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!