Constitution and Manifesto

The topic of ethics has come over and over again and with World Robotics League we have given a lot of thought on how much help parents can provide to kids, so we are formally announcing what is acceptable and what is not. This document is not exhaustive and will evolve over time. If you have doubts, feel free to ask a question.

What is fine:

  • Helping kids understand a concept is perfectly fine. We actually encourage this so that parents understand what the kids are doing. Additionally, it puts the parents in a position where they can help the kids when the kids are lost.
  • Going over the strategy and brainstorming is perfectly fine e.g. Should we go this way, or that way? Should we align here? Should we backtrack here? In teams, usually, the coaches takes on this role.
  • Throwing ideas like such as What if you built off a mechanism that did that? This is fine too – just make sure not to rat hole the kids into one particular thinking. First, let the kids think of a few ideas and then critique it instead of leading them down a path which will hinder their growth and thinking. We are always pleasantly surprised with the different ideas and designs that kids come up for the exact same problem. Critiquing (not criticizing) a design, e.g. X is not strong, Y could be better, that is fine, as long as you don’t touch anything and let the kid do the work themselves. Just understand that being overbearing does not work well. If in doubt on whether a parent is being over-assertive or over-helpful, it is better to back off even if it means the kid/team does not do too well. In general, kids learn better from trying and failing/succeeding only partially than from astounding wins where they had too much help.
  • Note that a kid resisting help is actually a good thing. It means that they are beginning to grow to a place where they understand how to do things and are becoming independent. It also might mean that parents might be offering more help than they need or want.

What is not fine:

  • No touching of the kids programs, ever, even at home. The actual programming should be done by the kids. Every kid should be able to program by themselves and if they don’t then explain a concept and help them write a new program rather than telling them step by step on what they should be doing.
    • Caveat: If a kid hits a snag and is going out of their mind and not making progress on that topic, looking through the program and telling them that something is not right, is fine. Still, no touching the kids programs!
    • Telling that  they should debug the program by doing X (comments, time delays, making sounds, stopping program) is just fine.
  • During the Competition:
    • No helicoptering, absolutely. We will adhere to this and warn parents/coaches 2 times and disqualify a team if helicoptering continues a 3rd time around. Believe it or not, this is to protect the kids! Helicoptering means, while the robot is running, parents saying Do X or do Y and stressing the kid out. The competition is a time of intense pressure for the kids and they are running full steam. At that time, they are fully in control and they should not be relying on anyone. Trying to guide them there usually backfires. There are 3 runs with a break in between so that kids can think on what they did wrong and for the team, including the coach to reassess strategy and hopefully rectify issues before the next run.
    •  Parents writing the program for the kids. The whole purpose of World Robotics League is for kids to learn robotics and having it translate to success later in life. Parents doing this work completely defeats it.
    • No building any mechanisms for the kids. Kids should build/fix whatever they need without help from parents.


Other thoughts:

  • Teams should be meeting over the weekends before the competitions. The reality is that the teams – that consistently perform better spend a few hours over the weekend programming and modifying their robots to go through the challenge. Additionally, the members in these teams also try the challenge by themselves before the team meeting and try out various ideas during the team meetings. This is pretty crucial. Without them, the actual competitions runs will not perform consistently.
  • Each team should appoint a head coach. One of the parents SHOULD take this responsibility and coordinate the weekend meetings with all the members and make sure kids make progress. This makes the team more focused and helps them make progress.