Student-Centered Policy

REC Foundation Mission

The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation’s mission is to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, affordable, and sustainable robotics engineering programs. We believe that the student-centered model of learning is aligned with our mission and provides effective educational benefits to students. The REC Foundation student-centered policy should be frequently reviewed by organizations participating in REC Foundation events.

What is Student-Centered?

There are a variety of definitions for the term “student-centered” in the educational community, and the REC Foundation would like to communicate a definition for student-centered that will apply for teams that participate in any REC Foundation competition to increase the transparency of the expectations and increase the student learning opportunities. The term student-centered is encompassed in both the learning and application settings for REC Foundation events and activities:

  • Student-Centered Learning: Students are actively involved in learning opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills in the engineering design process, mechanical design, programming, and teamwork under the guidance of adult mentorship.
  • Student-Centered Application: Students have ownership on how their machine is designed, built, programmed, and utilized in gameplay with other teams and in standalone matches.

The REC Foundation acknowledges that students participating in official REC Foundation events come from a spectrum of educational backgrounds, and ultimately it is the responsibility of the adult to determine the appropriate amount of support for the individual student. Due to the competitive nature of these programs, teams may be tempted to prioritize winning over learning. We encourage adults to ask the following questions in each of your learning experiences with students to help gauge the appropriate amount of support for your students:

  • Am I teaching or telling?
  • Am I encouraging students to express their voice before sharing my thoughts?
  • Are the students asking for my assistance or are they able to be independent?
  • Are students able to use the knowledge or skills that I’m sharing independently in the future?

Ultimately, students learn the most when they are given opportunities to test their own ideas, fail, learn from those failures, and try again. Often in stressful or competitive situations, it may be easier or faster for an adult to solve the problem or fix a machine, but by doing so, the adult is missing a learning opportunity for a student. Instead, we encourage adults to provide guidance when needed to help educate students on the thinking behind problem solving rather than solving the problem. Adults can be a valuable resource to help students learn the skills they will need to work in a team and design machines. In the examples provided below, the role of the adult is primarily a facilitator for learning so that the student may apply the knowledge to their own machine, engineering notebook, game strategy, and communication with other teams.

Using the Guide

The overarching mandate is that adults should not provide an unfair competitive advantage by having students use designs, programs, and game strategies that are inconsistent with the students’ ability and knowledge base.

Common Terms

Common terms have been defined below to simplify the language in the provided examples.

  • Student: A student team member participating in REC Foundation events or activities. Please refer to the appropriate program game manual for program specific age/grade levels.
  • Adult: A teacher, parent, or mentor who serves to provide educational guidance to the students. Students in advanced programs who are mentoring younger students would be considered “mentors” in this case (e.g., a HS V5RC student mentoring a VIQRC team).
  • Event: Tournament or League competition that is an official REC Foundation qualifying event or under the jurisdiction of the REC Foundation, including the VEX Robotics World Championship.
  • Outside the Event: Any learning environment outside of an official REC Foundation Event. This can refer to any location where teams are meeting to learn and build their machines.

Interpreting the Guide

The provided examples are grouped into two main sections: “At Events” and “Outside the Event." Each section shares tangible examples of behaviors that range from Student-Centered, Only as needed, or Non-Student-Centered.

Many of the described behaviors will overlap between the “Student-Centered” and “Only as needed” columns to allow flexibility with providing appropriate support for students. 

  1. Student Centered: This represents the goal for student-centered learning and application. Students and adults should strive for these behaviors, although it expected that students with novice skills may need adult guidance to achieve these behaviors.
  2. Only as needed: These examples represent appropriate adult guidance that may be given to students with novice skills to help them achieve student-centered learning and application. Adults should be cautious that they reserve these supports for students who need them and strive to remove supports when appropriate.
  3. Non-Student Centered: These examples represent adult guidance that is not aligned with the REC Foundation student-centered policy and may be considered a violation of the Code of Conduct. 

This guide does not encompass every possible scenario that may arise at an event or in an outside learning environment, so participants will need to consider the spirit of these examples to help interpret situations not explicitly covered.

At Events

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Student Centered

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Only as Needed

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Non-Student Centered

Game Strategy

Students collaborating to discuss game strategy with alliance partners at the practice field, team pits, and queuing areas. Adults offering cheerful and positive encouragement as spectators during matches and helping students to reflect after a match is complete. Students consulting with adults on overall game strategy and alliance selection (if applicable) tips for their own team. Adults explaining how an event is run and assisting their own teams in getting to the matches on time or finding alliance partners. Adults giving team members or alliance partners step-by-step match play instructions prior to or during a match. Adults specifying which teams to select for alliance selection (if applicable) without student collaboration.

Mechanical Design

Students actively working on their machine and investigating failures. Adults sharing troubleshooting strategies when students have questions. Adults demonstrating how to assemble a component or make minor repairs with the assistance of students. Students making improvements after the demonstration is completed. Adults building or fixing the machine with no student assistance or with students only watching.


Students creating and revising their own programs and explaining code functionality and development over the season. Students demonstrating application of programming concepts contained within their code. Adults sharing troubleshooting tips when students encounter a complex programming task. Adults describing programming concepts and debugging techniques that may be useful for solving an issue that the team has encountered. Students devising solutions and making any necessary code changes. Adults programming or revising code. Students are unable to explain the code functionality or development without adult assistance. Students cannot demonstrate application of programming concepts contained within their code.

Pit Interviews

Adults being respectful of the interview process and allowing students to represent themselves independently. Students collaborating to discuss possible interview questions and responses. Students can describe in detail the development of the machine design across the season, the functionality of the mechanisms created, and the functionality of the program(s) utilized on the machine at the event.

Adults reviewing best practices with students on how to effectively speak to judges. Adults assisting with ensuring students are available in the pit area for judges. Adults actively prompting students during pit interviews or being a distraction to students or judges during the interview process. Adults answering interview questions or approaching judges after an interview to attempt to add information.

Outside the Events

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Student Centered

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Only as Needed

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Non-Student Centered

Game Strategy

Students watching the game video and reading the game manual to review machine criteria and scoring strategies. Adults reviewing scoring techniques and reflection strategies with the students. Students agreeing on game strategies to influence machine design and match play. Adults modeling for students how to organize game information needed to help influence machine design. Adults organizing mock game scenarios to develop students’ teamwork and communication skills. Adults telling students which scoring strategies to use to influence machine design or providing step-by-step instructions on how to play in a match (human controlled or autonomous).

Mechanical Design

Students brainstorming and researching mechanical design ideas, building and testing prototypes, and assembling their machine. Adults teaching students basic building techniques or mechanical design concepts that students can modify and apply to their machine. Design ideas leveraged from other teams, videos or other sources are credited in the engineering notebook and during team interviews. Teams utilizing a machine built from instructions provided by VEX Robotics as a starting point. Students making improvements to these designs as the season progresses. Adults providing primitive pre-made mechanical design learning tools (e.g., 4-bar linkage) for students to reference, and students building and modifying mechanisms for their own machines. Adults providing students with pre-made instructions or a model to copy for competitive machine designs. Adults building the machine with no student assistance. Adults building or designing all or portions of a machine that is used “as-is” at an event. Note that a machine built by students from instructions provided by VEX Robotics is an exception and is allowed.


Students programming their own machine (human controlled and autonomous) and developing an autonomous strategy. Students learning programming fundamentals from Adults or other sources that can be applied to create custom programs for their machine. Students crediting how programming concepts were derived as comments in their code and in their engineering notebook. Adults collaborating with students on developing their program flow using pseudocode, flowcharts, or other visual representations. Students using the pre- installed human controlled programs. Adults developing an autonomous program or strategy with no student input. Adults programming the machine (human controlled or autonomous). Students copying/pasting all or portions of custom code developed by Adults or other sources. Students utilizing programming techniques that are beyond their ability to explain or create independently.

Engineering Notebook

Students document their design process in their team’s engineering notebook throughout the season. Students and Adults review the Design Rubric and discuss ways to improve documentation. All documentation is a product of student work.

Adults assisting with the organization of the engineering notebook and modeling documentation strategies for students. Students applying these strategies to their own notebook and in their own words. Adults writing, creating, or editing portions of the engineering notebook documentation. Students failing to credit ideas or code leveraged from outside sources.

Pit Interview Preparation

Students practicing mock pit interviews and getting feedback from adults and other students. Students and adults reviewing the team interview and engineering notebook rubrics and sample judge questions.

Adults and students working together to practice talking about their design process. Adults giving students scripts or step-by-step instructions of what to say in their pit interview.

Online Challenges

Students selecting and completing the project/challenge requirements. Students and adults reviewing the project/challenge requirements. Submissions represent the product of the students’ ideas and work.

Adults assisting with reviewing the project/challenge requirements with students and providing feedback on students’ ideas or work. Adults assisting with the upload process. Adults creating all or a portion of a project/challenge product. Adult feedback driving the direction of the project.

Further Notes on Programming

The guidelines for student-centered programming are challenging to define due to the variety of programming learning resources and the amount of available code online. It is beyond the scope of this guide to specify the legality of all possible scenarios and it is recommended that specific questions be posted to the challenge Q&A on 

Importance of Fundamentals

Learning a new skill or concept should begin with the fundamentals to build a solid foundation so the student can understand and apply this knowledge. Students with novice programming skills should use learning resources that emphasize building and applying foundational knowledge and should not incorporate programming concepts into their machine that are beyond their current ability level. This general guideline supports appropriate learning progressions and fair play at competitions. 

Teams that utilize example code or custom libraries from outside sources should use caution. The program used in the machine should represent the students’ design efforts and abilities. Blindly using code without understanding the code functionality is not consistent with the educational goals of this program. Students should be able to understand and explain the code used on their machines, and students should be able to demonstrate that they can program on a level equivalent to the code included on their machine. 


  • If students are using a custom function, they should be able to describe the functionality of the custom function and demonstrate how to create and use a custom function. 
  • If students are using a custom library, they should be able to describe how the code used from the library functions and should have the ability to create and import a custom library. 
  • If students are using custom PID controls, they should understand PID feedback control concepts and the functionality of the PID code development and implementation. 

Overall, students should be utilizing skills that are within their ability levels and understanding. 


Advances in ideas and technology are often built on the knowledge of others and it is important to give credit to those contributions. Teams that use or adapt mechanical design ideas and code developed by someone other than the students on the team should cite these sources in their program specific notebook and code. During team interviews, students should describe how these contributions were utilized in the development of their machine. Teams may select their preferred format of citation, which should generally include the following information:

  • Title of resource or source code
  • Author(s)
  • Date of publication or release
  • Version (if applicable) 
  • Location (where to find the source)

Many online resources are available to learn more about the importance of citation, what to cite, and how to cite sources. Teams that use or adapt outside sources are encouraged to research more about citation. 

Communicating and Enforcing

Within Your Organization

The REC Foundation highly recommends that organizations carefully review the student-centered policy and share this policy with all students, teachers, and other adults associated with the team at the beginning of each season. Each registered team on RobotEvents is required to provide a Primary Coach, and for VIQRC and V5RC, this contact must be an adult (18+ who has graduated high school). The Primary Coach is typically the person who accompanies the team to events and is responsible for ensuring all team members, including parents associated with the team, comply with the student-centered policy. If the Primary Coach cannot attend the event, another adult accompanying the team should be trained prior to the event to fulfill this role. Below are a few suggested methods to communicate and enforce the student-centered policy within your organization:

  • Host a team meeting at the beginning of the season to review the student-centered guide with students and adults associated with the team. Create clear expectations for adults who are mentoring teams and attending events.
  • Model student-centered learning activities for adults to show the educational benefits.
  • Encourage parents to volunteer at events—this provides a valuable resource for event partners.
  • Team activities outside of events should be supervised by an adult familiar with the student-centered policy. 
  • Teach students how to advocate for themselves, and give positive reinforcement for student-centered learning. 
  • Develop definitions of success within your team structure that value individual team goals and growth throughout the season.

REC Foundation Enforcement

The goal of this guide is to communicate expectations to organizations and encourage an alignment of best practices within the community. The REC Foundation will evaluate concerns related to behaviors inconsistent with this policy per the Code of Conduct. Although it is never the desire to punish students for adult behaviors, it is imperative that organizations are held accountable to ensure fairness and increase the learning opportunities for students. 

The VEX Robotics World Championship and Events that Qualify Teams Directly to the VEX Robotics World Championship

Teams should expect increased scrutiny of student-centered behaviors at Championship events. The REC Foundation reserves the right to individually interview teams to determine compliance with the student-centered policy. In general, team behaviors at Championship events should be gravitating towards behaviors in the “Student-Centered” examples in this Student-Centered guide. 

Student team members should be prepared for the following if called into an interview by an approved REC Foundation committee during a Championship event:

  • Describe in detail the development and functionality of the machine design and program(s) utilized on the machine being used at the event. 
  • Provide an electronic copy of all programs used in matches and gameplay upon demand.
  • Demonstrate programming concepts on a level equal to the concepts included in their code without adult assistance.

If a student team member who has expertise on a specific portion of the machine design or programming cannot attend the Championship event, the other attending team members should be prepared to share the knowledge and demonstrate functionality.