On July 1st, the REC Foundation and VEX Robotics held a town hall meeting to answer questions from the over 800 people in attendance. VEX is a growing, global organization with over 28,000 registered teams last year.
Overall, despite the challenges COVID places on any organized events, the organization is planning to move forward with competitions this year, even though we may see a few differences.
They are still planning to hold VEX Worlds in April 2021 in Dallas. Of course, the CDC guidelines will be followed and they are taking necessary precautions. With the uncertainty surrounding school and state openings, there will be multiple paths to qualify for worlds, including:
- Online challenge, and
- Design notebook
The general tone of the meeting did seem to indicate an increasing focus on virtual skills and competitions. This year, online consent forms are mandatory, and additional online challenges will be announced. Bookmark https://challenges.robotevents.com/ for more details.
Since students will need to touch the robots at some point, they are planning a skills only event for qualification. Additional information is forthcoming.
The organization has also hired a consultant to focus on creating their Plan B scenarios. They recognize that not all states will reopen at the same time. Since plans are to follow state and local health guidelines, they understand that accommodations will need to be made. They plan on extending deadlines to host competitions, as well as encouraging smaller events. They are also looking at online alternatives to the bound notebook.
That raised the question of what happens if a team registers but then can’t complete due to COVID. As they have an organization to run that counts on funds, they do not plan on providing refunds, but rather will offer alternatives such as an online option.
In addition to planning how to handle this season, they have made a few technical updates that were announced, including new VEX V5 sensors. As an organization, VEX is moving more of its development toward Vexcode VR, including its recent Python release. They also believe that VEX AI is perfectly suited for COVID since it involves fewer people. They expect this is where the future is headed, with competitions involving 2 autonomous robots, 3D printed parts and a heavier emphasis on computer science. Any teams interested in VEX AI will need to submit a registration over the next few weeks as they will only select 50 teams. Registration is $2500/team, not including competitions and parts.
Overall, VEX and the REC Foundation made it clear that they are planning a 2020/21 season, although it may include a combination of smaller events and more opportunities to qualify virtually for worlds.