UNOFFICIAL: <R1> Identity of the robot


Please know that the GDC and the RECF have been dealing with this issue for a long time, but it seems to have gotten much worse in recent years. The opinions I am giving in this thread are my own opinions that I share with the GDC and the RECF when they ask. There are several people on the GDC from both organizations and some certainly don’t share my opinions, but some do.

I have always been vocal about how I think things should work, so why stop now … again, I am but one voice, but as co-chairman of the GDC I always stand behind the answers we have given. The GDC does what it can to address every concern.

While R1 will be made crystal clear next season, it is clear to me. We said a team will only compete with one robot. If two teams compete with one robot, then that is not one team competing with one robot. again, we will make this so painstakingly clear that if you do it, then you are simply breaking the rules because you don’t think you will get caught and you are completely missing the point of this program. Let’s discuss that for a minute.

@TheColdedge I respectfully disagree with you regarding making only rules that are enforceable. There are some on the GDC that agree with you. As long as I am on the GDC and have influence over the rules, enforcement will only be a small consideration. This hit me hard during the motor PTC cheating exposure several years ago where we DQed almost 50 teams at VEX Worlds. The rule has been there for years, but teams where cheating and we really had no way for EPs to enforce it. We needed that rule because if we didn’t have the rule, then it would have been allowed. Just because we can’t enforce it effectively, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a rule. I know for EPs this is difficult, but we are trying to achieve something much bigger. The community needs to help enforcement. I’m not saying witch hunt behavior, but I am saying peer pressure is a very influential thing. If you follow the logic of enforcement, then we would not have the rules in IQ regarding mentor built robots. This is clearly illegal, but how do we enforce this? We have tried different things and maybe some will stick. But it is imperative that the GDC and RECF must state what we want the intended behavior to be regardless of how hard something is to enforce. We need to say, “we don’t want you modifying your pneumatic cylinders”. We need to say, “mentors are not allowed to build your VEX IQ robot”. We need to say, “don’t give your robot to another team because you already qualified for States and you want them to qualify.” We NEED to say that those things are not OK.

I am also proposing that we expand the “use common sense” rule and “don’t be a jerk” rule to state our expected behavior of teams.

In my opinion, some of these things should not need to be said; but here we are. Why do I really need to tell you that you can’t build one robot and share it among all of your teams? Seriously? But, now we will have to dedicate way more space in the manual to it because of people who say, “well you don’t say we can’t”.

We are going to say you can’t. We are going to assign HARSH penalties to those of you who break the rules. We are going to clearly state these penalties. They will be harsh, especially on rules that are harder to enforce.

We have ALWAYS had this stance. We have been harsh before on cheaters. We will continue to be harsh on cheaters. Cheaters have no place in the VEX Robotics Competition and the VEX IQ Challenge. I can tell you that they have no place at VEX, the RECF, or IFI.

Now, with written rules there are always fringe things that should be legal, but by the letter of the rules may not be. That is why we have the Q&A. However, we need the community’s help. If you witness someone with questionable behavior, then say something.

We are trying to inspire and educate the future of our world. That is what is important. While qualifying for Worlds is great, it is not important. It is ok to have it as a goal. It is not ok to get there at all costs.

We have tried to keep the rules succinct and make some assumptions of reasonableness in our competitions. However, some have simply asked what I consider to be unreasonable questions. 1 robot per team should be clear. We will no make it more clear. 1 robot per 2 teams is NOT 1 robot per team.

I get it. Most of our community is reasonable and have impeccable integrity. Some in our community do not and we need to do our best to not punish the majority to sniff out the few.

Simply put, the GDC will state what actions we want; state what behavior is acceptable; and state the penalties for not following the rules.

I look forward to discussing with EPs (if Dan let’s me speak:)) at the EP Summit and at VEX Worlds on ways to solve these issues.

I look forward to the reasonable discussion.


First, thanks for responding. you opinion is valued.

My frustration isn’t with the rule that is difficult to enforce I do think it is valuable to state what you expect from competitors. My frustration is the ambiguity of the ruling. It was ruled the same Robot cannot compete on multiple teams (something I 100% agree with), but people already doing this will immediately say they’ve changed their cortex, so by <R1> we are a different robot and continue on their merry way. secondly, is this something you expect EPs to police? I mean I wont say this is difficult to police, because in Indiana we will know if someones done this, but are we expected to remove allegedly guilty teams from the tournament? I personally don’t want to entangle myself in that level of angst with potential friends and also our customers (they paid to be there and this is what keeps our teams funded) our involvement in a regional dispute could potentially keep people from coming to our tournaments in the future.

This for example in my opinion is different. You can do a simple test to see if teams are breaking this rule, if a ref thinks that a team might have tampered with their motors, it can be proven or disproved right then and there without any room left to doubt the results. Not that I disagree that the rule should be in place, only that the situation is not the same.

For example:

We had a team in Indiana this year leave a team that they didn’t qualify on and bring their drive team and robot to another organization that had qualified for state and competed for them.

To me that’s fairly cut and dry and in clear violation of this weeks ruling, but they can (fairly IMO) claim they changed the cortex, and made changes to the robot and therefore it is different. They checked with the REC Rep before and it all checked out.

I am not passing judgement or anything, but by the spirit of your rule they broke it, by the letter of the rule they are in the clear. This is the ambiguity that I do not like and is my complaint.

edit to add:

I look forward to your alterations to the hand book, a long document doesn’t bother me if it makes the game better.

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We had this discussion a couple of weeks back. My first reaction was “why have a rule that we can’t enforce” but after we talked about it for a while, I totally agreed with Paul. Just because it’s tough to enforce, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a rule. If common sense is not prevailing in some cases, then lets make it a rule so people are crystal that it is not legal and not sporting.

@Paul Copioli response makes me sad. I dabble in the FRC robots, the “rules” are 70+ pages of stuff. I like that the VEX rules are pretty much “Build a robot with only VEX parts and here is how to score points”. I too was shocked by the PTC testing, really how did this become a thing? So I’m not looking forward to yet more pages of “1 robot means 1 robot and if we catch you, the original robot and the second robot are DQ for the rest of the season, including Worlds.” /sigh.

I’ve said it before, some people suck, that’s why we all can’t have nice things.

I remember in Toss up when my teammmate asked for motor checks and how he was crushed by others, only for it to happen anyway and see all the teams get DQed.

It sucks that it happens, but yeah things need to be done.

When Foster and I started doing this more than a quarter of VRC teams were invited to Worlds, and now it’s more like 4-5%. When a reward becomes rarer, there is more competition for it. Perversions of alliance selection, throwing matches, switching license plates on robots, and clubs that allow teams to share good drivers are all symptoms of too many participants chasing what they perceive as too few rewards. When RECF launched the state/region/national championship system the staff hoped that winning the state awards would become a goal, and that Worlds would be seen as relatively less important, but it’s pretty clear that this is not happening. Top teams that “only” win an award at their state championship seem to feel like failures if they do not go on to Worlds.

To some extent, the reward system has been so successful that participants chasing the rewards have perverted the real goals (“build robots and have fun”). Post-season events like the Pacific Northwest Regional Championship and the US Open offer real alternatives, and perhaps the RECF and local event partners should try to get more of these super-events started. I don’t have any other workable ideas.

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Interesting thoughts. I know that Virginia got beaten up a few months back for having the most expensive state championship ($300). But our state championship gives teams a “Worlds” feel. The organization that runs the events has realized that over time the number of spots to Worlds is getting smaller and smaller, so they have attempted to replicate a Worlds experience at the state level. I think they have been very successful at this and provide the teams that participate in the Virgnia State Championship an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.

We are moving in that direction for our middle school regional - make it special for the teams. Driver buttons, special logo, souvenir shirt vendor, event guide, huge display (200" diag), energetic MC… One of our school’s admin who has been to Worlds said it was a small scale version of Worlds. With 5 teams going to Worlds, the rest this is their last event of the season. We give out banners, made custom trophies (we have to mail them out since we had power failures right before the event). We do it in budge $150 so more teams can participate.

Long winded way to say we have to make end of season event feel special for all the teams who worked hard all season.

Indiana Too, State was in a super bowl arena (Lucas Oil)

But until you start doing game reveals at state, it’s really not going to change anything.

With a 48 middle school team event , it may be a while :slight_smile:

We have done the same here in Wisconsin. In 2017, we held the High School State at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), rather than a high school, where they provided pipe and drape pits like that seen at the US Open and Worlds. We had Fine Designs there printing shirts with our State Championship logo as well as whatever else they chose to offer. This year, we had ALL State Championship events at MSOE. The teams were really made to feel special. There are things we can do to make the event even better and we will. I think as the program continues to grow and it becomes harder and harder to even qualify for state/region, the pressure to get to Worlds may decrease (I hope). As of now, we qualify about half of all registered teams in their respective divisions for their state tournament. I don’t see us increasing the size of state as the numbers of teams continue to grow. This should make state an even more important goal, in and of itself.
As for the cheating, there will always be those. All I can do is make sure that my teams do everything properly as much as I can. And call out as much as I can those who I see as cheating. My teams and I have had many discussions about things that are clearly (or sometimes not so clearly) ethical. My teams know, for example, that if I ever caught them throwing a match, I would have them DQ every subsequent match (they would still have to show up and compete out of respect for their alliance partner and I would be watching them closely) and I would pull then from the alliance selection. But that is just me. As for one super robot being shared by more than one team at different events, I agree that it would be VERY difficult to enforce. And Foster, I agree that I don’t want a 70 page rule book spelling out EVERY little detail, however I agree with Paul that the expectations do need to be clearly spelled out. There are many that have taken the “if it is not specifically banned in the rule book, it is legal” to the extreme regardless of how unethical the behavior may be. Apparently there are people who have different interpretations of what professional and respectful and ethical behavior is.
I have been doing this from when we started a local league years before the FIRST VEX Challenge using the original EduRobotics platform. I have seen the tremendous growth since then. I have a program that is recognized as one of the more successful in the state over the years. However, I don’t measure our success (in the long run) by the number of trophies and/or banners that we have collected, but rather by hearing what my alumni have done with their lives and how that was positively impacted by their experience competing in VRC.

Yeah, this is me as a coach:

“However, I don’t measure our success (in the long run) by the number of trophies and/or banners that we have collected, but rather by hearing what my alumni have done with their lives and how that was positively impacted by their experience competing in VRC.”

If I even have one team member come back in a few years to tell me that she got her engineering degree and it was, in part, because of her time on my team, that is all I need. My time as a coach will have been a success.

I think part of the cultural problem is that the competition started out as qualifying teams from local events directly to Worlds, so that mentality is somewhat engrained in the DNA of the culture that has been built up around this competition. At my events I try and emphasize the state as a goal for most teams, since simply mathematically, if your goal is to go to Worlds, you are likely to be disappointed. At States, I always run the numbers - even if you come in dead last at 48th place, there are 77 teams in our state that didn’t make it as far as you did. This resonates with some but not with others. I think there’s always going to be a subset of the population that no matter how much it is discussed, think the goal is to “win” rather than to “play.” These are the same kind of folks that scream at the umpires and end up getting ejected from Little League games.

The problem I have with “unenforceable” rules is that when a team calls another team out over one of those grey areas, as an EP I am stuck in a position where my gut tells me something is wrong, but I have no plausible course of action, which gives the impression that #1 I have no control over my event, and #2 because something is not disallowed and has no immediate ramifications, that it is somehow condoned.

For example, I had an IQ team at the last event of the season run skills to qualify for states, hit the number they needed, and then simply left the event, screwing up their partners for the teamwork challenge. They did this without warning me, so by the time the problem was discovered, matches were underway and could not be altered.

That team did something ethically wrong, but there was no rule that dictates that in order for skills scores to count, teams need to be present for the whole event and not abandon their responsibilities to other teams. It was absolutely unethical, as according to common sense and common decency, but also not explicitly illegal. I was shocked, personally. It never occurred to me that a team would actually do that to other teams that they have been competing alongside the whole season.

It worked out in the end and they did not attend our state championship, but still - the audacity of these people to knowingly contribute to a bad experience by others would have been unfathomable back when the entire population of my state could attend the State Championship in a moderately sized cafeteria - and have both the fields, pits, and audience in the same room.

As VRC and VEX IQ continue to grow, the number of people behaving unethically will only increase (just a function of population growth rather than a percentage of participants) - and as events get bigger, it will be more difficult to give these reprobates the individual attention they seem to need to stay on the straight and narrow.

Looking forward to future discussion as well as next year’s manual.

Yes, this.

Also when a team comes and accuses someone of something I am in a lose lose situation. I either A, take action against the team that is allegedly crossing a grey line and potentially lose future good relations/business with that organization and their friends. OR B, do nothing and lose future good relations/business with the accusing team and their friends. I don’t appreciate potentially having to make judgement calls on such grey areas.

I agree, robot sharing, clone-bots, and wining at all cost are the painful symptoms of the bigger underlying cause, where VRC participation is more and more about getting awards than simply competing and learning how to build better robots. I see many students who join not because they love doing robotics but because it will look good on their resume and college admission application.

@sazrocks, I understand your argument. We did FLL before VEX and I didn’t see many kids being serious about non-robotic side of the competition. Some of the aspects of those projects like team work and community involvement are important, but I didn’t feel kids were old enough to fully understand them at that time. Few did, but the majority was just bored and wanted to get back to LEGOs as soon as possible.

My unscientific way of measuring people’s excitement about VRC is to look how many of the competitors stay to watch finals after their team was either not selected or lost in eliminations. Unfortunately, at the competitions I went to it was about 50%.

There are multiple reasons why people leave early. They could be tired after the long day. They could be bitter that they lost. They may see no point of staying because they are certain that they will not win any award, since the same set of teams keeps predictably wining awards at every competition they attend.

I believe that we could do something about all those causes and restore high level of excitement and desire to learn and get better at the game. One way is by being creative in adjusting the reward system that will steer students back to original goals, another is by diversifying the path the teams could take after States.

We could generate many ideas, but it is up to @Paul Copioli and his crew to define the vision for VRC future and execute it.

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One way that we try to combat the leaving early is we have tried to maintain a goal having the number of non-performance awards given to be about 25% of the field in the event. Teams come to expect that and many stick around as they have a chance to collect even a minor award (Create, Build, Amaze, Think, Innovate, etc.) So for a 24 team event, we would give out about 6 non-performance awards. This gives teams incentive to 1) stick around for the awards and 2) in my opinion, work a little harder on their robot.
That being said, we actually had a team leave before alliance selection at an event this year without telling anyone. They would have been the second pick by the #4 Alliance had they stayed.

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I agree with much of the sentiment here. Ultimately I look at my time in robotics is this - if all I’ve done for the 11 years I’ve been in is win some trophies and banners,then I’ve failed as a student and mentor. If I have even one student able to look back and say robotics taught them something or was a way for them to grow and discover something about themselves and explore, whether in STEM or not, then that’s success in my eyes.

I’m as competitive as they come. You can hear me at events pushing my students and keeping them on task. But winning isn’t the end all be all.

It sucks when you see a program you’ve loved for years go the way of adults building robots, bot switching and other ways of cheating.

First of all I completely agree with everything said. To add to some of the major events, I think getting vex into more state tsa events and at the national tsa conference would be another big event that could be put together. This and the us open would give teams plenty of things to look forward to even if they miss worlds.

This statement has me intrigued. EPs in our area do include the additional awards and the teams that are truly dedicated do stay around so they are recognized by for their hard work.

What if there was a point system for teams to accrue over the season instead of it based on a single event? (I am spit-balling here) Obviously teams would receive points for awards but they could also be measured on their win/loss, skill scores, skills improvement, notebook improvement, etc with some sort of scale based on the number of events they attended.

I have had teams win their first tournament and lose all motivation until states. Why would a team keep trying when they are already qualified? Teams allow plate swapping because they have nothing to lose.

In this model an early win would not be a guaranteed trip to states and swapping plates would not be enough incentive because its just a few points - the original builders would want to continue their trek.

We want to recognize teams that are in it for the long haul with continuous improvement. Let’s find a way to reward them.

Sounds like a form of the FRC district points model. Which I think would be interesting to implement in VEX