We’ve all wondered about the VEX Robotics organization’s plans for the season, especially considering that we’re not yet physically back in school. This past week we tuned into the VEX webinar and got some answers. While students are back together in some states, Florida is among the states where it is not yet safe to do so. Since VEX is a global robotics competition, and transmission rates in other countries (such as within Europe) are spiking back up again following their return to physical school, the organization knew it had to come up with something more substantial than a demonstration of virtual skills and simulations.
Here is what they have announced for high schools:
- A live, remote head-to-head competition: Although it can’t compare with the excitement of our crazy cheering section in the stands, or of us watching our skilled drivers turn a match into a robot vs. robot combat session, we think that VEX has done a pretty decent job of developing a new twist to the new 2020/21 Change Up competition. Alliance and competing teams will each have a field at their school, connected to the competition via webcam. Their controllers will be networked with VEX to start and stop the autonomous and driver-controlled segments. At the end of the match, the software will digitally merge the fields. Whichever alliance scored more points in a particular goal will “own” the points for that goal. While a stack must be completed by a single robot, by merging goals, alliance teams can still collaborate virtually to score a row. To spice things up a bit, they have also added an end game whereby if a robot is in contact with a goal at the end of a match, then they will double the alliance scores in that row.CLICK HERE TO SEE A DEMO OF THE NEW COMPETITION
What does all of this mean to us? First, it means that we will still build and code physical robots this year. We will find a way for the kids to do so safely. Second, it means that we will need to purchase a new field and make sure that we’ll have reliable wifi for our events. Mr. Miller is working through those requirements with our student teams.
- Robot skills challenge: We will have challenges with one robot playing alone against the clock.
- Online challenges: New contests have been announced using CAD, animation, coding, essays, and more.
These challenges provide multiple, socially distanced ways for our teams to get to State this year, and hopefully to Worlds!
Here is what we know for Middle School:
- VEX IQ “Rise Above” skills remote events are already accepting registrations for October matches. Teams will be able to build and code their robots and compete virtually in skills.
- Online challenges: New contests have been announced for photography, CAD, coding, electronics, and essay.
From what we understand, events will be live-streamed through YouTube, so we’ll all get to cheer our teams on from our living rooms!
The students are disappointed at not being able to participate in physical competitions for a while, especially since they have worked all summer on their plans and are SO ready this year. But, we still have a chance to get our season off to a strong start, perhaps even qualify for the Florida State and Worlds competitions and be even more ready to compete in person once it is safe to do so. With the virtual opportunities this year, even kids whose families have opted for online school will be able to participate.