Tag: new game

You can brainstorm this summer, even if you don’t meet

New coaches out there — don’t forget that you and your team can brainstorm and stay engaged during the summer even if your school or group does not meet until the fall. I encourage my girls to check in regularly on the VEX Starstruck Forum, where there are lots of people actively engaged in strategy discussions, and asking great questions on rule clarifications.

One particular clarification we got recently was, you can’t drive under the fence. I personally think it’s the worst-written rule ever; I’ve read the entire manual several times, and this one went right by me. <SG6> says, “Robots may not make contact with the foam field tiles in their own Zones.” Sure, of course that screams out “YOU CAN’T DRIVE UNDER THE FENCE.” Um, no. Not that we wanted to — from a strategy perspective I don’t think it’s in your best interest to do so, but I’ve had several kids and parents ask me numerous times where it says in the rules that you can’t do so.

But I digress. As a coach, if your team is not meeting this summer, I recommend that you take some time and read the Forum to get a sense of what you don’t know you don’t know. The things you’ll read will open a whole new world, and will identify places where you team will want to allocate time and create sub-tasks and assign jobs. How many stars do you want to be able to hold at once? How many do you want to throw at once? How will you pick them up off the field? Throw them over the fence? Deliver them from your picking-up mechanism to your throwing mechanism? Does your team want to go for the 12-point hang? How will you incorporate autonomous scoring into your robot design? What about those big poofy cubes?

If you’re in email contact with your team, encourage them to read the Forum, and consider setting up your own Yahoo group or other email community so that your kids can stay engaged if they are so inclined.

Real-live tournaments have already taken place! Not just scrimmages — tournaments that will qualify people for state championship slots. Find their videos on YouTube (links can be found on the VEX Forum) and see what other people’s robots are doing, see how other people are approaching the challenge — it will surely spark ideas for your and your team!


The Rules May Not Be Final

New coaches — one thing that you may not realize with a quick reading of the rules manual is that these rules are not yet final! Yes, tucked away on page 11, <G18> says:

All rules in this manual are subject to changes, and not considered official until August 17th, 2016. We do not expect any major changes to take place, however we do reserve the right to make game changes until August 17th, 2016. There will also be scheduled manual updates on June 15th, 2016 and April 3rd, 2017

So, as a coach you need to be on your toes and check the REC website and the VEX Forum on June 15 to see what modifications to the rules, if any, have been made in the scheduled update, and then again on August 17 to make sure that nothing has changed.

Last year in Nothing But Net, the original rules indicated that the drive team could either place the driver-loaded balls gently on the robot, or drop the balls onto the field without breaking the plane of the field — a rule that would be extremely difficult to put into practice! The June update changed that rule so that drive team members could reach over the barrier to place balls on the starting tile or into the robot. But unless you check the website for the rules update in June and August, you may miss critical new rules!


Starstruck: Analyzing the New Game

Our team is really excited to dive into the new game: Starstruck.

As I mentioned in my very first post, one of last year’s online challenge entrants provides an excellent framework for analyzing any new VEX Robotics game: VEX Robotics Guide to Effective Game Analysis.

I highly recommend watching this helpful video yourself, but here’s a breakdown of their methodology:

  1. Watch the video of the new game
  2. Read the game manual (updated 2/2/17) and appendices (A – Field Specifications; B – Robot Skills)
  3. Read the manual again, this time making annotations on the important aspects of the game
    • how to score
    • build restrictions
  4. Read the manual again
    • highlight & understand all the ways to score points
    • most common way to score
    • most rewarding way to score
    • Do this for programming skills & driver skills manuals as well


    • how to de-score
    • how to keep your opponents from de-scoring you
    • Make lists of all of these things above for engineering notebook
  5. Break down the game into simple tasks that lead to winning matches
    • determine the most optimal, efficient, and reliable ways to win based on #3 and #4
    • make a list of all the ways to deny points, no matter how obscure they may be
  6. Make a list of all the building & design limitations
    • size constraints
    • motors/pneumatics
    • special rules that nullify or modify the above restrictions
  7. Determine what tasks the robot should be able to do
    • define clear objectives of what you want the robot to do (e.g., drive, pick up balls, shoot balls)
    • put objectives in one column of a table
    • in the next column, list quantitative abilities for each objective (how fast, how many balls, etc.)
  8. Make an overall schedule of work between now and your first competition.

Good luck!


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