To exploit, or not to exploit

OK, let’s face the elephant in the room.

We all know there is a loophole with SG5, that can potentially make autonomous much, much easier.

But are you going to let/ask your kids to exploit that loophole?

On one side, it’s the rule of the game, nothing wrong with winning the game while abiding by the rules.

On the other side, exploiting this rule is totally against the very concept of “autonomous”.

Personally, I am very disappointed to find out that the game designers wouldn’t admit their screw-up, but instead insisted on their authority. They may be thinking themselves as FIFA to soccer, but that is really hurting the VEX IQ game.

The bigger question now is:
Shall we teach our kids to develop a thick skin, and exploit anything within the rules to win?

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Morally, I don’t personally have a problem with it. Later along their robotics competitions, teams, especially hs teams, will do anything to win and using the rules to gain a certain advantage is something that we would all do if the gdc didn’t update the manual and fix loopholes. On that note i would agree that the game designers should either implement a fix or admit it and make sure that work around like this don’t occur in future games. That being said, vex is a student oriented program. I believe that dictating what kids can or can’t do with their bot as a coach over steps the fine line between mentoring and student orientation. You can suggest things and talk about the pros and cons of being “super” competitive but ultimately its up to the kids to decide how they want to play the game and what strategies they employ.


1.3 million tax lawyers would like to have a word with you about not exploiting loopholes.


That also raises the point of if its in the rules is it really exploitation?


I agree this is not a debate over ethics. But we do VEX IQ to teach the kids programming and robot design, having such a shortcut option is not really helping that goal.

Seriously, I think VEX IQ should take the number of resets during autonomous as part of the scoring metrics. The score of an autonomous run should be the total scored points divided by (the number of “resets” +1) .


I share the frustration about the rule. I did tell my team about it and they chose not to use it, they are trying to program to grab a blue cube and carry it across the field, etc.

I will say, I’m not sure it’s such an advantage. I’m not sure a team will get more than 20 points out of this method. One green cube ties that.

I don’t know if it’s ever been answered , but I would expect that other scoring objects can’t be moved. So it’s difficult to get a blue or red cube placed without touching the other cube

I don’t do IQ but I’m curious about what the exploit is. I did a quick search but could not find a discussion of it. Can someone please post a link or briefly describe what the exploit is?


At any point during the autonomous skills routine, the robot can be brought back to the starting point, and and scoring object in its possession (typically a cube) can be placed in any non-scoring position. Being able to reset the robot mid-routine has been part of autonomous (and teamwork) skills since the start of IQ. What to do with elements in the robot’s possession is different. In past games, elements in possession of the robot were removed from the field, rather than placed in a non-scoring position.

The “loophole” is that a student could place the cube in a non-scoring position directly in front of a goal zone, then start a program which bulldozes the cube into the goal. Theoretically, this would save the time of driving across the field, grabbing a cube, dragging it to the other side of the field into the goal. Instead, the student would drive to a cube and grab it, then reset robot and cube, then run a program to push the cube into the goal. (similar routine could be used to place cube on a tower.)

I’m not convinced that this is a “game changer” loophole: it takes quite a bit of time to do a robot reset, and you still have to do a bunch of driving on the field, even with a reset of the robot.


In the VexIQ programming challenge the students can lift up and bring their robot back to start as often as they want in The 1 minute. If the robot is controlling a scoring object when the students bring the robot back to start, they can place the scoring object anywhere on the field that is a non scoring position .

So, for example, a robot can get a blue cube. The team then grabs the robot places it in the starting position near the blue scoring zone and places the cube just outside the blue scoring area. They then have the robot just push the cube a couple inches into the scoring zone.

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In VEX IQ, the field is small enough so that teams don’t have to leave the driver station to do this… interesting. If this is a “feature” available to all teams, I don’t see it as a problem.


I believe the excessively accommodating interpretation of SG5 was made because Squared Away Programming Skills lacks the range of challenge for emerging students to experienced students. Past games gave emerging students more scoring methods to focus on that were achievable for them. In this game, the typical max is two green cubes on the short platform. They made SG5 more accommodating to open up more ways of scoring for less experienced teams in Programming.

Even if the SG5 rule was returned to the traditional interpretation (and I hope is returned to it’s proper interpretation in the future), Squared away is probably the least compelling game in respect to Programming Skills that I’ve seen.

In my opinion, they made a bad call to cover the shortcomings of the game in respect to Programming Skills.


Emphasis mine…

My problem with this is not that they broke with tradition, but they made the VEX IQ community figure this out for themselves. If they would have put in a note with the original manual that they were making this change it would have been a much smoother transition and we would have been able to pick at the rule over the summer.

There are several open Q&A’s on this topic in JANUARY, when regional championships are happening.

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I agree with GBR completely. In squared away there is no ‘easy’ definite way of scoring points in programming with a claw or base bot (such as the hang in Next Level, the bonus tray in ringmaster or even the ramp in crossover or bank shot). This means without this loophole it would limit new teams to not even bother with programming skills (as there is no way for them to score). Late this season, such as at Nats (states in the US) or Worlds the teams that will win skills aren’t the ones who will use this loophole as it wastes huge amount of time thus limiting your score. So definitely use the “loophole” if you’d like to as it’s not really a loop-hole and won’t help in the best programs.


I disagree.

Exploiting this rule can both save time and make scoring more cubes possible even for more skilled programmers.

To drive across the board you need to periodically use gyro and color sensors to adjust the movement, each will need the robot to slow down to get proper sensing. carrying 2 cubes make the robot slow. having blue and red cubes on the same side makes maneuvering difficult and can easily screw up the positioning.

All those issues can be avoided by exploiting this loop hole.

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Sorry I should have looked at the game slightly deeper as I’m doing EDR this year so haven’t studied strategy as much. I agree that parts of a programming run could potentially use the loophole to save time but the majority of the run would still have to be programmed (at least all the green cubes) and even using the loophole effectively takes thought and programming which is in some ways as difficult . Considering VEX has heard the discomfort with the rule but left it in signifies that they want people to use it so I still think its okay to use . Also as said above the rule isn’t that much of a game changer, so far I haven’t seen anyone effectively use it in a competition.

And as evidenced by the FB post yesterday, there are lots and lots of coaches who even now were not aware of it. And I’m certain a lot more who are not here or on the Vex IQ Coaches FB page who are STILL not aware of it.
As far as I can tell, none of those coaches had even suspected this was legal, and neither did their students. I’ve not seen anyone say something like “Oh my students wanted to do this, but I didn’t think it was legal.” That’s what I find unfair… students were not being rewarded for carefully reading the rules and figuring this out. Coaches who happen to be in the know hear about it and pass it on. I’m not faulting or criticizing anyone for utilizing it. I fault REC for not making it clearer to EVERYONE

What I find frustrating is that there are clear, obvious implications as a result of this that AFAIK, still haven’t been addressed, like moving other scoring objects while trying to position one… or what constitutes control of a scoring object


Up to this point I still haven’t told any of our kids about this rule. It’s one I debate with whether or not I tell them. I may and let them decide.

It can give teams a lot of repeated tries for the green cubes.
If it is allowed to place a green cube upside-down, it may also make it easier to score the high platform.

This rule is definitely a game changer. It will potentially make VEX IQ programming look a lot less serious compared to other robotic systems at this level.

This is the play I’ve been waiting for someone to try - get control of the middle cube, the put it back rotated to make it easier to lift , then score it on the high goal. Maybe by the US Open my girls will be there. They are still working on scoring red/blue cubes

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A Cube is Scored on a Platform if it meets the following criteria:
i. The Cube is contacting the Platform (including its supporting structures).
ii. The Cube is not contacting the Floor.
iii. The Cube is not contacting the Field Perimeter.
iv. The Cube matches the color of the Platform (i.e. is a green Cube).
Note: A maximum of one (1) Cube may count for points per Platform.

So right side up, up side down, left side up or down, jammed down corner first… Why do they want to flip it other than to put balls on it?

One of my teams had built “Clutch” but used the claw from the standard clawbot. With a ton of rubber bands it’s able to grab the edge of the green cube and lift it. Again, why rotate it?