Unofficial: Starstruck loads and ...

A friend of Lord Kelvin’s, @-459° wrote:

First, thanks for coming out to help.

Next, you’ve hit an area that requires some explanation. Note that this is entirely unofficial, and the official ruling, when given, may be crisp and seem absolute. But the skills matches aren’t run that way because it is nigh unto impossible to do so.

Here’s the situation: The person introducing the driver control loads onto the Alliance starting tile is supposed to do so by momentarily breaking the plane of the field perimeter. What this means is that it is probably a violation for the loader to hold the loads in place awaiting the robot. However, in my experience, I have never seen a team called for this, likely because it is usually a judgement call. How long is too long? How long does it take to give a score-affecting advantage? Sometimes, the loader just puts the object in and keeps his/her hands in a position that breaks the plane for a couple of seconds, but does so in a way that could not positively affect the score. My daughter loads for her team, and she sometimes does this. I tell her not to, she looks concerned and remorseful, and doesn’t do it for a while. If they were called every time it happened… well, they would have fewer skills runs recorded. Probably still the same overall score, due to the way the runs work.

I suspect an egregious violation of this rule would be called, but it’s not clear what the penalty would be. There is no penalty for being warned once. It is only after repeated warnings that a referee would disqualify you. This is entirely up to the offical running the field. Often, the “official” is a high school kid sitting at a table running the Tournament Manager software. The teams very often know much more about the game than does the “official” in that case. This is not a criticism; it’s what makes the game do-able. If we had to pay people to run this game, registration fees would be hundreds per team for every tournament.

Going further, if a team is disqualified in a skills run, I assume you would lose the points from that particular run, not the points from every run you make that day. I also think it’s unlikely they would prevent you from getting in line and running skills again, so long as you hadn’t reached the total number of runs allowed.

So, although it’s probably against the rules, because of the way the rules are written concerning penalties and the practicality of how skills fields are run, it is not usually called. In my experience.

This is not to say there won’t be crisp and absolute interpretation and enforcement of this at Worlds; that could well be the case. But they will have more staff, and people who are in town for several days just for the event, and training before the event. So the officials will be able to focus on being a referee.

Your question about adults working on robots is answered in a couple of places. Here’s a thread where it was discussed.

robots that are built by parents are usually called “dad-bots” and usually are just a copy of the most common design. they usually arent very good and dont go through much testing. what you should do is try to build a robot yourself and test different parts of the robot to make it the best it can be (ex. 1:5 or 1:7 ratio on the arm.) dad-bots usually dont test things like this and just go 1 and done.

As a person that has ref’ed this season I watch how students introduce the driver loads and follow the following rule.

Our group focuses on the imparting energy which would encompass tossing, smashing, swinging, etc. (There are also other rules on the handling of game objects liked smashing cubes.) I’m sure there are some that would argue with this opinion but we explain and demonstrate at the drivers meeting that loads will be introduced efficiently and accurately. This way if an official deems it necessary to call a foul the teams have been warned.

The other thing to note is that events usually have the lesser experienced volunteers at the skills fields. This may be why fewer skills violations are called.

With regards to adult involvement we don’t want to light that fuse here. There are many threads on this forum covering that topic.


kypyro thank you for starting a new thread on the topic. I see the official response as well. Some things are clear but would really like to see some examples of what officials consider improper loading and adult involvement.
On adult involvement I’ve taken objection to the whole team was not present at the time.

As a n event partner I have had some experience with these situations. I agree with what has already been said. There are two primary issues brought up.

  1. Driver loads

  2. Adult involvement with the robot

  3. The rules are fairly clear and in general, if they are not match effecting, the team should be warned. For example, if a team squishes a cube and it sits there a few seconds and gets back to shape before the cube is picked up, it was not match effecting. If, on the other hand, two cubes are squished together and the robot is now able to grab two cubes at once easier than it otherwise could and the robot does this, that is match effecting and calls for a DQ in the skills run. Those are just two examples to give you an idea.

The main things most refs try to make sure does not happen is squishing the cubes (there is a specific rule about that) and imparting energy.

  1. Frankly, it is legal, but not a good thing, for a parent or mentor to do all the building and all the programming. There are no specific rules disallowing this. There are rules that make it possible for robots like this to not be eligible for the design or excellence award.

The main focus should be on the kids learning. If you have a team of new kids with little experience and especially at the beginning of the season, you might see more adult interaction, but ideally, it should be to teach rather than just to do.

Unfortunately, there are some teams where the adults still do a lot. I can think of a couple of teams in our state where an adult does all the programming. That might even be needed if it is a new team with all new team with all new kids but teaching should be happening along the way. I know there are experienced teams at a fairly high level in our state where adults still do the programming even though all the kids on the team have been at this for years.

On the other hand, I know there are certain teams that have been accused of having the robot and programming done by the parents or mentors and I personally know that is not true. I am not going to mention any teams but what I know about teams where adults do the programming is coming from the adults that have done the programming. As for kids being accused or having a “daddybot” there is one middle school team that has often been accused of that, but the judges at our tournament (both very high level engineers) did there best to try to trip them up with some incredibly technical questions about things in the engineering notebook and the judges felt he had college level knowledge in these areas. They were completely convinced that he was the one doing the notebook, designing and building the robot.

In response to question #2:

I don’t know how your school/organization/club handles it, but VEXMEN (as an organization, not because of external rules) has a strict rule of NO parents without students. If a parent is helping (not doing for them), this is allowed. If a parent is programming and is with another student and teaching them, this is allowed. What is NOT allowed however are parents that are by themselves working on or programming the robot, or if they are not teaching.

We have an adult mentor (or two) for each team, and as the name implies, this is the person who will guide and assist the team. Generally however, parents that are not mentors may not involved as things get messy quickly.

An example:
At the last tournament VEXMEN hosted, we had two parents who were testing the autonomous of a robot, and reprogramming, with no kids in sight the night before. The students were apparently at home and didn’t want to work on the robot. One of the people in charge of VEXMEN spoke with them and explained our policy, and that was the end of it. In short, there is no “official” policy, however I would highly suggest that each organization implement a policy of their own.