.442%)
Out-Teams: 14 (32.558%)

Overall, there are several factors that affect the number of out of region teams (Out-Teams) at a signature event, such as the event level (HS or MS), event size, event region, event location within event region, and event dates (when is it hosted). While several factors combine to influence the number of Out-Teams at signature events,it is up to each individual team to decide which events they attend each season.

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@RoboCatz thanks for the effort.

But as I mentioned, I am not sure is out-of-region % a good indicator on how successful is signature events.
Coz if we are looking at “worlds-like” experience, then wouldn’t out-of-country % be a better indicator?

The gist of my points regarding signature events is that the purpose of having it is good and noble.
But the question is whether should it be used as a tool or avenue for worlds qualifier?

I’d rather it be kept as one of those end of season festival to to allow teams that couldn’t make it to worlds and yet still be able to get a taste of it.

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On the topic of signature events, I actually quite liked the experience there. Even if it wasn’t a “worlds-like” level of competition, it was still pretty high-level. I don’t think that they should qualify for worlds, but we should keep them around, I think they’re cool.

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I mean, given Signature Events this season were all US-based, perhaps the real question is: How can RECF encourage Signature Events outside the US? I think there was one listed for China which may have been canceled, perhaps due to COVID, and another in Canada that was a COVID cancel. Given the numbers I posted about team participation, would it even make sense to host a Signature Event? Probably the Top 40 US states have more teams than any other country not named Canada and China. Maybe one could make a case for one in Europe, in addition to China.

Why would “out-of-country %” be a better indicator, given that it’s almost certainly zero for all this year’s (unless a Canadian team competed, and I think a small number did).

Really what we’re getting at is: Given that Regional tournament qualifications are determined based on performance in those Regions, that disincentivizes teams from “cross-competing” in regions.

Certainly one may use the number of teams in a region as a proxy for how “competitive” the region is. Regions with more teams, are more likely to have outliers (e.g. really good teams). That said, there are clearly regions, such as yours, that have relatively small numbers of teams, nearly all of which are very very good. Maybe RECF simply recognizes this reality, much like they do for “region growth” and grants you more spots. I don’t see a way to do this without some human observation…

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We are definitely on the same page regarding this.

Don’t get me wrong - I am not here to propose throwing away signature events totally. But rather using them as their original intent and to keep them for teams that couldn’t make it for worlds.

Some of you will disagree, but I do think it makes more sense to allocate the spots from signature events to skills ranking and division champions.

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As mentioned in my original post, I don’t expect all of us to have the same idea or ideals on how VRC or worlds should be run.

My reason for using out-of-country is just a simple case of equating “worlds-like” experience as one that includes teams from all over the world.
I certainly don’t see playing a game with Malaysia as true form of global-mindedness.

Guess it is just about having different definitions of “worlds-like” experience?

But the main point is not about whether we should be using out-of-region or out-of-country (in fact, if RECF is adopting my proposal of “super regional” format for “2nd tier worlds”, then we do expect to see teams from neighbouring regions coming together), the point we should be addressing here is whether signature events should be an avenue for qualifying for worlds?

If yes, then we are just making signature events a 2nd chance, pseudo states for teams to qualify for worlds.

To add a bit more of the “super regional” or “2nd tier worlds”, I am thinking of having maybe 3 or 4 of these in USA, and then maybe one in Europe and another in Asia Pacific, so it is not too far off from what you are thinking of the distribution of signature events :slight_smile:

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Last time I heard, LRS was killed off in an early game manual update this season, never to be seen again. No one has told me anything about a possibility of it returning.

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I think one possible logistical complication “super-regionals” could introduce would be changes to the overall VRC season. Working back from Worlds, probably it’s reasonable for RECF to say, we need to know all World’s qualified teams a month ahead of time. So Super-Regionals would need to finish end-of-March. Super-Regionals would probably also need some preparation time, so maybe Regionals would need to conclude end-of-February which would compress the season for a number. Not insurmountable, but just changes…

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As for out of country, the only events that “pulled” out of country teams would be the NorCal HS Signature event and Wisconsin signature event, which had teams from Canada cross the border to compete. In the case of NorCal, only 3 non-us teams attended, or 3.947% of total teams, and for Wisconsin, a single team, or 1.449% od total teams, competed. So overall, with the cancellation of the Battle at the Bridge Signature Event (which would have attracted a lot of American teams), not very many teams traveled out of region for Signature Events.

Although for the most part LRS has been cancelled, regions like Finland, Singapore, and Germany have utilized LRS events to decide qualifying for the World Championships. In the case of Finland, the host city’s COVID protocols caused the event partner to postpone the event (past RECF’s qualifying spot deadline), so a last-minute LRS event had to be held to determine which team would get their sole qualifying spot. And for Germany, the season stagnated in the beginning due to COVID (and their Nations, or “Masters” as they call it was cancelled), so LRS events were used until their regional competitions could be held. In Singapore (and China- both mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan), LRS events were held in conjunction with LRT events so that teams were given a chance to qualify and compete before the season ended. So yes, LRS events have largely faded away from existence, but there are still some special circumstances where event partners were granted the ability to host such an event.

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I don’t particularly have a strong opinion on signature events either way, but I would expect if you took away the worlds qualifying spot, you would effectively destroy them. The reason (I imagine) that the level of competition is so high at those events is you have all the teams that are dedicated enough (and well funded enough) to fly halfway across the country for a chance at a worlds spot. If the worlds spot isn’t there, are they going to bother?

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I think the calculus of Worlds qualification spots changes drastically based on which of these two numbers is correct.

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Being in a small region that is also a country, especially one removed in space and culture, I can see why you focus on this distinction. However, all RECF regions are equally regions. I can assure you Arkansas is rather different than Northern California. Fixating on regions that are also countries seems beside the point. Signature events don’t gain legitimacy simply by having some participants on a travel visa – the prestige is from having a larger, high quality event with high performing teams.

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Personally, I think signature events are great. While they are not totally on par with a worlds level experience, they still maintain a high level of competition and are closer to worlds caliber experiences than state championship events, even those in the most competitive regions. My team attended one signature event this season, the norcal signature event, and it was a great opportunity to compete with high-level teams from other regions prior to worlds. This is not really something that was feasible before signature events were introduced.

However, I agree with @meng, about the cost prohibitiveness of signature events, especially to international teams. While it may not have been that big of a deal for my team to travel from southern California to northern California to compete at the NorCal Signature event (previously Google), it is simply not feasible for most international teams to travel to the US for any event other than Worlds. There should certainly be more international signature events, probably at least two in Asia. Even with Signature Events, there still needs to be a certain number of spots allocated to the top teams on the global skills ranking. I think 25 is pretty realistic, but even 15 or 10 would be better than none. The skills qualification has, in the past allowed for small but highly competitive regions like Singapore to qualify a lot more of their high caliber teams than the amount of worlds spots they are given. There is no reason to say there aren’t enough world spots for this. With worlds being expanded to include over 800 teams for high school, there are already significantly more spots available than there are highly competitive teams. Even from the competitiveness vs exposure perspective, it still makes sense to ensure that the best robots are able to qualify for worlds as increasing the level of competition at worlds makes worlds a better experience for everyone.

However, I am skeptical of replacing signature events with a “super-regional” type event for teams that don’t qualify for worlds. With the number of worlds spots nowadays, pretty much all of the good US teams who wanted to qualify to worlds and put in the necessary amount of time and effort qualified. Having a super-regional type event really only makes sense for Asia where there is a lot more competition for a limited number of world spots, and thus many of their highly competitive teams don’t qualify for worlds. In the US, many EPs are also coaches and mentors so, after states, they are generally focused on getting their teams who qualified for worlds ready to compete. The super-regional idea makes a lot more sense in regions where worlds spots are harder to come by. If worlds were more exclusive to only the most highly competitive teams then it would make more sense in the US. Essentially, what makes signature events special is their level of competition, if all of the good teams are attending worlds instead, the level of competition won’t be the same.

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@meng, for what it’s worth, and I know it’s circular, but only a handful of teams that made a Signature Event’s elimination round are not going to Worlds

So say there were 12 HS Signature Events this year, that’s 384 teams (ignoring that Kalahari had 2 divisions). There’s obviously some overlap (e.g. PiBotics and Freedom Gladiators competed in, and won, multiple Signature Events). But there’s only 17 teams who made a Signature Event elimination round not going to HS Worlds and I think at least 1 of those 17 is a middle school team (and there may be others) and I didn’t check if any of the 17 are going to MS Worlds.

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I think the answer is somewhere in between, at least in team-count. I suspect I’m accurate on country at maybe 20-30. I have no idea how to estimate the actual size of VRC in China, given that most (some?) of their events are not posted / available on RobotEvents. That said, my intuition would say that China doesn’t have as many teams as the US, so while it may be in the thousands, I think my estimate of the size of this year’s HS VRC program is 8800-10,000 teams. @meng’s estimate may be accurate for 20k teams in 60 countries across VEX IQ+VRC MS+VRC HS.

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shoutout to Arkansas💀

IIRC the “20,000 registered teams” claim includes teams across all the programs (VRC, VIQC, VEX U, etc.).

The RobotEvents map shows 9988 registered VRC teams in 2021-22.

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