VEX Robotics World Championship

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Friday 1 May 2009 8:14 am

Friday morning and matches have begun.

Update Friday 7:43 PM
Here are 2 shots, taken from my iPhone, of the other 4 arenas. The teams competed in both areas.

At the end of the day Friday, Buffett Magnet team Phoenix won 2 matches and lost 3. There are more matches Saturday, but no one believes they will make it to the finals.

Before we arrived here we all knew that the competition would be impressive. And the middle schools compete in the same class as high schools, not divided out as in the competitions up to this point. So we expected that they would lose, but because we expected they would come up against tougher teams.

However, let me point out what I think really happened. Up until this meet, the team has been winning consistently. And this is the first time they have been in a series of competitions. So they’ve had some “swagger” in their walk and talk. But allow me to also express some perspective. These are middle school boys. They are already in that teen-years stage where they already know everything and will not listen to advice. For example, at the Championship of the Americas competition, I asked the team members if they saw any interesting ideas in robots belonging to other teams. Uniformly they responded that they beat every team they saw and had nothing to learn from them. Pretty frustrating.

And here the team was at the World Championships, competing against other number 1 teams from 15 nations. There was a very large area setup for the participants to perform practice runs, including access to the same rinks and components. And there were lots of teams queuing up to get practice runs in. It’s like any other competition, the students that want high scores practice their art. But not these guys. They sat in their setup area playing poker. When repeatedly asked by the coach and parents why they were not warming up and practicing, all they offered were excuses why they couldn’t do that. Really weird. And later, they made a design change to their robot to improve the wheels they used. When the first competition began, with their recently modified robot, the autonomous action failed because the arm could no longer reach above the goal where they wanted to drop the scoring cubes. We learned that the new wheels lowered the overall height of the robot making the existing arm and programming not compatible. When we asked, they didn’t think to test out the impact of the new wheels. Instead they learned the hard way during the match that they did not properly prepare. So what do we see when they go back to their pit area? Playing poker again. And again, ignoring our requests that they should maybe spend some time practicing.

I’m not even sure the team members learned any lessons so far. This evening after the 3rd loss, you could hear them bitching about the lack of a separate category for middle school students, or how they needed better parts, or how the other teams had an unfair advantage. As boys that age tend to do about accepting responsibility, the problems are never of their own making.

I know, I sound like a frustrated parent. I really don’t mind that they lost some matches. I expected them to. But I do mind that they lost not because the other teams they competed against were better. They lost because they performed poorly and believed they had no need to practice or better prepare. Let’s just hope something positive comes from this experience for them.

Update Saturday morning
I was wrong about scores up to this point. They lost 2 and won 2, having played only 4 matches so far. Hopefully total will better.

Update Saturday afternoon
Actually, I had it right the first time. Coming into today the team had 3 losses and 2 wins. Today they played 1 match and won. In fact, if they had played as well on Friday as they did today they would have made it to the Alliance Selections and the elimination matches. Overall, they ended up the competition 3-3-0. 3 wins, 3 losses, in a field of 130 teams they ended with a rank of 62. That’s about what we mostly expected before we went to Dallas. I do believe they could have made it into the elimination matches if they would have practiced and had a better approach to playing.

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