VEX College Ideas

Since the rules have not been released for College. I would like to start discussion about the positive and suggestions for improvement for the college challenge.

Postitive :
Testing new hardware is fun ! VexNET , VEX2.0 , Bigger motors, more sensors should be a requirement for competing in the college division. This will help the transition for High Schools.

Two Robots is Good ! Less random pairing, the good teams definitely make the top of the list.

Improvement :
Qualification ! Teams should have a qualification process before world championship. The level of play should be world championship caliber. Possibly hold a couple regional college events.
Tele-operation Time Reduction**! Too much emphasis on tele-operation. The college division should have 1 minute teleop and 1 minute autonomous. Too many college teams ignored autonomous.

Communication bewteen Robots : I would like to see API released to communicate between the two robots

Great feedback. Thanks for providing it. I know our guys were collecting tons of similar info from the teams in attendance, and we are also polling additional sources for further ideas.

The more feedback we get, the better we can make the college challenge.


No… 1 min tele-op = bad idea.

This is what should be on the college level. It makes it more challenging. That’s why the college teams had more resources to use than all the other VEX teams. Programming is a huge item in most college curriculums, therefore should have more influence on their game.

Agreed, this is probably the coolest part of the league, being able to build two robots that are designed to work together.

Another good call. However, there need to be enough college teams to require regionals. If there are only 100 or so college teams next year, it may just be easier to have all of them compete at the World event like they did this year. Many college robotics competitions only have one event, so I don’t see the harm in the way it was done this year.

Do not de-emphasize tele-op too much. Autonomous is cool, yes, but nothing is more boring than watching robots sit there waiting for tele-op to begin because they got stuck or finished their routine. Tele-op is one of key parts of Vex/ FIRST that separates them from every other autonomous competition; it is where the excitement comes from. Besides, there is a huge market for college vex teams among college students who drove in high school on Vex/ FIRST teams and want to do it again. If autonomous is the focus of the competition, some of these victims of driving-withdrawls may not be as interested. I agree, with the additional sensors and such the college teams have available to them, programming should be emphasized, but don’t take away driver control.

One cool idea might be to use the “hybrid mode” idea from the 2008 FIRST game. It has all the cool parts of intense programming, without the boring dead time waiting for tele-op to start while robots sit there doing nothing.

This would be sweet!

The problem with the two robot idea, is that it neglects the teams such as my own who only have the funds to build one robot…

But at the college level, there have to be some grants available to support the robotic programs.

What I’m hearing you say is “Too many college teams ignored autonomous.”. I think the simple solution for this is more competition. With more competition, teams that ignore the advantage programming has to offer, both in autonomous and in software assisted operation will be at a disadvantage. (For example, some teams had software that raised their mechanisms to pre-set heights, a big advantage over trying to manually get the height correct).

I’ll admit the my current main attraction to the vex system is it’s mixture of human and software interfaces. Most of my previous experimentation has been limited to one or the other*. Until recently trying to incorporate both together has been difficult and/or expensive. With the understanding that Vex will allow robot to robot communication, this becomes even more attractive simply because it makes it very easy and affordable to build alternative control mechanisms using existing sensors and hardware.

I think as the number of college teams increase the teams that don’t take advantage of programming and software assisted teamwork will find themselves unable to compete effectively.

*for example, it was easy enough to build an autonomous Mindstorm or hack servos to to build a rc micro bot. Combining a basic RC airplane controller with Mindstorms on the other hand was a non-trivial exercise. Nowadays, perhaps not so much, but Vex makes it easy.

It would be interesting to consider other hybrid teleop/auto modes.
A few examples:

  1. All robots start in auto, and flip to teleop as soon as the drivers activate any controls. A multiplier is applied for points scored during auto. [This would be [I]really hard to score, though, so it is probably not feasible.]

  2. Consider a delayed teleop mode where commands sent to the robot are delayed (~2.7s, which is roughly the round-trip time for lunar teleop). [Not sure this is possible given the field electronics, but should be possible if Wifi traffic to the robots can be routed through a computer.]

  3. Consider a rate-limited control during auto-mode. Say, a small set of triggers that can be sent no more frequently than once a second. Allows operators to tell the robot “now”, but not enough to actually drive the bot.

These options would keep the gameplay going, and would give an advantage to teams that take programming seriously.

  • Dean

One more thing to make the College Level different from the HS level would be to add one other unique game piece to each game that doesn’t require a huge modification of the field. I.E. if the college game is Clean Sweep, the center wall is on a linear slide the allows the wall to be push shrinking an opposing alliances area/scoring zone. It offers advantages such as more driving space for your alliance, but at the same time shrinks your scoring zone, and vise-versa.

this would be a really cool idea having the wall move would make the game a lot different and more strategic making sure not to have the smaller amount of driving space while wanting to have a larger scoring area. would the smaller area get bonus points for the balls scored?

The weight of the wall might be a problem, however if you could have some kind of pre-arranged scoring sequence, that would trigger the wall to be moved electronically/pneumatically, then that would be cool. The other side would have the same opportunity to move it back.

Add me to the list of people that would like to see College Regionals. Teams learn a lot from competitions, having only one shot at the match makes it hard.

We have a number of community colleges in the area. By not adding the additional cost of sending 4-5 people to Dallas you may get more local participation. It’s easier to get funding to go to a championship with a proven robot.

Lastly I think the rules should be modified to say that the competition is open to “… and any Mentor(s) of a Middle or High School Vex team”. I’m thinking an alliance with Rick TYler, Blake and Quazar should give some of the College teams a hard work out.

What happens if a group of experienced mentors wins the college division ?

Sometimes, its good to remember many college students are new to VEX. I was the only Rice University team member that had any experience with VEX before the competition started.

Well I could say that there are many stories that end up with “Moral: Old age and cunning will triumph over youth and enthusiasm every time.” and that college students might as well learn it now.

But it was meant more as a “inside mentor joke”. The Vex roboteers always talk about that Dream Alliance of Teams 24, 44 and 934a (or lots of other combinations.) Just think of those possible Dream Mentor Alliances with ManicMechanic, Quazar, gblake, Rick TYler, etc. to pick from.

I think all the mentors would pick helping a college team design and build their robot and then help them compete. I know that given a choice, helping a new team would be first on my list.

I was serious about the regional events though, there are a number of community colleges in the area that would compete. Its the upfront travel to Dallas that’s a problem. Plus the extra experience of other competition helps if you do decide to go to the big show.


So I guess if you guys want an “Unlimited Class” with mentors and professionals, you wouldn’t mind facing off against an IFI house team? :wink:

Only if they are blind-folded and have one arm tied behind their backs.

But it would be pretty cool to see who would ‘step up’ and take the controls. I’d put money on Brandon and JVN, to take out Karthik and Paul C. :slight_smile:

I might be a decent enough Vex robot builder, but I am also the world’s worst robot driver. Ask my team. As for taking on the IFI house team, my daddy taught me to never roll craps with the guy that made the dice. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’d love to give the IFI guys a run for their money. Rick you build it I’ll drive it:)

Snicker. I’m in the same category as Rick, I can build, but I can’t drive. Our FRC team only lets me drive if it’s up on blocks. I have a legacy of breaking things in new and different (and thought to be impossible) ways.

And I’d take on the “IFI Dream Team” but you need to give me a few months to get my NSF grant money approved so I have the same unlimited parts budget they do. :cool:

I will take on anybody, let me at em’ lol