Unofficial answer to "Using one robot for multiple teams"

@Dumdum wants Gumgum asked in this link about one robot being used by multiple teams. Knowing the the GDC is sometimes slow in answering questions, especially ones that have already been answer previously, I thought I would direct you to the following Q&A for guidance.

According to this, multiple teams using the same robot is not encouraged, but it is also not against the rules.

Um, people might want to look at this post by Karthik.

Good point - I did not like the Nov 22, 2017 answer as it contradicted the Karthik ruling that made absolute sense. I reframe the question in light of <G1> and asked the GDC to reconsider the Nov 22, 2017 answer (which they do from time to time…)

Thanks for digging up the Karthik answer!

I don’t think this is relevant considering this ruling was made last season and the ruling linked my the OP had been made this season.

rules that can’t be enforced don’t make any sense. no matter how you feel about the morality of robot sharing, it simply can’t be enforced for the reasons outlined in the most recent Q&A. Using R1 as the reason is even more silly, as it says nothing about using one robot across multiple teams, only that you can’t use more than 1 bot per team at the same competition (which for the same reasons can’t really be enforced), the way it reads, you could even have 2 teams at the same competition use the same robot, and only run into logistical issues without an R1 violation.

This was an issue in past season and was enforced. Teams do get removed from events. My purpose is to swing the pendulum back towards good practices and not pretend you can not do anything about it. Otherwise, you will find teams buying fully made robots shipped to organizations with a win at all costs mentality regardless how unprofessional it is.

Have your opinions, I’m ok with that. I think the issue is worth revisiting with the GDC.

This Q & A way of establishing rules was probably okay years ago when one person could read all the Q&A’s in a single lifetime. But, after more than 10 years of Vex, it has become impossible to keep up with what has been established and what has not. As I understand it, when a ruling is made in a Q&A, that ruling continues to eternity from season to season unless the decision is changed. But there is no good way to know what decisions have been made already and I don’t think there are any search/alert features that elucidate when one decision has been trumped by another.

For example, look at how Karthik reversed his decision about sharing robots a couple of years ago.

In the 29 Jan 2016 response, Karthik literally struck out one decision a few weeks after making it, then posted his own question in the Q&A and answered it. That’s not exactly the greatest way to keep everyone abreast of the latest updates on the rules. I know the Vex rule book, by now, would end up being half a meter thick, but I’ve encountered teams waving print outs at each other of different sections of the Q&A, calling each other cheats, etc. because of the confusion.

The Q&A has become one giant dirty snowball of rules. Maybe something could be done to clean up how to search through it and how to alert of the changes so teams and refs can literally be on the same page with regards to decisions???

I’m still a large fan of how FRC does their weekly manual updates. I think it’s the best way to keep up to date with changing rules,and it’s easy enough to maintain and never lose track.

Preach. +1

If I am hosting an event I already have enough to keep track of, let alone tracking what team members or robots switch plates.

I’ll freely admit we did this last year. We qualified our 1483A team for state, paid for it. Then Qualified 1483B and paid for it and the 1483A team dissolved. So my freshman went with what they could throw together. I wasn’t going to waste a $100 registration fee.

Of course there are plenty of ways for teams to cheat and probably not get caught, but I’m sure that having a rule against something is often all it takes to prevent many organizations from allowing that particular behavior.

@FullMetalMentor let me dispel a common myth. Q&A answers from prior years do not necessarily carry over year after year since year after year there are new rules issued. Many of the rules are the same, some are very different, while others are slightly different.

As for the rule <R1> there is absolutely nothing from the text of the rule that would indicate that a robot cannot be used by more than one team. It simply does not exist in the plain language of the rule. Last year, Karthik invented new meaning to say that a robot cannot be used by different teams at different competitions. This year, early on, the GDC gave very sound reasoning as to why the practice is not encouraged but also as to why it was not against the rules.

In order to properly enforce the rule, if it existed, one would have to log serial numbers of the cortex and document all other aspects of the robot. If you completely change subsystem one or two, by definition, you have a new robot. There is no possible way to know whether or not that has happened given that more than one team can build the same thing.

As you know, in prior years, at worlds, there have been several robots that were virtually identical in subsystem 1 and 2. The fact that they came from different states or even different countries or that you were seeing them side by side were the only clues that these were not the same robot.

It is totally fair to argue whether or not sharing robots is a good thing. It is really out of line to claim that doing so is cheating. As much as I liked Karthik, there were times that he seemed to just make things up so far as it came to rules interpretation and his ruling on this issue is a prime example.

The restriction is against 1 team using multiple robots at the same event. It was not about 1 team using multiple robots at multiple events or multiple teams using 1 robot over multiple events or even, as @BottomNotch pointed out, multiple teams using the same robot at one event. I think that last example would be tough logistically, and I do not know anyone who would do it, but the rule simply does not address these other issues.

So how do you know which Q&A rulings carry forward and which ones do not? What’s the system?

I would ask a new question if the rule has changed at all. Also, if, like in this case, the answer was not based on what the rule actually said, then it would make sense to ask again. If the rule is different, then the ruling would not carry over. If the ruling was not based on the rule, but based on what someone wanted the rule to say, if the rule has not actually changed, I would ask again.

In the example of <R1> the ruling was clearly not based on what the rule said. After the question came up last year, if the GDC wanted the rule to be what the answer was, they could have easily changed the rule. They did not, so the question was asked and the GDC explained why they decided to not go with what Karthik wanted it to be and made it be 2 years ago without regard to what the rule actually said.

So i have a question if a team uses a robot to qualify then gives their robot to their B team and drives it for them during a different tournament then they win that tournament qualifying the B team is the tournament coordinator allowed to refuse to qualify the B team for state after the tournament is over and the awards given out?

The actual people themselves do not matter. People can participate on as many teams as they want in a given season. It’s the scenario of taking one robot for multiple teams that I felt needs clarification. There’s no official rule that prevents teams from doing this, but only some confusing/contradicting Q&A posts, and it would be good to know which represents the final answer to the question.

There is only one answer to that question this year and it is the only answer ever given that is consistent with the actual wording of the rule that was referenced in questions over the years.

If the GDC wanted to make it against the rules to have multiple teams us the same robot over the course of the year, they would have written a rule that says that. Instead, they have a rule that clearly says that a team may not use more than one robot in a given tournament. In the rule itself, it goes into detail as to what the intent of the rule is. Below is the complete rule. As you can see, most of the rule is explaining the intent of the rule which can be summed up in a and b at the end.

<R1> Only one (1) robot will be allowed to compete per team in the VEX Robotics Competition. Though it is expected that teams will make changes to their robot at the competition, a team is limited to only one (1) robot. As such, a VEX robot, for the purposes of the VEX Robotics Competition, has the following subsystems:

Subsystem 1: Mobile robotic base including wheels, tracks, legs, or any other mechanism that allows the robot to navigate the majority of the flat playing field surface. For a stationary robot, the robotic base without wheels would be considered Subsystem 1.

Subsystem 2: Power and control system that includes a VEX legal battery, a VEX control system, and associated motors for the mobile robotic base.

Subsystem 3: Additional mechanisms (and associated motors) that allow manipulation of game objects or navigation of field obstacles.

Given the above definitions, a minimum robot for use in any VEX Robotics Competition event (including skills challenges) must consist of 1 and 2 above. Thus if you are swapping out an entire subsystem of either item 1 or 2, you have now created a second robot and are no longer legal.

a. Teams may not compete with one robot, while a second is being modified or assembled.
b. Teams may not switch back and forth between multiple robots during a competition.

One thing to consider is that there are some organizations like ours that are extremely under funded and the various teams collaborate together on the robots. We have two middle school teams and one high school team this year. Our two middle school teams each had their own robots but they were nearly identical as they all worked on them together with very limited resources. Both have been tournament champions (with different robots) but there are times when we only take one team to a tournament due to lack or resources so they take the best robot between them to that tournament and all the middle schoolers are on the team that is competing that day.

Even though both could compete at our state tournament, due to financial struggles, only one of them will go. It was almost a flip of the coin to decide which number. They have all worked together so I see no harm in this, especially since the rules do not say it is a problem. This is not a “win at all cost” move. We are not that great. This is not a situation where kids on one team reap the benefit of the work of kids on another team without putting in their own effort. This is a situation where, within the organization, they all help each other.

As a mentor, I pretty much suck. I know little about robotics and less about programming. The kids work through this on their own. My son, on the high school team, voluntarily set aside work on his robot so that he could help teach a middle school kid how to program this past two weeks.

People that would call this cheating or not within the spirit of Vex simply do not get it, in my opinion. Nearly every kid on in our program lives well below the federal poverty level and this is the first year we have come close to being funded at about 50% of what is needed to run a decent program. We do it by the grace of God. My hope is that some of these kids, some with physical handicaps and some with learning disabilities, but all with a desire to do better, will see a better future for having had the exposure to Vex robotics.

By the way, we rarely have 10-12 motors on our robots because we simply cannot afford them. Even so, one of our middle school teams has the 2nd highest middle school skills score in the state. The number one is 5th or 6th in the world. Our team’s driver skills score is 104. Not bad for a bunch of underfunded poor kids from the wrong side of the tracks.

I think the rule is a difficult one. In your case, I have no problem with what you are doing with your teams. However, leaving the rule as it is does open the door to teams using the win at all costs mentality and using their one super robot at different events for different teams to qualify those teams for state/regionals. to me it gets back to “you can’t legislate morality (ethics)”. To make the rule strict (which is also nearly un-enforceable) would penalize programs like yours that do not abuse the rule. However, it allows teams to pursue what I consider to be un-ethical behavior. Not sure what the solution is.

I would like to add in that if there is one team that wins for all its other teams, because they cant qualify, the idea is that the carried teams will lose anyways because they don’t have the skill to win. Yes that doesn’t take into account the fact that it takes away slots from others, and it dilutes the talent pool at state, but I feel that it is valid nonetheless.

Cross-posting because there are two threads:

Here is the big question surrounding all of this for me, framed as a discussion. Let’s simplify things down to individual teams and only two teams making the next level just for clarity.

2nd best team: “Why don’t we get to go? We made the second best robot and had the second-best driver. That other team that’s going wasn’t as good as us and didn’t compete as well.”

10th best team: “Us? Oh, we get to go because the best team is our friends’ and they think we deserve more than you do.”

2nd best team: “Isn’t that why we do the competitions, to figure out who the best teams are? So you’re saying your friends’ opinion is a more valid way to choose who advances than the competition is?”

In essence, doing this destroys much of the point of the competitions. If teams doing this were at my school, going to the next level would be the least of their worries. They’d be more worried about getting suspended. If you take part in this sort of action, you take away spots from those who would have earned them in their own right and you actively undermine the validity of the entire worldwide competition regardless of whether it’s against the rules.

There are easy ways to rule against this, but they tend to cause problems that are probably worse. For example, there could be a rule that each school is only allowed to advance a single team. (And, for example, you wouldn’t want to stop what @blatwell is doing.) Just because there hasn’t been a good way to rule against it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. Consider things like drugs in sports. New things only get ruled as illegal as they’re discovered. The rules always have to catch up with those who skirt them. Just because they haven’t found a good way to rule this out doesn’t mean anyone should be doing it.

If you have respect for your competitors, for VEX, and for RECF, you simply won’t do this.

Like @callen I am cross-posting because there are two threads:

Here is a scenario for your consideration.

Team A is really good. Over the course of the season they have improved and by the end of the season for your region, the team is clearly one of the best teams in the region. Everyone agrees they are a top 5 team as far as match play, but they have not won a tournament so they end the season on the outside looking in. They are not affiliated with a school.

Team B is mediocre at best. Early season, they were an OK team for that point of the season and were picked by the best bot in the region at an early tournament and qualified for state. They also, at some point, did a skills score high enough to qualify, but by the end of the season, they are just not that good or competitive. They are also not affiliated with a school. They are affiliated with a club.

We know there are no rules against this, but would you have a problem with Team B reaching out to Team A and asking them to join their club so Team A could go in their place to state. Consider that everyone on Team B is willing to give up the glory of going because they believe that Team A is at least the 4th or 5th best team in the state and there will be 40-50 teams at state and over 2 dozen that will qualify for worlds. Team B knows they do not have what it takes but knows Team A will probably go to worlds if given the chance to compete at state.

Would you consider that to be unethical or would you be proud of the kids willing to give up their spot for someone they felt was more deserving?