Student-Centered Policy Document

There has been a lot of discussion on this forum as well as on all the other VEX Robotics discussion groups about what is an acceptable amount of coach / parent involvement with a VEX Robotics team. Lisa Schultz from the REC Foundation created the attached Student-Centered Policy Document. She first reviewed it at the EP Summit last month and received very positive feedback. She incorporated comments from the EPs and RECF staff into the attached version of the document.

The REC Foundation recognizes it is ultimately the responsibility of the adult to determine the appropriate amount of support for the individual student. But we are providing this document as a guide line.

Please note in an effort to be more transparent and to get feedback from the REC Foundation / VEX Robotics community, we are posting this document for public review prior to officially implementing. I ask everyone to review and give their honest feedback but to also be respectable to the REC Foundation and to others that may have opposing views. Please provide any feedback by 8/15. You can email your comments directly to me or post on this thread.

Student Centered Guide v.2.pdf (206.4 KB)

Best Regards,

Dan Mantz

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I personally do not think the RECF has a leg to stand on when it comes to student centered teams until it starts to change its policy on interacting directly with students. As long as the RECF expects to to only be contacted by adult mentors they are telling teams that the adults run the teams, not the students.

And part of that is the RECF treating the students with respect.

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A lot of that may be because they are minors or because of legal liabilities.

I know for organizations and things I’ve been involved with that deal with minors I had to have another adult for discussions.

I think that’s a sorry basis to say they don’t have a leg to stand on, but do you.

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Good document. I’d pick different colors than Green, Yellow, Red. I’d gone with Green, Blue, Red. I can see lots of parents yelling about other parents being in the “Yellow Zone” even though your heading says appropriated for example:

  • “Adults explaining how an event is run and assisting novice teams in getting to their match on time or finding alliance partners”. First events are a mess trying to wrangle teams and getting them to matches. I can’t imagine how long the first few events of the season would last if we didn’t have queuing people. The key word is “novice”.
  • Adults demonstrating how to assemble a component or make minor repairs with the assistance of novice students. Students make improvements after the demonstration is completed. So I’ve had people try to throw me out (of my own events) when I was doing this. Again, this is acceptable behavior, but the Yellow is going to get me a warning again.

I like the focus in the last section around the software, It will be interesting to see how that works out in practice. I would reword this

Describe in detail the development and functionality of the robot design and program(s) utilized
on the robot being used at the event.

to

  • Describe in detail the development of the robot design across the season and functionality of the mechanisms created.

  • Describe in detail the development process and the functionality of the program(s) utilized
    on the robot being used at the event.

By breaking it in to two distinct parts, it matches better with the engineering notebook scoring.

Nice job Lisa, thanks very much for the effort!

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@tabor473

It is the REC Foundation policy that REC Foundation staff can not directly communicate with students under 18 (minors). This is for legal reasons and is a very common and accepted policy across most youth organizations. If I am directly contacted by a student, I respectfully ask them to add their parent / guardian or coach and then I will respond. This policy protects both the student and the REC Foundation.

  • Dan
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Okay, then you are putting parents and coaches in charge of teams. Stop pretending you are not.

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I like the graduated system that allows novice teams to get more help from adults. When a team doesn’t have as many experienced members, it can be helpful to allow an adult to step in and help bring the team up to speed (within certain boundaries).

There are a couple items in the yellow category that I’m somewhat confused about, however:

  • “Adults providing primitive pre-made mechanical design learning tools (ex: 4-bar linkage) for novice students to reference” - I feel like an adult making a quick mockup of an idea (assuming it’s a relatively primitive one like a 4-bar lift, and the team doesn’t just make a bolt-for-bolt copy for their robot) shouldn’t be restricted to novice students only. Even students with more experience could benefit from this. Sometimes the best way for an adult to communicate an idea to a student is to build a mockup.

  • I don’t understand the difference between “Adults teaching students basic programming techniques” in the green column and “Adults teaching general programming fundamentals” in the yellow. It seems like these two scenarios are synonyms, which confuses me as to why they are in two different columns.

In general though, I think the “At Events” section is very well written, and provides a good explanation as to how adults should gradually ease students off of adult guidance. It’s very clear what the difference between a novice student and an experienced student is, and very clear how the amount of adult involvement should be different for each of them.

The “Outside the Events” section might benefit from additional clarity as to which team members can get additional adult involvement (i.e., which can be in the “yellow zone”).

Overall I think this is a great step forward to level the playing field for many teams. I’ve seen both teams with almost no adult involvement and teams with lots, so I feel like a resource like this will help mentors figure out how much they are supposed to be helping and make sure all students have an equal shot at both competition and have enough guidance to teach themselves mechanical design, programming, and other important skills.

Thank you Lisa and Dan for putting this together!

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Legal reasons don’t necessarily correlate to ownership. The minors control the entire team but for legal reasons an adult is asked to be present. Just because the adult is present in communication with a higher up in the RECF doesn’t in any way mean that the adult is automatically in charge of the team. The adult does not have to take part in communication, just has to be present to witness it.

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There’s a big difference between “putting parents and coaches in charge of teams” and just requiring students to CC a parent on an email chain…

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@DanMantz

May I suggest putting more thought into the Programming sections? In the Mechanical section, there’s specifically an exception called out for designs provided by VEX Robotics. No such exception exists in the Programming section, other than the pre-installed code. Why not?

It seems clear to me that the Programming section, as it is currently written, completely forbids the use of any 3rd party libraries developed by adults (and if someone wanted to be really pedantic, it even forbids the use of VEX default code since no “VEX Provided” exception exists).

In the Cortex days, people like @jpearman provided many helpful libraries. Is it your intention to prohibit using libraries such as his?

Furthermore, the Programming section doesn’t say anything about copy/pasting code from other teams/students, if I’m reading it right. Isn’t the net result the same? The students on the team in question did not embrace the concepts and learn how to do it themselves. On the mechanical side, if students copied another team’s design, they’d at least have to assemble the mechanical parts themselves and would get a feel for it. Copy/pasting code from other students would not require much if any thought to do.

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Actually, a lot of progress has been made in the programming section. I dropped the ball, was supposed to provide more feedback but life sped up on me.

So, this is in better state and will improve with dialog… I think it goes long ways to the intent of explaining not to write code for the kids. If you provide a demonstration (could be a library) and the explanation and the student can then leverage it on their own to their application space, it should be ok.

copy and paste without understanding is clearly not ok.

Lisa was very approachable and truly is first focused on student learning and listens to feedback from the community - no matter how grumpy I sound all the time.

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But it’s so much more nuanced than that, as I’m sure you know.

Clearly an adult should not directly write code specifically for a team. But what about an adult like James who writes a generic motor library for use by all teams? If RECF wants to ban that, that’s fine - I’m just curious if they really intended to or not.

But, what about all the library code that surely exists as part of VEXCode, PROS, etc? Code that you link to anytime you compile a program. That code was clearly written by adults, and is also not the “pre-installed program” (at least in my interpretation). I’d argue that the current wording forbids all of that, which of course is not reasonable (and doesn’t pass the “common sense” rule). But, assuming it’s OK to use PROS-provided libraries, where is the line drawn? Can you only use pre-written code if it’s included in your choice of programming environment and nothing else? That would make sense I suppose, but again it precludes any common functionality type libraries like James used to do (and maybe that’s what they want - which if so then OK).

I said something about this before, but if it were up to me, I’d draw the line somewhere such that you can use 3rd party code if it’s 1) publicly available and 2) in no way specific to the team’s robot. Basically, if there’s shared code out there that everyone has equal access to and equal ability to use, then it’s OK, otherwise not. Just my humble opinion.

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Yup - this version is much better than prior ones and it will get better over time. …

All the code by James and VEX partners as examples are allowed if the teams can explain how and why they use it.

What they are preventing is the scenario in which an adult, for example ME, provides magic code (library/cut paste…) specifically for that team for their specific problem they can not solve without any regard to whether or not they can explain why it helps or how it works… Have I done that? Not that extreme, but I do share code for everyones use to illustrate neat ideas. and I learn from James and many many many students as well…

I like your conditions - I would add:

  • source code available for everyone
  • teams submit their code to a repository for events in order to be considered for THINK or other programming related awards…

I think we are on the same page for learning opportunities for all!

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I agree with @Foster about the yellow. The green and yellow are both acceptable with context. Only the coach knows that context, so it is for them to use their best judgement, but they are both A-OK. I have a lot of yellows at the beginning of the year. :slight_smile:

The red is never acceptable.

I would do a light green to highlight that it’s OK. Better yet, get rid of the colors all together. Looks great on the screen but printed copies at the event don’t look as good.

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Being in charge of the team and doing the work for the team are completely different things.

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Thank you for taking the initiative to strengthen parent interaction guidelines. These are definitely steps in the right direction.

I second this. It’s much easier use this as a qualifier for acceptable code libraries, than having a list of approved coding libraries since many new ones are being developed with the advent of V5 and its array of programming environments.

I can understand your frustration, but as pointed out by @DanMantz it becomes challenging due to legal reasons. However, I hope the dynamic between students and the RECF will improve once the Student Advisory Board is created. Maybe we should be urging for more information about the Student Advisory Board? I, along with many other students, have applied and we are anxiously awaiting any information. Having the Student Advisory Board review the Student-Centered Policy Document would be a great first exercise for the group. :smile:

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I agree with your statements 100%, I would be curious to know a solution to this programming?

If a team posts their code repo on something like GitHub and it is forked that new fork is also tracked in GitHub if they continue to use the service and upload their own code. I could see this being a solution as I know a lot of high functioning teams use GitHub and would probably have no issue with this, and they are most likely the ones who will come under fire…

But this does not solve the James issue (@jpearman Your work is great!) of having the forum help with code issues that are robot specific and not centrally kept without manually searching the forums.

Again I am not disagreeing with you, I just do not know a good solution either.

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The phrasing is nuanced - here James is providing code examples to everyone. If a team (students) adopt it, they must be able to explain how it is being used and code to the example for their application accordingly … to me this is a Yellow band - problem with third party sourced solution they can explain and our extension, document the genesis of the code… This removes the “approved external suppliers of solutions list”. Now if you can’t get the source example code from your unaffiliated third party solution provider, shame on you (the team) for not being thorough…

I am not sure how this will play out, but it is in the right direction.

@lacsap, I am a bit confused if you are serious or you are giving a tongue-in-cheek proof by contradiction…

Does it mean that under new student-centered rules it will be illegal to use @jpearman libraries or 5225A position tracking code unless one could retype everything from their head or knows all principles that it was based on?

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First, it’s really good that parental involvement is being clarified. Clearly the goal is to empower students/participants, even if that’s uncomfortable (for them and for adults), but with a foundation that facilitates self-success.

Regarding programming, I’m an adult programmer (job) and coach. Last year, I considered writing an awesome addition to jpearson’s flash library for cortex, even with my team not having a need or desire for it (and therefore wouldn’t use it). I ended up not writing it, however, had I, I would expect that “to be completely fair,” it should have been:

  1. Submitted to a public repo.
  2. Notice made on these forums about the new capabilities and what they can do (an honest effort to make all aware, without spamming).
  3. Only then could it /begin/ to be learned, understood, and implemented by your own team (which would be a fair amount of time compared to other teams now made aware of it). [oppositely, it shouldn’t be submitted and notified minutes before being used in a competition].

These types of rules (applying only to adults) should encourage overall VEX growth, without unfairly giving advantage to one team.

Again, I really appreciate VEX addressing adult involvement in order for students/participants to fully grow (fail then succeed) on their own with the right amount of foundational support.

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