UNOFFICIAL: <R1> Identity of the robot

There have been a number of questions in the Official Q&A recently regarding the identity of the robot:

I, certainly, don’t have the answer, but I find it hilarious that GDC is asked to resolve Ship of Theseus Paradox in time for Worlds.

Here is some more background information on this subject, which people asking in Q&A have clearly studied:

Here is the history of the official answers given at various times:

Nov 2016:

Nov 2017:

Feb 2018:

I think the intention of the ruling is to discourage robot sharing among teams.

And I used “discourage” because I have no idea how are the EP able to enforce or implement this rule.

/sigh – I’ve been doing VEX since the FVC days. One of the awards used to be about teams that Inspired other teams. In the early years, the Joneses from Montclair NJ (677) were an amazing team. We loved them to come play in PA. They had the most amazing robots. The mechanics were breath taking and the driving skills were a thing of beauty.

They came to our land of “clawbots” and showed us what could be done with VEX metal. They were a constant inspiration to our teams. But, what our teams did was take the ideas (with credit given in the notebooks) and enhanced and improved them. So if you looked at a robot you could say “ummm, intake from 677, but that drive base looks different”. “Yep, the drive is a modified base from 44 , one of the Fred’s”.

And I think that is pretty cool, “stand on the shoulders of giants”. Take great ideas, iterate, make them your own.

I’m becoming disappointed that I’m not seeing “inspire and iterate”, but seeing screw by screw copies.

There are teams in my area (Delmarvapa) that you see clones from a club. Sometimes you see a parent robot replicated with changes (yay!) but more and more clones.

And in full disclosure, I started 42 new IQ robots off in October. 170 roboteers built “Stretch”, my thinking is get them a robot that is average and let them iterate. Only 11 of the robots have made substantial changes, the rest added rubber bands by the pound. I talked to the non-iteration roboteers and they were happy at the level they got to, so no desire to push. That’s the problem I need to solve for next year.

And it’s actually the problem we all need to solve. How can we get the clone bot roboteers to go “Hey this is cool, how can we make it better?”

The intent of the rule is to stop team 44A from building a robot and getting into states, then moving a new number plate 44B to that robot and running it at the next event. I don’t think that anyone planned for a team of 8 robots to be built to be identical.

I don’t know how to solve the “exact clone” issue. I do know it’s not a rule that says “no clones”.

Maybe you have an answer.

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@meng, this is my thinking too. The goals of the VRC program include encouraging student’s sportsmanship and learning of the STEM related subjects. And robot sharing is in conflict with those goals.

While on the surface this is a simple common sense problem, once you drill down into fine details you realize that it depends on two thousand year paradox that philosophers are still arguing about.

The problem is expecting that the enforcement could be delegated to inspectors and refs at the event. Especially given multiple official rulings that are in conflict with each other. Refs have other things to worry about and don’t have time to investigate.

I simply do not understand how GDC could answer questions linked in OP and not complicate ref’s jobs beyond what it already is.

Yeah, I doubt the GDC will solve the unsolvable. I’m not convinced they should try to do much more than they have. Every answer from this point is going to lead to “Yeah, but what about…” I don’t see how going further down that rabbit hole will help EPs and referees.

For the impatient:

@Foster, that’s a very important point that you have mentioned Inspire Award.

I think part of the problem is rapid growth of the VRC and increasingly competitive environment.

If in early days, participants were mostly nerdy parents with nerdy kids, who were just happy to do anything robotics and could compete on the family entertainment budget, now it is more expensive and many schools see their trophy cabinets as a way to sustain ever increasing funding needs.

Thus emphasis shifts from the learning and simply participation to winning shiny pieces of metal, the taller the better, and, in some cases, at any cost. I could easily see how this could lead to increased pressure on the students, including to copy or share the robots. It feels just as much as hormone fueled sport as the engineering.

I must admit my own share of guilt here, as I was pushing my team to build DR4B because it is more competitive. Instead, my son spent most of the season trying to get Schlucas to work because he found it more interesting. Result was not as competitive as other robots but, I am glad, it worked out great for him as he learned how to program control loops with multiple degrees of freedom.

I am less worried about handful of trophy hungry teams copying robots screw by screw, than the larger number of teams showing up to local competitions with conceptual copies of the basic clawbot. I don’t believe those kids couldn’t do better if they were shown good examples.

I wish the competitions were run at more relaxed pace and featured something akin science fair or workshop component, where students could have more time to mingle and learn from more experienced teams and/or organisations. Maybe even give judged and community awards to teams with best hands-on workshop or presentation.

At our early competitions I always volunteer to do pit judging for the middle school and try to give beginner teams as much pointers and build tips as I could cram in those 5-10 min, while still listening to their story.

So, back to the problem of the clone-bots.

Count the awards at the typical local competition:

1x Excellence
3x Champions
3x Finalists
1x Skill Champion
1x Design (Documentation)
1x Judjes

I think, it demonstrates clearly that rewarding the raw performance on the field over uniqueness and creativity is built right into the program.

If RECF is really interested in encouraging more girls to participate in VRC as well as avoid clone-bot issues they could adjust awards and competition structure. Even small changes could lead to great results and I suspect most of the EPs would love to have more relaxed schedule. I guess, IQ is better in that regard, but I don’t see how well that carries into VRC.

I agree with most of what you said in this post, but this last part I'm going to have to disagree with to an extent.

Sure, it’s probably a good idea to add a few more non performance-based awards, but I would seriously caution against changing the actual structure of the tournament from how it is now. What you seem to be talking about is drastically increasing the significance of the judging portion of the competition to a point similar to what is seen in FTC. IMO the significance placed on judging in FTC is far beyond what it should and actually harms kids’ experience in the program. As a two year FTC competitor, I saw many teams where a large portion of the kids (50% or more) seemed to have little to no involvement in anything robot related and instead were solely devoted to developing scripts, costumes, and props for the judged interview, and then after that was over proceeded to sit in the stands for the rest of the (fairly long) competition. Don’t get me wrong, adding things to your interview to increase team spirit is a good thing, but when the significance of the interview is so great that those kids are solely working on those things, then IMO there’s not that much point in those kids being part of a robotics team instead of whatever specific program their is for their skills.

(Sorry if the above sounded incoherent; it’s almost 1AM here.)

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Correct interpretation of the intent - plate swapping for the purpose of getting sister team in. It violates the premise the students are competing with the robots they designed and built. If you want you teams to get their robot into States/Regional/National/World - the answer for them is to build better robots.

The other rationale for plate swapping is that it allows multi-team organizations to select which division their teams are in. That is harder to catch, but this ruling impacts them as well.

I have no issues with teams wanting to win performance awards vs judged awards, but they should do so without taking short cuts and depriving teams who worked as hard with their designs from getting recognized for their efforts.

(don’t diss 44!)

I personally cannot stand rules that cannot be enforced.

The ruling left enough ambiguity that it is effectively useless. All a team has to do is swap out the plates and claim they changed a sub system and/or cortex and they have a new robot.

I 100% agree with your sentiment, but if I as an EP get told that so and so’s team brought another teams robot to this competition, I am not going to have the time to pursue that claim, or have any desire to entangle myself in the potential drama.

It’s better to just come together as a community and not partner with those teams. If someone is blatantly doing this they’re likely not making friends with the local organizations.

Some things we could do:

  1. Write the serial number of the Cortex (or V5) on the inspection sheet. (Actually, I’m not sure if it has one)
  2. Take a photo of each robot at inspection.
  3. Post inspection sheets and photos on

And I can’t think of anything else… And this wouldn’t get caught until after the fact, and getting caught would just be more of a public shaming, and the teams would still win at the events.

The RECF could do more auditing of these events, the judges could have a box they would check for teams that are not student centered and all judging documents can be sent to RECF.

By the way, I don’t really think any of these are a good idea. I’m not interested in doing even more work at my events. Just brainstorming a bit.


Not bad ideas. Although in doubt the RECF is prepared or willing to process that much paper work.

So… the EP will need to compare the photos of all the robots? I am not sure it will be worth the effort…

And what if the organisation has 2 almost identical robots that are hard to tell apart from the photos? Would we be penalising the wrong team?

It wouldn’t be worth it for me as the EP… I’m just stretching my imagination to see if anything could be done.

And I have 20 IQ teams. A lot of their bots are very similar as design convergence funnels them in the same direction… A lot of those robots can be completely rebuilt in 4-5 hours.

Actually your idea of recording the serial number of the cortex is quite a good one. But that’s provided if there is a number.

And even then, don’t think it is difficult for them to just switch the cortex out and rewire it for another competition.

So the moral of the story is - we just can’t stop someone who is determined to cheat.

Eh, last year we swapped cortex’s 3-4 times. Our teams hardware is seriously limping its way through this year.

Many questions in the official Q&A use some verbiage that says something like this:

There are no rules against it, so it is legal.

If they do not want a robot being used by more than one team, maybe they should write a rule that actually says that. Currently, there is no rule that actually says a robot cannot be used by more than one team. The closest to it is <R1> which is all about a team only using 1 robot at any particular competition.

The rule is not ambiguous. The rule is actually quite clear. It simply does not address the use of a robot by multiple teams and that is exactly what the GDC said earlier this season until yesterday.

As for copying robots, well, I think @Foster is correct that we should encourage students to come up with their own designs. It is fine to learn from others and be inspired by others but in the end, it is best to develop your own design and go with that.

Unfortunately, the Vex community encourages copying. I would rather our kids come up with new and unique designs than worry about winning. During Skyrise, our kids built an ugly mess of a stationary robot with multiple arms. It was a cool concept that was poorly implemented but they learned so much from that and even from the failures of that design.

I also agree with @TheColdedge in that as an EP, I cannot imagine the extra headache I would have trying to make sure each robot was with the correct team. No thank you.

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if this was aimed at me, I said the ruling was ambiguous.

not <R1>

The way I read the Ruling would lead me to believe it has nothing to do with <R1>, it is just the GDC making a ruling that cannot be reasonably enforced.

I stand by the statement that if we want to see change, we as a community need to not work with teams that are engaged in the unethical and unsportsmanlike behavior.

Not aimed at you, but at the GDC who answered an <R1> question saying something was illegal they had earlier said was legal and that there would be no way to enforce it.

I think you and I are in lock step on this one. The headache this will be for EPs will be huge if this is the way they want things.

You are right… this is another possibility that a team will need to swapped the cortex out.

Actually, just swapping the cortex is not enough. The entire subsystem 1 or subsystem 2 must be switched for it to be a new robot. If you are at a tournament and your cortex goes, there is no problem swapping it out for a new one. The cortex is only part of subsystem 2. All the motors for the base as well as the batteries, and the controllers would also need to be switched out. I am assuming that the Vex control system would include the controllers.

From <R1>
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.