Student-Centered Policy Document

As an Eagle scout I can say the Scouts BSA organizes scouts into patrols. Each patrol has a student leader who oversees them. Then each patrol leader is overseen by a senior patrol leader(also a student).

There is a hierarchy that let’s students run as much as they are able to. With adults as always as a fallback option. If I am st a scout camp and someone wants to comment on a member of the troop they are free to approach a student above them in the hierarchy, or an adult.


One area I would like to see addressed is scouting.

For match scouting, it is common for parents, siblings, and coaches from teams to help the students do the grunt work of recording data from matches. This is necessary as there are usually two competition fields with 4 robots each. In an ideal world, there should be one person per robot at each field. Because VRC teams are generally quite small (3-6 students), there are not enough students to record data. This means help needs to come from somewhere.

I think it is reasonable for parents and coaches to assist in the grunt work as long as the following conditions are met:
• The scouting system is designed by the students
• The Head Scout is a student guiding others on how to work the system
• Data interpretation and manipulation is done by the students

Parents and coaches are essentially acting like another set of eyes with those conditions met.

The area I see more gray in is pit scouting. The information collected from pit scouting can be more subjective because it can involve asking the team questions and making judgments on build quality. At qualifying tournaments, there are usually up to 32 teams that can be covered by two students in about half an hour. However, at an events like worlds with 100 teams in your division and a lot more ground to cover, is it acceptable to have parents/coaches assist in pit scouting? If parents/coaches are using a system the Head Scout (a student) designed, and they are simply following the procedure, would that be acceptable? I think there is room for discussion here.


This is a formatting observation. I’d rather print a resource page like this with the text colored (or another option) instead of the background a long stripe of printed color.


Personally, I think that scouting is too much of a “slippery slope” for adult involvement. It is difficult to define a line between just collecting information (the “grunt work”) and making decisions based on that data. Even something that seems inconsequential like parents deciding what teams to look out for could constitute adults helping the students with decision-making (something that we’d probably like to avoid for VRC to remain “student-centered”).

Maybe my experience is an outlier, but I spent last year at boarding school. We had no parents at most meets. Most of the time our coach didn’t go either; the school sent some randomly chosen chaperone instead. We relied on smart use of the scoring app, smart time management of our team, and collaborating with other teams in order to collect our scouting data, and I sincerely believe this made us better at strategy.

This might be an unpopular opinion, but personally, I don’t think parents, coaches, or mentors should have any role in scouting for teams at meets. Some guidance before the meet on what makes a good alliance partner is probably okay, but having parents and mentors do the work of students wouldn’t be acceptable for any other part of the competition, so why should it be acceptable for scouting?


This is an interesting point of discussion. Firstly, it would be difficult to create a policy targeting scouting scenarios that applies sensibly to any team’s scouting strategy. For example, some teams collect raw statistics from each match, and aggregate them and base their decisions on aggregated data. Others just have scouts record qualitative observations on each team, and have a conversation to decide how to procede. What do the terms “scouting system”, “Head Scout” and “grunt work” mean in either scenario? Do we need to have a definition for the position of “Scout” or “Head Scout”, similar to “Driver” or “Coach”? Also, an assumption in your post seems to be that this scouting is about alliance selection, but what about qualification match strategy? I could very easily see a well-intentioned policy on scouting unintentionally restrict how students on teams perform their strategy decision-making, which I don’t believe to be the intent here.

I’d tend to agree here. Ensuring that your team has students assigned to watch matches is up to the team to do, and assuming the team is more than 1 or 2 students, it shouldn’t require tangible contribution from adults.


Our High School teams have routinely provided “scouting sheets” to parent-spectators in the stands to collect data during matches. Typical data collected includes WLT, score and what bot does in auton, score and what bot does in driver. Sometimes a comment like “brick-bot,” “clawbot”, or DQ risk. This data is then used by the requesting students to help verify their pit scouting (“trust but verify”) and make their decisions. The parent-spectators don’t make any scouting decisions, the just fill out student-created forms.


Our students do their own scouting - or not… This year they were particularly good at it.

No adults are allowed to scout for students. It is a life lesson for maximizing and valuing all resources in your team.


Same goes for us. The games are thought out and planned 100% on what the team picks up. The parents are there to cheer and sometimes bother us :stuck_out_tongue:


You should be familiar with BSA rules which are similar. If you email you leader you need to CC either another registered leader, or your parent. What Dan is saying isn’t much different. And it doesn’t detract from youth centered.

For reference you can find the following detail online:
“Private online communications (texting, phone calls, chat, IM, etc.) must include another registered leader or parent.”

Not sure why you are attacking Dan. He is only trying to setup a known safe means of interacting with students. If you don’t believe me, then take both organizations Youth Protection training.


I too think scouting should really be down to the students. Its an incredibly important part of the competition and as lacsap mentioned teams should use the number of people in the team as effectively as possible. I see the point being made about parents just “doing the grunt work” and just acting as “another set of eyes” but the comments written down by these parents/coaches will directly affect the alliances that are chosen as the students decide using data from their parents / coaches. As a result, work of parents and coaches is changing the outcome of the competition. Most likely, this will give this team a competitive advantage as (for these same reasons) not all teams will have this support from parents/coaches.

On the point made about small teams struggling to cope, is it OK for a team with fewer members / members missing in a session to get the coach to follow the student’s designs and do the “grunt” work. After all, Its just tightening screws right?

Personally, I don’t think so and I think that is the reason why this rule needs to exists. I understand they are different - but both should be roles played by the students. Scouting should really be down to the students to organise themselves and use as much as they want/need.


I think you belong to an established team. Probably one which isn’t running lean (3 or less). In fact, your comment suggests that you joined a strong organization and have never faced the uphill battle faced by a team in an organization that just got equipment.

Your ideas would lead to the death or VEX. I know it sounds drastic. But understand that the field already discouraged entry by new organizations. This is coming from such an adult who recently helped his organization decide on joining the world of robotics competition.


You’re making a lot of baseless assumptions here. My team had only two active members including myself. Both of us were newcomers to VEX.

I fail to understand how requiring only students to do scouting work with no adult involement would hurt new organizations more than old organizations. Like I said in my earlier post,

Scouting greatly benefits from a “work smart, not hard” strategy. There are plenty of ways for a team to scout effectively with a limited amount of people and time.


Just a little :slight_smile:

That said, I have seen independent teams with WAY TOO MUCH adult involvement (and formal schools too)…

Scouting is something for the students on a team to figure out. If they are ready, great, if not, no problem. The problem is with adults providing solutions for the team, when the team should figure out how to bring new team members in … that is life.

My HS colleague provided the following for the School Committee about his robotics club philosophy:

  • No one student can do it all.
  • Building a functioning robot engages students in programming, tinkering, designing, planning and negotiating.
  • Being a successful team requires scouting other teams, marketing the team, recruitmenting new members, organizing supplies, etc.
  • Teams are successful when members communicate their ideas to each other effectively.

By its very nature, this is project-based, STEAM education.

No where does it say should an adult come in and save the day.


The “some teams have it and others don’t” is probably one of the weaker arguments against it. Some teams only have $20 and a pocket full of lint for a budget. Other teams are fully financed without student involvement. Some teams have lots of students that can work anytime they feel like it, and some only have one student that can only work for an hour a week. Differences in circumstance happen, and the only real balance for that is to limit how much of an advantage circumstances can give (like limiting parts selection and fabrication methods as a limit on how much more money can do for you).

The “adults can’t build/program robots for you” restriction is a good one because it is part of the RECF’s core mission statement that students learn about STEM fields:

The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation’s mission is to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, affordable, and sustainable robotics engineering programs.

From the RECF’s Code of Conduct, it’s quite apparent that “no adult involvement” is not the standard being sought:

Student-centered teams with limited adult assistance

Further, in this SCPD, we find this:

We encourage adults to ask the following questions in each of your learning experiences with students to help gauge the appropriate amount of support for your students:

  • Are the students asking for my assistance or are they able to be independent?

Put these together, and my reading and gut tells me that an adult gathering or sharing observations at students’ request should be in line with the spirit of the program. Especially because an adult in the stands taking observations means there’s a student in the pits working with their team and robot, which is where the engineering and teamwork is happening.

That being said, adults probably shouldn’t be answering the question “who should we pick” directly, as that’s going a bit too far in developing strategy for students. Answering “which robot here has an autonomous that does X” is just a matter of fact. Which brings us back around to:

…and ultimately it is the responsibility of the adult to determine the appropriate amount of support for the individual student.

Different teams need and ask for different levels of support. It’s going to be hard for anyone to come up with hard-and-fast rules about when adult involvement stops being assistance and becomes doing it for the kids.


Seen that WAY too much - and the adults are sometimes answering questions that student have not yet figured out.

So for scouting, if the students have not figured it out, why should adults step in? And if the students have figured it out, why can’t the students recruit the Human Resources they need?

As others have mentioned, adults will telegraph their bias and students will usually not challenge an adult (usually, my daughters usually prove the exception to all my statements :slight_smile: )


I disagree with the notion that adult gathering of information is acceptable involvement.

If you look at how the RECF defines appropriate adult involvement, a divide becomes clear:

  • An adult teaching students about programming fundamentals is okay, but writing code for the team is not.
  • An adult teaching students about how primitive mechanisms (like the DR4B) is okay, but helping build the mechanism for the team is not.
  • An adult teaching students about how to go about the design process is okay, but an adult designing a team’s robot is not.

It’s emphasized that the role of the adults is to teach, not to do. It would logically follow that adults teaching students the fundamentals of how scouting works is okay, but adults doing any of the work in the scouting process is not.

Adults can’t tighten nuts, add bolts, or replace rubber bands for kids. Why should they be allowed to be a direct part of the scouting process? Both tasks are “grunt work” that aren’t directly teaching students about STEM. But the point of project-based learning is that some of this “grunt work” helps students learn both STEM skills and other skills like managing resources.


Before I respond to a few of the posts, I think it would be helpful for me to give context on what scouting system my former high school team utilized back when I was on the team so the terminology I use is a bit more clear.

A student on the team was designated the role “Head Scout.” This student was in charge of collecting and interpreting data. They used data to help the drive team with strategy in their upcoming matches, project rankings, and create a pick lists.

We had a total of 4 students. Of the 4 of us, 3 were on the drive team. The members of the drive team were also the primary builders and programmers so they were always with the robot ensuring it was match ready.

This left one student with the time to do the scouting. All of us came from an FRC background (team of ~20 students), so it was unusual for us to not have enough students to do the scouting ourselves. This meant we needed to recruit others to help with the scouting. Siblings and parents (who have no robotics experience) were more than willing to help out. They also helped out in FRC when students needed a break, so this was not a new idea.

The Head Scout created a google survey with objective questions like “Team #”, “# of cubes scored”, “#of cubes scored in towers”, and ect. All data collected was data not available in tournament manager. We (usually) had a total of 8 scouts (a parent or sibling with no robotics knowledge), 4 assigned to each field with each person watching one robot. The Head Scout was there to direct all of them what to do. We collected data on every team at the event. Each scout would have the google survey pulled up on their phone, they would fill out the form, and all the data would be dumped into a giant excel document. The Head Scout then used this excel document to make the various decisions I mentioned earlier. The scouts did not collect subjective information, and any decisions derived from the data collected were made by students on the team.

If the Head Scout could watch all 4 teams during a match all-day and interpret data, they would. Unfortunately, we did not have any super humans on the team.

The “grunt work” I mentioned earlier is simply watching the match, filling out the objective questions on the survey (that a student created), and that’s it. The Head Scout is the only member doing data manipulation and interpretation. That’s why I said scouts are essentially just another set of eyes for the Head Scout. If we had a 10 student team, we would have the students collect the data, but that was unfortunately not the case.

As far as pit scouting goes, it was easy enough for one student to do all of it themselves.

My former team prides itself on being student led, student built, and student controlled. Feel free to talk to them at competition about anything, they’ll be happy to answer.

I think you are touching on the key difference here. A line could likely be drawn between qualitative and quantitative data. From the posts I have seen, it seems most people take issue with subjective information being collected by parents/siblings, and that is reasonable. However, I don’t think objective data being collected by parents is much of an issue as long as they do not help the students interpret the data.

The issue comes with team size. A team of 10 students could easily scout themselves. However, I rarely see a VRC team with more than 5 team members. Having all 5+ kids getting a quality learning experience with a single VRC robot is very difficult, which is why you see schools generally add more teams rather than packing 20 students onto one.

In order for the students to make an informed decision on strategy, they need data beyond WLT and match scores. If they are a smaller team (who from my experience, are the majority), how are they supposed to collect it without help from siblings/parents?

Scouting allows students to learn valuable lessons about statistics. It would be a shame if they could not get this learning experience just because they are a small team.

I see collection of quantitative data more as providing the wrenches and hex keys, it enables the students to learn. Without it, they would not be able to do anything.


Much like @Nathan_Rossi was saying, I’m very much of the opinion that tournament-only helpers filling out scouting forms provided by students is the “providing basic materials at students’ direction” type of help, not the “doing something vital for them” type of help. Or if you want to look at it as knowledge, it’s just an extension of what other adults are already providing by running VEX Via and providing a Pit Display.

Further, I think a skill that is severely under-taught is “how to work with adults/people older than you”, and getting adults to sign on as helpers when you ask them to is a big win for teaching that.


I applaud the RECF for creating a detailed document regarding their student centered policy. Creating guidelines for a topic that is both broad and complex is not an easy challenge and one that would be easy to hand-wave around with generic statements. I also think openly soliciting community feedback was a very smart approach, especially since this is an issue that many people are passionate about. In terms of my own feedback, here are some fairly high level thoughts.

  1. Looking through the guide, the term novice is used liberally, however it is used without definition. Some guidance here would be helpful. Does “novice” apply only to students who are new to the program or only students who are young for their age category? What about a student who is new to HS VRC, but has competed in MS VRC. I’m not sure what the right answer is here, but these are questions that will absolutely come up, especially depending on the answer to the next question.
  2. The description of the yellow column states

This column represents examples of appropriate adult guidance that may be given to novice students to help them achieve student-centered learning and application.

Does this mean these same types of adult guidance given to non novice students would fall into the red column? This should probably be spelled out with examples. Perhaps an “orange” column is needed? Not sure what the exact intent here is, but by specifically saying these actions are allowed for novice students, brings the natural question of “what about non-novice students?”. The omission of non-novice students could lead some to believe that the actions now fall into the red column when applied to non-novice students. As such, without more details in the guideline this gap could lead to significant misinterpretation. I’ve already spoken to some people, who after reading this document, think the yellow column applied to non-novice students is totally fine, while others think it’s in the red column and illegal.

  1. Just based on the discussion above, it’s clear that the chart needs a specific row dealing with alliance selection and scouting.

  2. The more clear examples of non-obvious but illegal behviour, the better. There are many mentors out there who are probably doing things now that violate the intent of these guidelines without knowing they’ve stepped over a line. By spelling out what’s not allowed, I think you’ll see many of these adults step back and let go of the reins. This should lead to positive changes in general.


I have to agree with this - many coaches are applauding this document, even in its preliminary form, as it brings to the foreground many questions they have about their role with regards to their teams in a student-centered environment. The discussions have been very illuminating to me.

Look forward to the guiding document for this season and future revisions as we learn together.