Robot Inspection procedure at competitions

My son is participating for two years now in VEX competition through his school. This year we were very confident about our scores based on our robot’s performance. However, competition format is very discouraging. Its pure luck which alliance team you are placed with. Something must be done about making sure that participating teams’ robot atleast works! The robot inspection only checks for size and whether the system communicates with cortex. During matches, our team was placed with teams, at random of course, that didnot score any points or hardly scored. We understand if there are any accident with the robot or battery issues etc. and the team is not able to score but the teams we were put in alliance with were not able to make their robot work from the get go . And we had 3 consecutive such occurrences unfortunately. We put a lot of time and effort in preparing for the competitions and there has to be a way to make this competition on a more level plain field rather than luck. I strongly suggest that there is some way to check that the robot can atleast function and do what its supposed to do. Anyone feel the same way?

I don’t necessarily agree. Sometimes a robot works at the beginning of the day then stops working at the end of the day. Also, even though you may have weak alliance partners, you can also distinguish yourself during the competition. One thing that is great about the Vex program is that it is not all about building robots and winning robotics tournaments. There is also an element of selling yourself to other teams. This part of it is called “scouting.” Even though you had weak partners and lost a few matches, you can still sell yourself to the higher ranked teams, explain your strengths and what occured. Sometimes you can get picked up in alliance selections just by doing that.

Also, there is some random luck with the alliance pairing in the qualification rounds. Sometimes you get terrible luck and are paired with weak partners, but sometimes you just get lucky and have all strong partners. Sounds like you got unlucky in your last tournament. Another key to selling yourself to other teams is to have high skills scores at the event. Make youself stand out.

to add to @Gear Geeks point on scouting - scouting is not just a binary check does the alliance robot work or not, but it is the opportunity for the team to distinguish themselves by pitching in to get the alliance partner’s bot going. I recall a mixed event a few years back where our MS kids were having difficulty with their autonomous code. Their HS alliance partner stepped in and worked with our kids to see where the logic error was. That HS team truly distinguished themselves by being an active participant in the student-centered learning environment created by the VRC format. Our team acknowledged this unsolicited support by the HS team to the judges.

In qualification rounds, you basically have to assume your alliance partner will be incapable of scoring points unless they can prove otherwise. If you robot is truly worthy of being “very confident” about, having very weak alliance partners wouldn’t be that much of a setback. If you are truly a very good team, it doesn’t matter who you are with, because there aren’t a significant number of alliances that can beat you in a 2v1. I have never been “very confident” about my robot’s performance, and we haven’t finished below the finals this year.

What would you do if a team (invariably) can’t do what they say they can?

I have been coaching/mentoring since before this program was VEX. I have several observations based on the OPs comments.

  1. I think one of the great things about this program is the ability of teams of all levels to compete. My teams are generally very competitive in our state, but they know and accept that they will be paired with robots of various abilities throughout the qualification rounds. Add to that the ability to compete at several events each season means that teams have the opportunity to go back and make their robot better than the last competition. It is not unusual to see some of those early season struggling robots turn into good robots later in the season. As the program continues to go, there will always need to be a place for new inexperienced teams to fit into the competition.
  2. My experience with assisting new VEX teams is that they learn SO much more and are much more motivated to continue to improve if they get to a competition early, even if their robot can’t do much. They can only watch so many YouTube videos. There is NOTHING like the experience of putting the robot on the field and seeing what it can do (or can’t do). The learning that the students get by being at an event and competing and communicating with the rest of the community is amazing. The competition on the field can be intense, but (at least in our area) the sharing of ideas, parts, programming in the pits is amazing. My students have made many friends among the teams that we compete against throughout a season and throughout the years. And many of those friendships have lasted beyond high school.
  3. My question to the OP is: How would you change the procedure? Are you suggesting some sort of robot competency test? As you may have gathered , I would be vehemently opposed to that. As other posters have mentioned, if a good robot is unfortunate enough to have been allied with several weak robots throughout qualifying rounds, then 1) they should be marketing themselves to the teams that are likely to be alliance captains and 2) the really good teams will be scouting for those robots who are better than their record indicates. What also happens on occasion is a not so good robot will get really lucky with their alliance partners throughout qualification and end up higher ranked than their robots should. This is the nature of the beast. There is NO time to run enough qualification matches for every team to be either allied with or face every other team in the event. In Wisconsin, we try to have between 6-8 qualification rounds in each of our events, with most being 8. That is enough to separate the truly good teams from the rest.
  4. RECF - Robot Education and Competition Foundation (bold mine)

If you go to enough tournaments, it all evens out in the end. Sometimes you end the day with a higher rank than you actually “deserve” based on the luck of being paired with a lot of top teams during the day. Sometimes you end the day at the bottom of the list because you’re paired with an over-abundance of beginner robots.

At one of our tournaments this year we finished the worst in the history of our team (50th out of 60) because in 4 of our matches, our partner scored 0. HOWEVER, we had a great day, because our robot did everything that it was designed to do, consistently throughout the day, without mishaps or mechanical problems.

So, you can look at the situation from many angles, which is what the commenters above me are also getting at.

Oh yeah, and in Nothing But Net, one of our alliance partners informed us that their wheels were “nonfunctional decoration”. You get what you get, and you do the best you can at each moment.

I don’t know about in other states but for Tennessee They test that all motors run in inspection

Why? The inspection is only supposed to check that the robot is a robot according to the <R*> rules for competition. Mainly looking for correct material and requirements. No requirements exist that says your robot has to work. There may be some random PTC checks to see if motors have been tampered with.

it was at my very first competition so I was clueless, and I didn’t even know what was going on in the first place so reasoning behind that I didn’t pay attention to

fair enough. I am puzzled what they would do if a motor did not function at inspection? fail the robot? If so, what grounds? That is what is puzzling to me. Moreover, testing all motors? How much time will they spend with each robot? Procedurally, how to do it? Unplug all the motors during inspection?

Sorry to harp on it, but it is incredulous to me that testing all motors at inspection would be considered at any event.

They would have me run my drive motors and put slight resistance on it not even sure what it did

Yeah, we’ve had that happen many times. It’s painful.

However, I doubt anybody here is going to go along with the suggestion that the robots be tested for functionality. There are lots of reasons, but one of the easiest to see is that we’ve all been the team with the robot that doesn’t move. Our teams didn’t plan for that to happen, but sometimes it just does.

Sometimes, even if the robot works, the driver doesn’t. It’s not at all unusual to see a team be unable to score a single point even though the robot is capable. It would have passed a minimum standards test, if there was such a thing. But the driver would not. There’s no reasonable way to test for that.

On occasion, I’ve seen drivers that did pretty well on a practice field freeze up and suddenly be unable to drive in a competition. No test will find that.

I’ve also seen those same kids go on to be world class competitors in a couple of years. I wouldn’t want to do anything to keep that transition from happening.

Ok, that was a PTC check to see if the motors would stall. If they did not stall, then that could be evidence of motor tampering.

My team is in TN and what they do is they have an inspection checklist and they just go through it and check the boxes. I’m pretty sure that at the competitions we were at your robot had to run. But biglesliep is right, if u go to atleast 3 tourneys you should have the opportunity to win a competition if your robot is really good enough. I know that in our tourneys we have a lot of clawbots so you can’t ever rely on your partner until eliminations.