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Ken Patton
12-03-2004, 12:26 PM
I am wondering why there hasn't been some indication from FIRST on what they intend for the spare parts rule this year. Often there seems to be some controversy in this area, and I think getting the rule out into the FIRST community before the build season starts would be a good thing.

In the end, I don't care what the rule is, as long as it is consistent and clear.

I think FIRST should clearly define what, if any, items are allowed to be worked on after the ship date and in the days following a regional. Identical spares, functionally similar improvements, all new gizmos, or nothing at all. They should also be super clear about what needs to be in the crate versus what can be brought in to the competition when the team arrives. They should explain where and when repairs are allowed, and they should explain where and when modifications are allowed.

Anybody else have suggestions on what the rule should be for this year? Maybe FIRST will take note if we come up with something useful.

Hopefully the moderators will help us stay on track thinking about this upcoming year rather than rehashing previous years :)

Ken

meaubry
12-03-2004, 12:40 PM
Great timing Ken - you are correct as usual about this issue. This is what I hope for a spare parts rule;
Spare parts are clearly defined as any part that is used to replace an existing part. The part does not need to be an identical part made from the same materials, but does need to function with the same intent as the parts that they replaced. This allows improvements in durability, but not in functionality. These do not need to be completed and shipped with the robot. They may be created during the competition days (Thursday thru Saturday) and they may be created in advance and brought to the competition.
Additional parts are clearly defined as parts that add functionality. As long as they meet all of the other requirements for inspection, weight and size, they can be created and added during the competition days (Thursday thru Saturday) only.

Just my 2 cents worth on this - in advance

Steve W
12-03-2004, 03:30 PM
Great timing Ken - you are correct as usual about this issue. This is what I hope for a spare parts rule;
Spare parts are clearly defined as any part that is used to replace an existing part. The part does not need to be an identical part made from the same materials, but does need to function with the same intent as the parts that they replaced. This allows improvements in durability, but not in functionality. These do not need to be completed and shipped with the robot. They may be created during the competition days (Thursday thru Saturday) and they may be created in advance and brought to the competition.

Just my 2 cents worth on this - in advance

I tend to disagree. Spare parts are just that. Parts. Not arms, legs, transmissions, or what ever. If you want to improve on an arm after build, design it and build at the competition. As a volunteer, it is hard enough with what teams are doing now. How can we cover all of the angles once you open the door a little? I like the idea of no premade or fabricated parts allowed into the competition. Raw material OK. Then you must build at the competition. You still have the advantage to improve but the playing field is more level than if you build away from the comp and show up with a superior product. Don't forget that all teams do not attend more than 1 regional and that all teams don't have the same resources.
As a mentor I know that after build I need some time for family. We do have short meetings to finalize give aways and pack for events but I don't want to get into tweaking the robot and building new parts. Most teams also don't have the resources to have practice robots to tweak with. Let's go with the KISS rule with the rules. The rule that is in effect now is good and efficient, why change it?

meaubry
12-04-2004, 09:56 AM
Just a few more thoughts about this subject -
I guess, as usual, it all boils down to defining the word "parts". Transmissions are assemblies if the parts are put together. They are transmission parts, if they are separate pieces not yet assembled. Some arms, legs etc could be welded assemblies that cannot be taken apart yet function as a single part. They also can't be produced at the competition without welding capability. Raw materials are pretty easy for everyone to understand.
You are right - using the KISS rule should apply to volunteers also, why should they even need to be put in a position of determining what is fair and what isn't? Either trust the teams to do the right thing (gracious professionalism) or create a clear, concise rule on what is considered a "spare part" and what isn't. If FIRST does that as soon as possible - teams don't get into the situation of trying to interpret an ambiguous rule. Ken P. is right on in getting this discussion started now - in hopes of making sure that the issue is clearly addressed before (not during) the build cycle.
I'd rather not get into what is fair and what is not - that is an never ending argument. I just know that if the robot gets smashed into or tipped over and that creates a catastrophic failure which in turn requires me to repair the robot, I would think that a team should be able to have "spare replacement parts" available. I changed my mind on this afterthinking a bit more about it. To me, any team that takes the time to plan ahead for potential failures (we do that in practice at work - its called failure mode and effects analysis) and has the ability to produce "spare parts" for those parts that have a "high probability of needing a replacement due to being damaged" should not be penalized. That is not being unfair - it is being smart and planning ahead.
I am also of the opinion that during the competition and at the site - if a team chooses to total reconstruct their robot to function differently (adding or subtracting parts) it should be allowed - as long as the parts being added or altered are created from raw materials brought to the competition (not pre-made parts).
The time is right to discuss this, but I wonder if collectively we can even come to an agreement regarding this issue?

Bill Beatty
12-04-2004, 10:37 AM
Ken-Mike-Steve

Great post. Whatever the rule, MAKE IT CLEAR.

My own preference is true spares for broken parts can be built anytime. Improved or additional function parts must be built at the competition.

I am all for rules that return this to a six week competition instead of a 14 week competition.

Bill

Ian W.
12-04-2004, 10:44 AM
I think that the best way to do it is lay down a few simple rules.

1) A "part" is any individual piece or component (therefore a transmission is not a part, it's a collection of parts). This allows for teams to have spare parts manufactured, but they must build everything at the competition.

2) If a local team opens up their machine shop to any team, teams may manufacture and build whatever they want there, as long as it's done during between Thursday and Saturday. A local team may not however, go back to their own shop and work in it, without opening it up to other teams (this keeps everything fair). This does not replace the competition machine shop.

These rules are fair and simple to follow. They also take a huge burden off the competition machine shop. All too often, my team has needed a simple part made (perhaps a hole drilled through a steel axle), and it's taken over half the day because the competition machine shop is swamped. By allowing teams to bring prefabricated parts, the machine shop doesn't have to make all of those parts in three days.

Sure, this probably gives the advantage to local teams, but that's a non issue as far as I'm concerned, because most teams attend at least one local regional, and when they go off, well, they already have the advantage over other teams in other areas. The only other problem I see is regulating whether or not a "spare part" a team brings in is actually a spare part, or some new contraption they've designed. It's hard, yes, but I think that it will keep teams from making entirely new designs after ship, and through gracious professionalism it should be a non issue, but I have a feeling more than a few teams will try to sneak around the rule. It's unavoidable, with this many teams in FIRST.

It's impossibly difficult to pick one avenue of thought though, as FIRST has to balance every factor, from leveling the playing field to keeping the competition machine shops running smoothly to keeping volunteers from going crazy and giving all team members full body cavity searches. All we can hope is that FIRST picks a simple ruling, that everyone follows.

Marc P.
12-04-2004, 11:25 AM
I just know that if the robot gets smashed into or tipped over and that creates a catastrophic failure which in turn requires me to repair the robot, I would think that a team should be able to have "spare replacement parts" available. I changed my mind on this afterthinking a bit more about it. To me, any team that takes the time to plan ahead for potential failures (we do that in practice at work - its called failure mode and effects analysis) and has the ability to produce "spare parts" for those parts that have a "high probability of needing a replacement due to being damaged" should not be penalized. That is not being unfair - it is being smart and planning ahead.
I am also of the opinion that during the competition and at the site - if a team chooses to total reconstruct their robot to function differently (adding or subtracting parts) it should be allowed - as long as the parts being added or altered are created from raw materials brought to the competition (not pre-made parts).


Rule 10 from "The Robot" section of last year's manual states: "Teams are expected to design and build robots to withstand vigorous interaction with other robots."

I take that to mean devices should be as robust as possible, such that if they break, they can be repaired without having to replace the entire device. Should one of those rare occurrences where the forces involved are more than anyone could have predicted, and a device is destroyed beyond repair, such is the nature of the game. If you can bring enough raw materials to build a replacement, that is within the written rule. If it's too complicated to rebuild, improvise with the raw materials available. I believe the exceptions to the spare parts rules are parts manufactured within the 6 week build period, and packaged within the crate. Those parts were built within the time limit, shipped with the robot, and are therefore allowed to be used on the robot. I know there is only a week between the ship date and the first round of regionals, but consider teams attending regionals later in the season. Is it fair that they would get almost a month of extra time to build spare parts, and show up at the regional with replacements and/or upgrades for everything?

This is how the rules are currently laid out, and I think it's fair as is. There is a 6 week limit on building parts, and as the basis of the building competition, it should be honored as a limit on replacement parts as well. It's six weeks, not 5, not 7, but 6. 8 is out of the question ;). It's a mechanism in place to keep the playing field as level as possible among all teams, regardless of resources or time between shipping and competition.

Jack Jones
12-04-2004, 02:52 PM
My $0.02: ------------------------

KISS == Eliminate the rule!

I.E. Anything goes as long as it passes inspection wrt/ weight, size, materials (e.g. wire guage), and saftey.


Other's $0.02:--------------------
"Rise above principle and do what is right."
Walter Heller, American economist (1915-1987)

"All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures."
Julius Caesar, Roman general, statesman and writer (100-44 B.C.)

"The foundation of morality is to have done, once and for all, with lying."
Thomas Henry Huxley, English evolutionist (1825-1895)

Andrew
12-05-2004, 09:55 AM
Every year that I have been involved in FIRST, there has been a different "spare parts" rule. I would think, after so many years, we would be zeroing in on getting it right.

Before coming up with a rule, you should determine what function that rule is supposed to accomplish. Whatever, this needs to be consistent with the mission and goals of FIRST.

So, here's some possible functions....
F.1. Constrain the time to build within the Build Phase.
F.2. Assure that teams maintain robot function during competition.
F.3. Encourage robustness in design.

Subject to the following constraints...
C.1. Encourage Safe Fabrication Practices.
C.2. Encourage Gracious Professionalism (i.e. discourage cheating).

Here is an attempt to satisfy these requirements...
D.1. The Build Phase is defined as the time between the Kick Off Date (1:00 pm EST on Jan. yy) and the Ship Date (5:00 pm local time on Feb. zz). All legal parts fabricated during the Build Phase must be shipped to a team's first competition. A Bill of Materials (signed and notarized) must be shipped with the crate.

D.2. The Auxiliary Build Phase is defined as the three days PRIOR to ONE regional event. A Team may fabricate additional parts during this time period and bring them to the designated regional event. The Team must notify FIRST staff of their intentions five business days prior to the event. At the event, a Team representative must present an auxiliary bill of materials and the new parts to the designated FIRST New Parts Inspector (FNPI) prior to opening their crate. The FNPI will sign off on the new parts, retaining a copy for records, and allow the Team to break their crate seal and open their crate.

NOTE: If a team attends multiple events, it may only use one of them for the additional parts fabrication.

D.3. Additional parts may be fabricated on the event site in designated fabrication areas, such as the FIRST provided machine shop, the pits, the designated grinding and welding areas.

Mobile machine shops or local machine shops provided by Teams may be used for parts fabrication as an augmentation to the FIRST machine shop. Teams must provide their own insurance and make these facilities available to all teams through the queue maintained by FIRST. For off-site facilities, the Team providing the facility must also provide transportation to the facility.

NOTE: the wording on this is a bit rough. But, the idea is, Team provided shop facilities are incorporated into the existing FIRST machine shop. In other words, Teams would not get "privileged" access to their own facilities.

D.4. Bill of Materials
The cost of all legal parts and spares must cost less than $3000 and no purchased part or module may cost more than $400. A Bill of Materials must be provided (see above) with the crate that documents all parts and materials on the robot.

NOTE: this includes electronics parts, kit of parts parts, fabricated parts, etc. NO FABRICATION TIME is included in this total.

Steve W
12-07-2004, 04:08 PM
Andrew you have some good points. One question that I have is how do you regulate the 3 day prior to comp build time? What is to stop a team from designing, building and testing an apparatus for 3 weeks prior to competition? I understand sportsmanship and gracious professionalism but we have a problem now with teams pushing the envelope. If you are going to allow precomp build then wouldn't it be better to have no time factor so that everyone would have the same ability. I am TOTALLY against this idea myself as 6 weeks is suppose to be our limit.

To bring it to the real world scenario. If I have to design and build a car, do I build it and send to production.Then after it is on the market decide that I can make improvements to the transmission, radio, brakes and seats?

I like the challenge of 6 weeks. I respect deadlines. I have these on me all the time at work. These are real world issues. Sure we could all improve on our designs, build better robots and tweak all aspects of our robots. Would 8 weeks or 15 weeks or ...... be better? I go to a lot of regionals and see a lot of robots. There are some that are in dire need of help. There are others that dominate. This will not change. What does change is the approach of students and mentors as they gain experience. The second year is nowhere like the first. They know what to expect and work toward that goal. If I were to add any time it might be to rookies and give them 1 extra week. The veteran teams could then give of themselves to help the rookies before the rookie ship day. This might be a positive when it comes to the competition as the rookie bots will be that much better.

Andrew
12-08-2004, 03:15 PM
One question that I have is how do you regulate the 3 day prior to comp build time?

What is to stop a team from designing, building and testing an apparatus for 3 weeks prior to competition?


There is currently no enforcement against teams spending as much time designing and building as they want.

However, if you allow 3 days prior to competition for additional fabrication and you require a team to check their parts in at the competition, the inspector would have a pretty good idea of what was realistic to fab and what wasn't in those three days.

Further, most of us are pretty honest folks. Few teams would start their fab prior to the three days before the Thursday of a regional. If you don't get everything done, you run against a hard limit; you're getting in a van or on an airplane.

However, with the rule that allowed three days after competition fab, if you didn't get the job done, the temptation to keep fabricating was pretty intense. A higher percentage of folks are going to give into this temptation than to knowingly start fabricating early.

The "three days after" rule also put teams in a situation where they may have just finished a grueling three days + travel home. And the next day, they're back in the machine shop. This creates an unacceptable safety risk.

FIRST's primary goal is to motivate high school students to pursue engineering. Attending a competition with a robot that does not work goes against that goal. The six week build phase does not provide much margin for error for most teams. Therefore, if you slip up, you are caught between the dilemma of having an anti-inspiring competition or of cheating or of fabricating in unsafe conditions. FIRST can eliminate this dilemma through the spare parts rule.

As long as there is a rule that the super-majority of people understand and follow, the playing field will be level.

An ambiguous rule or a rule which changes after kick-off will result in an unfair competition. This is evidenced by the many discussions in the past regarding interpretation of the "spare parts" rules.

A rule which puts teams into conflict with FIRST's fundamental mission will result in higher attrition, especially among first and second year teams.

Tuba4
12-08-2004, 04:50 PM
To bring it to the real world scenario. If I have to design and build a car, do I build it and send to production.Then after it is on the market decide that I can make improvements to the transmission, radio, brakes and seats?

Actually, in the real world you better do that! But it's called next year's model!!

The sooner we know what the official FIRST spare parts rule will be, the better it will be for all of us. The unfortunate thing is whatever the rule is, there will always be someone who will seek a way around it to try and gain a competititve advantage. Or else they will just plain ignore the rule.

Does the spare parts issue become moot if a team were to say parts A, B and C are likely to get damaged so let's make 6 spares of each and ship them with the robot?

aaronbr28040
12-08-2004, 06:35 PM
In the FIRST community it is necessary to trust teams to a certain extent in order to keep from spending hours and hours in inspection at each competition. As members of the organization we should just take the rules that are given and not try to push them. The more we push the rules, the more confusing and restrictive they will become. I really dont want to see the day where we have lawyers to interpet the rules. Come on guys, lets not try to push the rules. In reality the rules should use half the paper they do now, but due to people feeling the need to find loopholes they have grown to be huge. My opinion is just wait until we get the spare parts rules and just follow them without questioning and pushing them.
just my opinion
-aaron

J15.5h
12-08-2004, 07:39 PM
Though This is my first year as part of team ROKS, (Robotics Of Kearsarge Sunappe), I have been told that in the 2004 competition, the teams where limited to spending 1 thousand dollars on extra parts. Wouldn't that include "spare parts?" (spare parts defined as any extra parts) P.S. As stupid as this may sound, how do I post my own tread?

Mike Soukup
12-09-2004, 12:56 AM
Though This is my first year as part of team ROKS, (Robotics Of Kearsarge Sunappe), I have been told that in the 2004 competition, the teams where limited to spending 1 thousand dollars on extra parts. Wouldn't that include "spare parts?" (spare parts defined as any extra parts) P.S. As stupid as this may sound, how do I post my own tread?
Actually per rule R75 the spending limit was $3500 last year. Rule R76 states that spare parts are excluded from the $3500 cap.

Since you're new & unfamiliar with the rules, you should quickly read them over. You can find them at http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/doc_updt.htm

Ken Patton
12-09-2004, 12:07 PM
Sorry Ken,
I messed up when I was trying to reply to your message and overwrote it. Too tired - so sorry, I'll call Brandon and see if he can fix it.
Mike

PS - I agree with your post.

Jim Zondag
12-13-2004, 09:53 PM
Much as I like being limited to 6 weeks for personal and family reasons, I have always found many of FIRSTs rules governing when and how you can work on your robot are totally bizarre. Think about...In what other sport or competition involving machines are you ever disallowed from servicing, maintianing, improving or practicing with your machine. I my life I have been invovled with racing car, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and other robot challanges. In no other league I have ever seen do they take away your machine and deny you the right to make it better if you can.
To me the question is and has always been: What would really change if we could do whatever, whenever we want so long as the machine on the field is legan and safe?

BillCloyes
12-22-2004, 03:45 PM
...if you allow 3 days prior to competition for additional fabrication and you require a team to check their parts in at the competition, the inspector would have a pretty good idea of what was realistic to fab and what wasn't in those three days.
Considering the disparity amoung teams and their resources, how could an inspector determine what is "realistic" for each team. Some teams have 100 people involved, some less than 10; some teams have more/better funding and could afford to "buy" 3 days of machine shop time in 7 different shops. I think that forcing the inspectors to try to determine what teams are capable of designing/building in 3 days is going to do nothing but create problems... not just problems, but big, ugly inconsistancies. (This is generally a bad thing for soo many reasons that I hope that I need not go into it...)



... If you don't get everything done, you run against a hard limit; you're getting in a van or on an airplane.
So teams that have and attend a local competition (little or no travel time) have an advantage? What about those teams (the #s seems to increase every year) that compete in back to back competitions, competitions that are nowhere near each other? do they just lose out?



As long as there is a rule that the super-majority of people understand and follow, the playing field will be level.
Not quite...A completely level playing field will never happen. It can only really be done by limiting innovation and creativity; putting a "freeze" on the good teams and let everyone else catchup... What the goal should be...Raise the low end of the field, so that any team can get a robot of some form moving and participating... something that is seems that FIRST is trying to do (the drill motor kits and related items)

I do like the idea of fabricating true,identical "spare" parts (with components broken down into basic mechanisms, not necessarily individual pieces) any time after ship. I know that there are still problems with that method as well though...

-Bill

Andrew
12-28-2004, 11:57 AM
Considering the disparity amoung teams and their resources, how could an inspector determine what is "realistic" for each team. Some teams have 100 people involved, some less than 10; some teams have more/better funding and could afford to "buy" 3 days of machine shop time in 7 different shops. I think that forcing the inspectors to try to determine what teams are capable of designing/building in 3 days is going to do nothing but create problems... not just problems, but big, ugly inconsistancies. (This is generally a bad thing for soo many reasons that I hope that I need not go into it...)


If a team shows up at competition with an entire robot, which they supposedly built in three days, I think eye-brows will be raised. Assuming that FIRST maintains the $3500 limit and requires included costs of fabrication, the bill of materials for this "spare" + the costs of the original robot would have to fit into such a limit.


So teams that have and attend a local competition (little or no travel time) have an advantage? What about those teams (the #s seems to increase every year) that compete in back to back competitions, competitions that are nowhere near each other? do they just lose out?


Per my original proposal (which probably won't be adopted by FIRST anyway, so don't worry), you would only be able to fabricate for three days prior to ONE regional. If you go to multiple competitions, you potentially lose out as your robot accumulates damage that cannot be repaired. This would at least make it a trade-off on whether to go to multiple competitions. Right now, if you can afford it, there is no down-side to attending multiple regionals. It's all good.


Not quite...A completely level playing field will never happen.
-Bill

What I meant by "level playing field" is that all teams would be following the same set of rules. In the past several years, teams have had the lee-way to interpret the rules to their advantage and to find gray areas in the rules that allow them to justify their activity.

BillCloyes
01-02-2005, 10:29 PM
If a team shows up at competition with an entire robot, which they supposedly built in three days, I think eye-brows will be raised. Assuming that FIRST maintains the $3500 limit and requires included costs of fabrication, the bill of materials for this "spare" + the costs of the original robot would have to fit into such a limit.
Not quite...as noted here (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31561&page=1&pp=15)

...per rule R75 the spending limit was $3500 last year. Rule R76 states that spare parts are excluded from the $3500 cap.

...Per my original proposal (which probably won't be adopted by FIRST anyway, so don't worry), you would only be able to fabricate for three days prior to ONE regional. If you go to multiple competitions, you potentially lose out as your robot accumulates damage that cannot be repaired. This would at least make it a trade-off on whether to go to multiple competitions. Right now, if you can afford it, there is no down-side to attending multiple regionals. It's all good.
What I meant by "level playing field" is that all teams would be following the same set of rules. In the past several years, teams have had the lee-way to interpret the rules to their advantage and to find gray areas in the rules that allow them to justify their activity.

I, too, would love for a more "level playing field" (as defined above), but I'm not sure if this would make that much of a dent. "Level playing field" I take as to include other things. Things that are supposed to be common for all teams; Kit of parts, starting size/shape, maximum weight, the length of the build season....
Limiting the time for post-ship spares to be fabricated, regardless off the number of competitions seems to be a step in the right direction. By itself however, is not enough. It does nothing to counter the use of multiple regionals to fabricate, tune, and debug. It is this additional competition time that seems to doom the potential of a real 6 week build season. I'm not trying to necessarily pass judgment one way or another on this, just point out what I see as the root issue.
-bill

computer411
06-11-2005, 02:19 PM
I believe that the $3500 cap should include spare parts because some teams do not have enough bank to support that amount of spare parts. Our team for this year's competition had a $1,000 for parts along with whatever we could make in the metal shop. Needless to say this wasn't a lot and we were not able to compete as well as other teams.