Robots are not built by kids!

hi guys,
My school went to a competition up in Torrance for state qualifying and saw parents telling the kids what to do. We went scouting for possible alliances and asked some kids what their gear ratio is for their flywheel, and they don’t even know what a flywheel is! We notified the judges and referees, but didn’t disqualify them. is there something that i am not aware of?

Although more student involvement is encouraged, there’s no rule that requires students to do any set amount or sector of the robot. They won’t get as much out of it if they’re not involved, so overall, it’s their loss.

I have never heard about this… There is no rule against this but in my experience if the student team members can not answer basic questions about their robots it hurts their awards chances depending on the judges.

That isn’t a thing. Rumors like this are passed on and when people like you post them here they are believed by more and more people.

I have never seen a rule like that either.

It is quite possible that they do not know what a flywheel is simply because they do not refer to their launching mechanism as a “flywheel.” Did you try referring to it as a baseball pitcher, or some (technically more correct) term other than “flywheel?”

well apologies then Tabor. Thank you for holding me accountable.

Are you sure that the kids with whom you spoke even advertised themselves to be designers and builders? Some clubs have a few kids who build all their robots and then other kids in the club do nothing except program them or drive them. Sometimes the actual builders aren’t even at the tournament that day but are busy studying for their AP exams or something. Vex allows clubs and teams to organize themselves in whatever way they see fit.

To be fair, the builders can’t be the only ones who know what the mechanism is even called. :stuck_out_tongue:
The kids who program and drive the robot should at least have some idea of what the robot does/ what parts of the robot make it work. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to program/drive it now would they? :slight_smile:


I wouldn’t tell you what the ratio on my flywheel is even if I knew. Pretty sad you tried to get them disqualified.

There is no doubt some sketchy stuff going on in Northern Virginia. We have multiple sets of spectacular robots, each set made of identically built and programmed machines, all un-fixable by the children. They don’t adjust power either, so they either miss, or break the nets. And some motors sound different when stressed than others. We’ll find out if any suspicions were true come states.

Good point. Which is why you never find art majors behind the wheel of a car.

My own point is that not everyone on the team can always answer all the questions. And you can’t judge an entire team by a single encounter. For example, some teams have kids that do nothing but public relations or website management. Sometimes the judges will arrive at a team’s pit when the real techie types are grabbing a bite to eat or helping another team, but the public relations kid or the web designer kid will still try to answer the judges’ questions out of panic or pride or something. And the judges can easily walk away with some very bizarre impressions. I know because I’ve been in that situation.

That’s amusing. Check out the synchronized autonomous in this video:

Did they spray paint their metal?

I think all of this comes in stages of team development. The first stage is where a team begins and the students do not know a lot. The coach/mentor helps and gets their hands involved. Ideally the next phase/year the coach steps back a little and lets the students lead, build, and strategize. The coach should advise and help where needed. The third phase is where the coach does what coaches do… coach and advise on what to do. Students build, research, strategize, tear down, rebuild, learn from losses or mistakes, ask for advice, and just become a well oiled machine so to speak. I was heavily involved the first year, about half as much the second, and this year I mainly advise and research. The coach becomes a parts manager, team support, and logistics. Students need to learn… then move up the chain of command. That is my opinion anyway.

+1 to this. I will have to find my slide I made to level set expectations of new people coming in and the progression you will have year over year.

Year 1 is definitely get your feet wet and learn how to build and operate these things. (both from a parent and student perspective) We encourage year 1 folks to copy designs you see from others and have fun driving and scoring. You will be going against kids that have done this for 6 years now and some are pretty darn good and will relish in squishing your robot on the field. (well not so much if you just hang out shooting from the starting tile the entire time.) So level set the expectations accordingly.

Parents and students see the success of others and expect it right away. But this robot thing is pretty tough with lots to learn and get good at.

I’ll have to find that thing and post it up here.

This is an annual thread both here and on other competition robotics forum(s). I’m a fan of roboteers building their own robots. I’m also a big fan of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. I’m not a big fan of doing an exact copy, I’d rather see another set of design and build iterations on a design that you have obtained.

I’ve seen lots of robot teams that field multiple robots end up with “clones”. In very few cases they are 100% clones, when you look there are differences between the robots. So there is some level of design / build changes.

The purpose of most competition robotics is to inspire the roboteer (and somewhat the mentor). If building a clone of 929W amazing robot does that for you, have at it. Just remember the two parts you can’t see (programming and the 100’s of hours of practice driving) does not mean you’ll win with it. I know that I built out a Green Eggs drive base (it unfolded into a wide stance). My base never entered a competition, but it did enter my book of design ideas. And I was inspired by it.

This issue is not limited to robotics. Go to any cub scout pinewood derby and you will see racecars that were not made by the scout. Same thing at science fairs or crafty type school assignments. There is going to be a continuum of how much coaches teach/help/do.

In the end, as coaches, we have to help the roboteers reflect on whether they did their best and are they happy with the outcome. If yes, fine. If no, then figure out how to do better.

I think this says it perfectly. I coach two teams. My “veteran” team has three years of experience and they have built a solid robot with very little guidance from myself. My other team is a first year team so I find myself showing them things, building mockups of things for them to see, etc. I would expect that next year they should be much more independent.

Building little demos and mock-ups is where having an involved mentor can make a huge difference. I know some of the schools have adopted the “discovery education/so-called student-centered” approach to “teaching” everything, so the kids are sometimes given a box of parts and a couple of website addresses and told to go at it entirely on their own, too often resulting in kids learning things the wrong way. Therefore garbage in, garbage out. At competitions, the contrast between mentored and non-mentored teams can become painfully apparent, especially in the younger divisions. As a mentor, it’s sometimes hard to gauge where to draw the line on providing advice and “scaffolding”. There are plenty of times in which I’ve warned the kids about problems, they have shrugged off my advice, and I’ve let them flounder through competitions so they can hack through the problems completely on their own. They learn best that way. But they also benefit from having somebody around to explain why things aren’t working and they’re clueless (that is, after I gloat for a day or two in a quiet, smirk-filled “toldja so” mode).