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Unread 03-01-2003, 11:52 PM
Natchez Natchez is offline
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Dilemma - Letter of the rules v. spirit of the rules

Please allow me to preface this by saying that I have thoroughly researched the robot rules, updates, jive, and CD. The latest information from FIRST on this subject is, "RULES FOR FABRICATION AFTER SHIPPING YOUR ROBOT - Look for it next week in a Team Update" posted in Update 17. Now, Id like to solicit your thoughts on the following.

Here are the facts ... please keep me straight if I have any rules incorrect.

Rules Fact 1: NO "new" parts can be manufactured by the team after 5:00 of the ship date
Rules Fact 2: Teams can manufacture identical spare parts at any time ... this includes after the ship date
Rules Fact 3: Teams can purchase materials and parts after 5:00 of the ship date
Rules Fact 4: No single part can cost more than $400
Rules Fact 5: Total cost of "additional components" can not exceed $3,500
Rules Fact 6: The cost of a component manufactured by someone not associated with the team is cost of materials plus labor

Team Fact 1: Robot contained about $1,000 worth of "additional components" as it went into the crate
Team Fact 2: Gear ratio on the robot is undesirable ... high gear is too high
Team Fact 3: Robot weighs 132 lbs

Question: Do you think, within the rules (letter of the rules and spirit of the rules), we can "purchase" a set of sprockets/gears that have been lightened and charge the cost of sprockets/gears plus the labor to lighten them against the $2,500 balance that we have for "additional components"?

It seems that by the "letter of the rules" that we can purchase these sprockets/gears and put them on our robot when we get to regionals. If we were a team of lawyers, the problem would be solved.

BUT, in this case, we are debating whether purchasing an off-the-shelf part that has been modified is within the "spirit of the rules."

Currently, our thoughts are to bring the off-the-shelf sprockets/gears to the regional and modify them (lighten them & broach keyways) in the pits.

What do you think?

Thanks,
Lucien & Team 118
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Unread 03-02-2003, 12:51 AM
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i would just buy the gears lay out the lightening patterns, and have them milled or drilled w/e when you get to the competition..

also, you might want to look into getting custom gears from boston gear co, they make many of them lightened and special already...

either way, you wouldnt have to manufacture anything before the competition and it would all be in accordance with the rules.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 02:13 AM
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You had more than 6 weeks to decide on the gear ratios and have the gears customized. If you still couldn't make use of that time, then you got to wait until regionals to do it. The rule is pretty much simple as that.

All those rules allowing you to buy extra parts, or make IDENTITCAL parts only allow you to repeat what you did during the 6 weeks.

So... You should go ahead and buy the gears that are off the shelve. If you have to custom machine those gears, then they are not off the shelve anymore, and you should've use the 6 weeks to do that. Drilling holes in your gears is just like drilling holes in some other part of the robot.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 10:55 AM
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I think that the spirit of the rule in this case is that a team should not continue work on the functionality of their robot after the 6 week deadline. If you're doing this simply to make weight - while it is still technically against the rules - it wouldn't particularly bother me. Still, the best choice would probably be to buy the sprockets (which is legal) and lay them out for machining at the competition itself.

[edit]
clarification: what you are suggesting does violate the letter of the rules, but not the spirit of the rules. While I would suggest following the rules, I don't think - seeing that such a modification wouldn't actually change the functionality of you're robot, only help it pass inspection - that anyone will care much.

Of course, that's just my opinion. Personally, our team has never been faced with this problem, but as long as such a modification doesn't give an unfair advantage I don't really care.
[/edit]
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Unread 03-02-2003, 11:24 AM
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This is a tough call.

The fact that you are not only reducing weight, but also changing gear ratios, makes it tough to justify having custom gears made. I understand that you would count the more expensive cost of custom gears. The hard call comes in deciding whether the custom gears would be customarily available to anyone and does that make them "off the shelf"?

Here is another dilemma we typically encounter:
You build your robots and spare parts all within the 6 weeks. But in your haste to complete everything on time, you rush through your manufacturing. So, you ship your primary robot and keep your prototype robot to practice. While practicing, you break something. Are you allowed to fix it? Well yeah, as long as you restore it to its original form and function. But what if during handling of your proto, you cut yourself on a sharp edge or corner? You realize that the robot you shipped also had sharp edges because in your haste, you forgot to deburr the edges. Should you be allowed to deburr the edges on the proto so you don't keep cutting yourself when you handle it? Well, I would hope that it would be within the spirit of the rules to prevent us from hurting ourselves continuously. What do you think?
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Unread 03-02-2003, 11:24 AM
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Can someone please tell me where I can find all these rules about additional parts or fabrication? I really don't remember ever seeing them.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 11:49 AM
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Actually, it is not in this years rules yet! FIRST still owes us an update on these rules. There is one update (can't remember which) that says we can make "identical" parts at any time.

It seems silly to me that the rules for spare parts and modifications after shipping did not come out before kickoff since these rules are often debated and do not give away the concept of the game. An what if they change their mind about spares? It is a little late to tell people they cannot use the spares they made after shipping. Well, I have already whined many times about this.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 12:14 PM
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We've always done things like buy extra parts, and think about modifications and such before our first regional. When we get there, we bring along everything we need, and do the work at the machine shop or in the pits. We've bought things like extra gears and sprockets, but never modified them. "Off-the-shelf" parts are fine, but any modification would be against the rules.

Custom gears are a little trickier, though. If they are something that is in a catalog, but have to be custom made by the manufacturer, I would say it is okay. If it's something a machine shop is making for you, I would say that is against the rules. Do you get what I'm saying, or was that a little too confusing?
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Unread 03-02-2003, 12:21 PM
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Not that we would ever do this...

If you are making a change to improve functionality (such as changing gear ratio), you should wait til you get to the regional and either do it there or have the shop do it. In other words, your robot works, just not as well as you would like.

I think about things this way. If you are contending for the national championship, how are you going to feel about yourself if you know that you violated a major rule to get there?

On the other hand, if you are making a change so that you can get up and running, I would be inclined to look the other way.

In our rookie season, we could have done lots of stuff after the ship date that would have let us be functional at competition. We strictly abided by the rules and spent all of our time in the pits trying to get a robot running. This does not serve anyone's interests (ours, the students, FIRSTs, other competitors).

On Raul's safety comments, I hope the entire FIRST community would say, make a change if it is a safety issue.

On your specific problem, if you buy an off-the-shelf lightened sprocket, you are withing the rules. If you buy a sprocket that you have the vendor lighten and bill the labor, you are technically fabricating after the ship date and it would be illegal.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 12:43 PM
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The Voice of Dissent

Go for it.

Foremost, I wouldn't consider lightening a new set of gears or sprockets to be altering their function. I wouldn't even say that changing ratios is altering function so much as it is altering performance. In my mind, that's okay.

There is no rule (yet) that prohibits making parts after the robot has shipped. I have reviewed the entirety of the rules as well as each team update. In fact, in the rules, there isn't even anything that say such parts must be identical spares.

Of course, in past years, fabrication had to cease on ship day. I think that many teams may be operating under the impression that this is the case this season.

However, upon further inspection, I found this on FIRST's message boards:

http://jive.ilearning.com/thread.jsp...073686970#4432

In that post, FIRST says that only identical spares may be made.

But, in a later thread (http://jive.ilearning.com/thread.jsp...073686970#4732) FIRST replied somewhat differently.

Does the newer response supercede the old one? In the case of all else that's happened on those message boards, it has. So, then, is it safe to assume that's true of this as well? It may become of matter of semantics.

Where I'm concerned, go ahead and make what changes you need to make. If FIRST, in a forthcoming update, says we should stop -- stop.

This discussion is of great interest to me. We have already planned a major retrofit for our design to make it more versatile and that retrofit requires new parts. We're hoping to build a prototype of it now, as there's no hope of finishing it before FIRST says to stop building parts, and then make a final version after our first regional -- keeping in line with rules from years past, as this years rules are something less than crystal clear.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 01:40 PM
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Re: The Voice of Dissent

Quote:
Originally posted by M. Krass
Go for it.

Foremost, I wouldn't consider lightening a new set of gears or sprockets to be altering their function. I wouldn't even say that changing ratios is altering function so much as it is altering performance. In my mind, that's okay.
Sorry, but I have to strongly disagree. I have spare parts that I wish to make lighter to make sure I have a margin of safety with making the 130 lb limit. But there is no way I feel right doing it until we get to the competition.

Quote:
If FIRST, in a forthcoming update, says we should stop -- stop.
If you fabricate spares now and FIRST says "stop", they will likely also make it illegal to use parts fabricated after shipping, not just parts fabricated after they say "stop".

Quote:
This discussion is of great interest to me. We have already planned a major retrofit for our design to make it more versatile and that retrofit requires new parts. We're hoping to build a prototype of it now, as there's no hope of finishing it before FIRST says to stop building parts, and then make a final version after our first regional -- keeping in line with rules from years past, as this years rules are something less than crystal clear.
If you create a new design and prototype it and then fabricate the same thing at the competition, then I would say you will be within the rules. But if you intend to install any parts made for the new design before the competition, that would be illegal.

Yes, of course the rules have not yet been releases by FIRST. But after 8 years of doing this, I think I can predict what the rule will be; it has not changed much in the past. The only differences in the past have been whether they allowed us to take the robot with us and ship in on Tuesday, versus shipping it on Saturday after each competition, also, whether or not new functionality could be fabricated until that Tuesday.

The new thing this year seems to be that they will allow identical spares to be fabricated at any time. I doubt FIRST will allow new designs to be fabricated between shipping and the first competition which would then be brought to the competition and installed on your robot. As in the past, they will require that new design/functionality be fabricated at the competition.

What I cannot predict is if they will allow us to fabricate new functionality between Saturday and Tuesday following any competition.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 01:58 PM
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Re: Re: The Voice of Dissent

Quote:
Originally posted by Raul
Sorry, but I have to strongly disagree. I have spare parts that I wish to make lighter to make sure I have a margin of safety with making the 130 lb limit. But there is no way I feel right doing it until we get to the competition.
Well, where I'm concerned, it really depends on how FIRST decides to treat the future team update that will, hopefully, clarify all of these rules. As things stand, though, I still don't think that there's anything wrong with; assuming, of course, that you're operating under the assumption that there exists no rule that prohibits doing that, and that the latest post by FIRST on the message board is the most accurate. Under those assumptions, I don't believe it to be illegal. Any other conditions would have to be examined as the situation arises.


Quote:
If you fabricate spares now and FIRST says "stop", they will likely also make it illegal to use parts fabricated after shipping, not just parts fabricated after they say "stop".
Given FIRST's history of appreciating the time and resources teams expend on their robots, it's my suspicion that anything manufactured before FIRST's clarification, identical spare part or otherwise (as per my question regarding FIRST's resonses on the official message board) would be grandfathered in. Just as the tether-type mechanisms were allowed at last year's competition due to many teams having spent many resources on them, I expect something similar would happen. For FIRST to say, at this juncture, that parts made within the rules as they exist now, especially after shipping, seems somewhat akin to changing the weight limit to 110 lbs. at this late juncture.

Of course, I understand that this isn't black and white where, perhaps, it should be. I really respect your insight, Raul.

Quote:
If you create a new design and prototype it and then fabricate the same thing at the competition, then I would say you will be within the rules. But if you intend to install any parts made for the new design before the competition, that would be illegal.
If FIRST makes any ruling that prohibits our team from using parts fabricated after our robot shipped, we will not use anything at all from our prototype at the competitions. Instead, we're expecting that, like years passed, we will be allowed until Tuesday or Wednesday following the regional to make necessary changes and adjustments to our robot. We will use that time to refabricate those components and bring them along to our second regional. As such, provided FIRST does ask us to stop making new parts, the only time you'll see that retrofit at our first regional event will be as we test it - off the field.

Quote:
Yes, of course the rules have not yet been releases by FIRST. But after 8 years of doing this, I think I can predict what the rule will be; it has not changed much in the past. The only differences in the past have been whether they allowed us to take the robot with us and ship in on Tuesday, versus shipping it on Saturday after each competition, also, whether or not new functionality could be fabricated until that Tuesday.
While I don't yet have 8 years of experience (though, I'm getting there), and I respect that the rule has been quite the same for the past few years, FIRST's dragging of their feet seems to me that, perhaps, there are changes in the works. Perhaps not, but I can't think of any reasons why they would be waiting quite so long to make these clarifications, especially if it's just to be a rehash of existing rules. Time will tell, I guess.

My philosophy has been to follow the rules as they exist at that moment (or don't exist, as the case may be), and make changes to suit the rules should they change. I don't think there's anything the least bit unethical about that.
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Unread 03-02-2003, 06:10 PM
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Quote:
The only differences in the past have been whether they allowed us to take the robot with us and ship in on Tuesday, versus shipping it on Saturday after each competition,
I think the admin section says you have to direct ship your robot between regionals/nationals. That might change, of course.

{What do you mean, change? FIRST has never changed a rule after it has stated it in print!}
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Unread 03-02-2003, 06:41 PM
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Team update #20 was due out 4 days ago, in it, FIRST was expected to clarify exactly what *is* legal and what isn't.

There are some interesting new rules this year, such as not requiring you to ship the human operator interface with the robot, and encouraging you to keep working on the firmware of the robot (for the autonomous mode functionality). Granted, the EduBot kit isn't a good substitute, but hey, it's better than nothing. So I don't know if they may relax the ruling on spare parts or not.

My interpretation is that *functionally identical spare parts* are okay. Changing gearing ratios wouldn't be functionally identical, but I don't think drilling lightening holes are a problem. That, and with so much vested in this competition, are you willing to risk that the machine shop at the regional has the facility to repair / modify your parts? I am a shopmaster in the support shop for the PNW regional, and god, I wouldn't count on getting things welded in our shop. (We don't have enough skilled welders to handle the welding). So, if it's just a few lightening holes, go for it.

I think a gear ratio hack is somewhat of a gray area. But then again, most teams push what they can get away with in the gray area. Remember all the teams who "took the risk" with the entanglement rule last year, with the tether devices?

I *do* have a problem with teams building completely new subsystems after they ship the robot. All those teams that copied the teather designs last year between regionals and nationals. Somehow I don't think they were built within the competition allowed time frame.

I have the most problem with teams that cheat to get in. I know of one team which removed half of their robot for weight-in last year. I also know of a team "captain" who, knowing that her team's robot is grossly overweight, advocated taking off the drivetrain off the robot instead of trying to do the proper weight reduction. Now *that* is plain uncool.

After all that's said and done - it comes down to one question: How much are you willing to bend the rules? You have to weight personal integrity with the expected benifits, and I guess most people make a compromise somewhere. (Just like engineering, huh?). I hope *most* of us are leaning closer to the legit side than the cheating side - and the ethnical thing is often the hardest thing to do.

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Unread 03-02-2003, 07:21 PM
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Re: Re: Re: The Voice of Dissent

Quote:
While I don't yet have 8 years of experience (though, I'm getting there), and I respect that the rule has been quite the same for the past few years, FIRST's dragging of their feet seems to me that, perhaps, there are changes in the works. Perhaps not, but I can't think of any reasons why they would be waiting quite so long to make these clarifications, especially if it's just to be a rehash of existing rules. Time will tell, I guess.

My philosophy has been to follow the rules as they exist at that moment (or don't exist, as the case may be), and make changes to suit the rules should they change. I don't think there's anything the least bit unethical about that.
M.Krass (I wish I knew your first name), I respect your opinion and from your post, I believe that you are sincere in your approach to the rules and will do what is right. I am mostly concerned about rookie teams reading these posts and not getting a clear understanding and hearing the otrher side of how it could go. So, I was not really trying to lecture you as much as I was trying to make sure unexperienced teams think about it carefully, understand the rules and do what is fair.

I am going to go a little off topic here:
Concerning the new inspection and policing rule, I am concerned about malicious use or abuse of the system to anonymously blow the whistle on other teams when they are in violation. I hope I am wrong about this and GP wins out. But the potential exists that some disgruntled people, who are not mature enough to handle losing, will go on a "witch hunt" to blow the whistle on a team they do not like. I hope FIRST regulates who can turn in a rules violation complaint. If they do not regulate it, we could be in for a long and unpleasant experience. Again, I really hope I am wrong about this.
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Time for new rules! archiver 2001 11 06-24-2002 01:01 AM


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