VRC teams and events have vocabularies that arise from the game manuals, robot construction techniques, and inside jokes. This article defines some of the more common terms and acronyms used by VRC teams, volunteers, and coaches. For more detail on many terms, check the current game manual.
Alliance: A set of two teams that are randomly paired by the TM software to work together during a qualification match. Also a pair of teams that is created during the Alliance Selection process to compete in the elimination matches.
Alliance Captain: A team that invites other teams to form an alliance for the elimination matches until one of those teams accepts. When an invitation is accepted, a 2-team alliance is formed that will exist for all of the event’s elimination matches.
Alliance Selection: The process that forms alliances for elimination matches. The highest-ranked team at the end of the qualification matches becomes the first alliance captain, and a student representative from that team invites another team to join their alliance. The invited team can accept or decline the invitation; if they accept, the two teams form an alliance for the elimination matches. If they decline, they cannot be invited to join any other alliance, but may later have a chance to become an alliance captain. The next-highest-ranked team (that isn’t already in an alliance) becomes the next alliance captain, and this process continues until all alliances (up to 16, depending on the size of the event) are filled. An unofficial tradition, borrowed from FIRST Robotics, suggests that teams reply to invitations with either “We graciously accept,” or “We respectfully decline.”
Alliance Station: A designated area, defined in the game manual, that is adjacent to the game field and is where drive team members have to stand during a match.
Autonomous: Robot actions that are controlled entirely by pre-created code that is loaded on a robot brain, not by a human using a controller.
Autonomous Bonus: A point bonus that’s awarded to the alliance that has earned the most points at the end of the autonomous period in a qualifying or elimination match, or is split between the two alliances if the autonomous period ends in a tie.
Autonomous Period: A segment of a match during which the robot isn’t controlled by a driver using a controller, but by pre-build code and sensor input.
Autonomous Points (APs): Points that are added to a team’s match score and that help determine a team’s ranking for alliance selection. APs are earned by winning or tying for the autonomous bonus in a qualification or elimination match. Visit the VRC Tournament Ranking Calculations article to learn about how they're used to rank teams.
Autonomous Win Point (AWP): An extra win point awarded to each team in an alliance that completes all AWP tasks defined in the game manual. Both alliances can earn an AWP in the same match if both alliances complete all tasks. Visit the VRC Tournament Ranking Calculations article to learn about how they're used to rank teams.
Award: Recognition for a team’s achievement at an event. Awards are usually recognized with a trophy at an event; however, this is not an absolute requirement and some awards may be recognized with a printed certificate. Awards are either performance-based such as Tournament Champion or Robot Skills Champion, or judged awards such as the Excellence Award or Design Award. Not all awards are qualifying awards. For more information, visit the article How to Win VRC Awards.
Best of 3: In multi-division events, and all events that qualify teams to the VEX World Championship, the two teams that emerge from the division finals or overall semi-final matches face each other in a series of three Finals matches. An alliance must win two of these Finals matches to be declared the Tournament Champion. All other matches in the elimination bracket, and all matches at events that do not qualify teams to the VEX World Championship, are single-eliminations.
Builder: A VRC student team member who assembles the robot. Adults can’t be builders, but can teach concepts to the builders. A student can only be a builder for a single team during a competition season.
Championship Event: A state-, region-, or world-level event that restricts registration to teams that have qualified for the event. Teams qualify for a championship event by earning a qualifying award at an event that qualifies teams to that championship event.
Code of Conduct: The REC Foundation document that describes the expectations for positive, respectful, and ethical conduct of all event participants. Violations of the Code of Conduct can get a team or organization DQd from a match, an event, a season, or a program depending on the severity of the violation.
Defensive Play: In VRC, defensive play basically means ‘trying to interfere with another robot that is trying to score points.’ Defense is allowed, but in most cases robots that are playing defensively will not receive the benefit of the doubt when judgment calls must be made by Referees.
Design Process: A series of methodical steps that engineers follow when designing a solution to a problem. There are lots of different design processes, but most include a few basic steps: identify a problem; brainstorm solutions; implement and test a solution; and repeat as needed. A team’s engineering notebook and judging interview should communicate the team’s use and understanding of the Design Process to the judges.
Designer: A VRC student team member who designs the robot in CAD or from parts. Adults can’t be designers, but can teach concepts to the designers. A student can only be a designer for a single team during a competition season.
Director of Regional Operations (DORO): The REC Foundation staff member who is responsible for managing REC Foundation team and event support staff members in multiple regions and providing leadership for initiatives within the organization.
Disablement: A penalty that is applied for some rule violations, typically either safety or entanglement with a fragile game or field element. Disablements are called during the match by the Head Referee as needed, and disabled teams are asked to put their controllers on the ground.
Disqualification (DQ): A penalty that is called on a team at the end of a match for major rule violations during the match. A team that is DQd in a skills or qualification match gets a score of zero, and zero WP/AP/SP for that match. A team that is DQd in an elimination match takes out the entire alliance.
Double Qualification: Happens when a single team earns two or more qualifying awards at one event or multiple championship invitations during a season. Double qualifications and how they’re handled at the local and championship levels are outlined in the Qualifying Criteria document.
Drive Team: A group of 1-3 students from a single team who stand in an alliance station during a match and control their team’s robot. A student can only be a drive team member for a single team during a competition season.
Driver-Controlled Period: A segment of a match during which the robot is operated by a driver using a controller.
Driving Skills Match: An official match that is used to determine teams’ Robot Skills rankings. Each driving skills match consists of 1 team and a driver-controlled period during which the team tries to score as many points as possible. Each team’s highest driving skills score at an event is added to their highest programming skills score from the same event to determine their Skills rank for the event and on the VRC World Skills Standings.
DWAB: DWAB Technology, creators of the VEX Tournament Manager software.
Elimination Bracket: A schedule of elimination matches that is generated by the TM software after alliance selection. Between 8 and 16 alliances play in a bracket, as determined by the Event Partner and described in the game manual.
Elimination Match: A match used to determine the two-team alliance that becomes the Tournament Champion. In elimination matches, alliances that were formed in alliance selection face off according to the elimination bracket. The winning alliance from each elimination match moves on to the next round until a Tournament Champion alliance is identified. Most elimination matches are single-eliminations, but the Finals for multi-division events and all events that qualify teams to the VEX World Championships are run as Best of 3.
Entanglement: Happens when a robot intentionally or accidentally grabs, hooks, or attaches to a field element or another robot and gets stuck. Robots aren’t allowed to entangle with other robots as a strategy, and robots should be built to minimize entanglement risks. Entanglement with another robot can lead to a DQ. Entanglement with a fragile field element can lead to disablement or DQ.
Event Engagement Manager (EEM): A REC Foundation staff member who is a Regional Support Manager responsible for the training and development of Event Partners and Event Support Specialists in their assigned region. To find your EEM, visit the Support Map.
Event Partner (EP): A volunteer who coordinates the tournament and manages the venue, volunteers, event materials, communication, and pretty much everything else. They’re not allowed to determine award winners, and shouldn’t have a defined volunteer role in addition to being the EP. They’re the liaison between the event and the REC Foundation.
Event Region: A defined geographic area that is usually a whole state, province, country, or territory but might also be part of one of these. The REC Foundation determines the boundaries of Event Regions with respect to governmental boundaries, geography, and team distribution. To find your region, visit the Support Map.
Event Support Specialist (ESS): The REC Foundation staff member responsible for day-of-event support in their designated region as assigned by RSMs/EEMs.
Expansion Limit: A rule from the game manual that specifies how much a robot can extend in size during a match, either horizontally or vertically. Each game has different expansion limits. In some games, expansion limits change based on the robot’s location on the field.
Field Element: The field perimeter, field tiles, tape lines, and elements of a game that are connected to or through the field perimeter or field tiles (e.g., platforms, towers, flags, barriers, hanging bars, dividers, etc.).
Game Design Committee (GDC): A group of people from the REC Foundation, VEX Robotics, & DWAB Technologies who meet annually to design and describe new VEX IQ and VRC games. The GDC creates and maintains the game manuals, and answers questions in the official Q&A.
Game Manual: The set of rules that all participants must follow when playing or running VRC events. New games are introduced annually, usually at the VEX World Championships in late April or early May, and each new game has an associated game manual. The game manual is written and updated by the GDC. The only source of official rulings other than the game manual is the official Q&A system.
Head Referee: An impartial volunteer who watches every qualification and elimination match at an event to ensure that the rules are consistently followed and enforced. Head Referees have to take and pass a certification course, and are responsible for training and working with a group of scorekeeping referees at each event. The Head Referee is the only person at an event allowed to discuss rule interpretations and scoring issues with teams during the event. Don’t confuse Referees with Judges, who give out judged awards at the event.
Hero Bot: A VEX robot design that uses basic components and works as a starting point for each new game challenge.
Hoarding: Happens when a robot is possessing, controlling, or limiting the other alliance’s access to more scoring objects than are allowed by the game manual. Each game has different limits for hoarding.
Holonomic Drive: A drivetrain construction that allows a robot to move in all directions and rotate independently. Mecanum and omni wheels can be used to provide holonomic capabilities. Common holonomic drives in VRC include:
- +-drive: Wheels are mounted on the 4 sides of the robot.
- H-drive: Consists of a 4-wheel tank-style drive with one or more wheels mounted at a 90 degree angle in the center to allow strafing.
- Kiwi drive: 3 omni wheels are positioned evenly around the robot at 120-degree intervals.
- X-drive: Wheels are mounted on the corners of the robot at 45 degree angles.
Inspection: A process in which volunteers check a robot against the rules and requirements in the game manual to ensure that the robot is allowed to participate in matches. A robot cannot participate in official matches without passing inspection.
Interview: One way that volunteer Judges get information about teams to determine winners of judged awards at the event. Judges interview teams in their pits and rate them using the Team Interview Rubric. An interview includes 2 or more judges and a single student team, and typically lasts 5-10 minutes. It’s a conversation, not a presentation by a team.
Invitation: The permission provided through Robotevents.com that allows a team to register for a championship event. An invitation is issued to a team through Robotevents.com when the team wins a qualifying award.
Judge: An event volunteer who helps determine the winners of judged awards by reviewing notebooks, interviewing teams, and observing teams in action. Judges may have lots of robotics experience, or none at all, but all judges are excited to read and hear about teams’ accomplishments and learning. The Judges are trained and coordinated by a certified volunteer Judge Advisor. Don’t confuse Judges with Referees, who enforce the game rules during matches.
League: A league is like a tournament, but it provides multiple opportunities for a group of teams to participate in robotics events. Instead of a single day of matches and judging, a league is spread out over 4 or more sessions that are spaced out through the season.
Local Event: A tournament or league session that is not a championship event. Local events may be qualifying events or non-qualifying events.
Match: A VRC match consists of one or more teams attempting to score points as described in the game manual for the current season, using a robot that is controlled by a drive team, autonomous programming, or a combination of the two. There are five types of matches in VRC: Qualification, Elimination, Practice, Driving Skills, and Programming Skills. Each of these is defined separately in this list.
Match Affecting: Describes an action that changes the outcome of the match, and which alliance wins vs. would have won. Some match affecting rule violations result in DQs. Some match affecting rule issues result in match replays.
Match Load: A scoring object that starts the match in an alliance station and that can be added to the game during a match by a drive team as described in the game manual.
Mecanum Wheel: Rolls forward like a normal wheel, but allows designers to create drivetrains that can move in any direction using standard chassis shapes. 4 mecanum wheels in a tank drive provide strafing capabilities when the front and back wheels spin in opposite directions. Similar to an omni wheel, but the rollers are mounted at a 45 degree angle.
Meta: A design that comes to represent a significant number of robots during a competition season because it is considered to be best able to accomplish the goals of a game in general, without considering specialization or unique design aspects. Over a season, many robots designs will converge into a meta that is adopted by teams as they rebuild between events.
Non-qualifying Event: An event that does not qualify teams to a championship event. Also called a scrimmage.
Notebook: Used to document the work a team does to design, build, and iterate a robot using the Engineering Design Process. The teams’ Engineering Notebook is turned in at event registration and judged using the Engineering Notebook Rubric.
Odometry: The use of sensors to determine a robot's relative position. Putting encoders on a drive base is a type of odometry.
Offensive Play: In VRC, offensive play basically means ‘actively trying to score points.’ VRC games are intended to be offensive and interactive. In most cases, robots that are playing offensively will have the benefit of the doubt when judgment calls must be made by Referees.
Omni Wheel: Rolls forward like a normal wheel, but also slides sideways without skidding during turns. Used to make a robot turn more smoothly, or to build a holonomic drivetrain. Similar to a mecanum wheel, but the rollers are mounted at a 90 degree angle.
PID: PID stands for “Proportional, Integral, Derivative” and is a programming algorithm that controls motors to create precise and smooth movements. A PID runs periodically in a loop, checking sensor readings (like shaft encoders or potentiometers) against a target and changing motor power as needed. PID can be a great way for a team to create reliable autonomous code that drives or shoots straight, follows a line, holds an arm in place, etc. Common usage of PID might include one, two, or three of the parameters; for example, a VRC robot might use PI control.
Possession: An interaction between a robot and a scoring object. Generally speaking, a robot is in possession of a scoring object if it’s carrying, holding, or controlling the movement of the scoring object (beyond just pushing or plowing it). Some games limit the number of scoring objects that a robot can possess simultaneously.
Practice Match: An optional match that lets teams and volunteers get used to the playing field and event processes. Practice matches do not affect a team’s rankings.
Preload: A scoring object that starts the match in contact with a robot as described in the game manual.
Programmer: A VRC student team member who writes code that is loaded onto the robot brain. Adults can’t be programmers, but can teach concepts to the programmers. A student can only be a programmer for a single team during a competition season.
Programming Skills Match: An official match that is used to determine teams’ Robot Skills rankings. Each programming skills match consists of 1 team and an autonomous period during which the team tries to score as many points as possible. Each team’s highest programming skills score at an event is added to their highest driving skills score from the same event to determine their Skills rank for the event and in the VRC World Skills Standings.
Q&A System: A section of the RobotEvents.com VRC website where the GDC provides official rule clarifications based on submitted questions. The Q&A system is the only source of official rulings outside of the game manual. Responses in the Q&A system are official rulings and supplements to the game manual during the corresponding season.
Qualification Match: An official match that is used to determine teams’ rankings for alliance selection. Each qualification match consists of 2 alliances–one “red” and one “blue”–composed of 2 teams each. Each qualification match consists of an autonomous period followed by a driver-controlled period. The object of a qualification match is to score more points than the other alliance and earn win points, autonomous points, and strength-of-schedule points to improve the team ranking for alliance selection.
Qualifying Award: An award earned at a qualifying event that qualifies the team to a championship event.
Qualifying Criteria: A document published by the REC Foundation each season that details the criteria that an event must follow in order to be a qualifying event, describes the qualifying award structure, and provides all other information about qualifying events and qualifying awards. Click here to view the Qualifying Criteria document.
Qualifying Event: An event that results in a specific number of teams receiving invitations to register for a Championship Event. Qualifying events follow the Qualifying Criteria and present one or more qualifying awards.
Qualifying Spots: The number of qualifying awards that will be given at an event. The number of spots determines which specific awards serve as qualifying awards at the event based on the tables of qualifying awards in the Qualifying Criteria document.
RECF: The Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, which operates and supports robotics and technology events including VIQC, VRC, VEX U, and VAIC. The REC Foundation is a US-registered 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization based in Greenville, Texas.
Regional Support Manager (RSM): The REC Foundation staff members, some designated as either Event Engagement Managers (EEMs) or Team Engagement Managers (TEMs) and some who fill both roles, responsible for supporting EPs and/or teams in their designated region. To find your RSM, visit the Support Map.
Robot: A student-built machine created within a game manual’s limitations to perform the tasks described in that game manual. Executes tasks as directed by autonomous programming, a drive team’s remote control(s), or a combination of the two.
Scorekeeping Referee: An impartial volunteer who watches matches at an event to ensure that the rules are consistently followed and enforced. Scorekeeping referees discuss potential rule violations with the Head Referee and other scorekeeping referees after a match. They also score matches, communicate scores to teams and alliances, and record scores. Scorekeeping referees don’t discuss rule interpretations and scoring issues with teams during the event.
Scoring Object: A game piece (e.g., ball, cube, star, cone, mobile goal, etc.) that is not connected to or through a field element, and that can be moved around the game field by a robot to score points.
Scrimmage: An non-qualifying event that does not qualify teams to a championship event.
Skills Stop Time: The time left on the match clock when a team chooses to end a skills match early. Skills stop times affect teams' rankings on the World Skills Standings in cases of a tie.
Starting Position: A list of requirements from the game manual that define how each robot and its preloads must be and cannot be positioned at the start of a match.
Starting Volume: The maximum allowable size of a robot at the beginning of each match, as defined by the game manual.
Strafing: Side-to-side robot movement that can be enabled by a holonomic drive configuration or other means.
Strength of Schedule Points (SPs): Points that help determine a team’s ranking for alliance selection. SPs for a qualification match equal the losing alliance’s score. If the match is a tie, both alliances get the score as SPs. If both teams on an alliance get DQd, the other alliance gets their own score as SPs. Visit the VRC Tournament Ranking Calculations article to learn about how they're used to rank teams.
Student: A person who meets all of the age and educational requirements for the competition as defined in the game manual.
Student-Centered Policy: The REC Foundation document that outlines expectations for the amount of help teams can and should receive from adult mentors based on the students’ level of experience. All VRC activities should actively involve students in learning opportunities and increase their robotics knowledge. Click here to view the REC Foundation Student-Centered Policy.
Team: A group of one or more students who work together in the VRC competition. A team is classified as either middle or high school based on the oldest member of the team and the age requirements in the game manual, but middle school students can register as a high school team if they want to.
Team Engagement Manager (TEM): A REC Foundation staff member who is a Regional Support Manager responsible for the growth and retention of competition teams in their assigned region. To find your TEM, visit the Support Map.
Time Out: A time span of up to 3 minutes that can be called once by each alliance between elimination matches. Alliances don’t have to use their time outs, and can end them early if they choose to. It’s common for alliances to use their time out in instances where either their robot or their opponent’s needs additional time to be ready for a match.
Tournament Manager (TM): The software that runs all aspects of the competition. Most of the rankings, timers, and displays at a tournament are controlled by TM, and there’s usually a computer running it near each game field.
Trapping: Happens when one robot restricts another robot to a confined area of the field or pins it against a field element, and doesn’t leave an opening for escape. A robot isn’t considered trapped if it isn’t trying to escape. Trapping is legal for periods of 5 seconds or less, but 5 seconds and some physical distance have to pass before the same robot can legally be trapped again.
VEX: VEX Robotics, which designs and sells educational robotics platforms for elementary through university students. VEX Robotics works with the REC Foundation to manage the VEX Robotics Competitions, including VIQC, VRC, VEX U, and VAIC. VEX Robotics is a subset of Innovation First International (IFI), and is headquartered in Greenville, Texas.
Water Game: An annual joke that suggests/predicts that the next VRC game will be water-based. REC Foundation CEO Dan Mantz has played along with the joke before the last few game reveals (which still weren't water games).
White Screen: A way to refer to a locked-up V5 robot brain, because the screen and status bar turn completely white. A white screen error can lead to a match replay in some circumstances, as defined in the game manual.
Win Percentage (WP): Replaces Win Points in a league. Win Percentage is calculated by dividing the number of wins by the number of qualification matches the team plays across all league sessions. In cases of a tie, each team is given a 0.5 number of wins for that match. Also, in leagues only, the AWP is given a value of 0.5 and is added to the total number of wins.
Win Points (WPs): Points that help determine a team’s ranking for alliance selection. Each team earns 0-3 WPs for each qualification match. 1 WP is awarded at the end of the autonomous period for each team in an alliance that completes all AWP tasks. 2 WPs are awarded for winning a qualification match. 1 WP is awarded for tying a qualification match. 0 WPs are awarded for losing a qualification match. Unless a team is DQd, both teams on an alliance always earn the same number of WPs for a match. Visit the VRC Tournament Ranking Calculations article to learn about how they're used to rank teams.
World Skills Standings: A section of the RobotEvents.com VRC website where teams are listed and ranked by the highest Robot Skills scores they’ve posted to date. Championship events with unfilled slots use world skills standings to identify and invite teams from the appropriate region.