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  #136   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-24-2012, 12:49 AM
BigBlueTruck BigBlueTruck is offline
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Exclamation Re: 2012 New York City Regional

To all involved. Thus far, I have remained silent, sitting on the sidelines, watching this saga unfold. Sadly, this has turned into a true quagmire. They say, to every story there are two sides. Following the preceding postings, one would believe there are about 10 sides here. In any case, my purpose with this posting is to simply state facts, in the order in which the events unfolded. The team had made a conscious decision, to use an outboard air compressor, prior to each match to pre-pressurize the large air tank on the robot. Following PRESCEDENT, this procedure, has been very common in past competitions. As we are a small team with limited resources, we were unaware of the rules regarding outboard air compressors. Precedent was our guide. The robot was constructed, and a male “Lincoln” air fitting was installed, to allow quick and easy connection to the outboard air compressor. The decision to use an outboard unit, was made not to give the team an advantage on the field, but rather to preserve the small viair compressor. Going into competition, we were not aware that we were breaking any rules. As for safety, we did not see any trouble, as the large compressor has a regulator, as well as the prescribed 120PSI pop off valve on the robot. The pop off valve on the robot makes it virtually impossible to pressurize the primary side of the pneumatic system beyond the legal 120PSI. Furthering our belief that our system was legal, our robot passed inspection prior to competing. During the course of inspection, the robot inspector noticed the male “Lincoln” quick connect, and asked why we had it on the machine. I showed him the coil air line, and the large outboard compressor, and explained why we chose to use it. The response was positive, “ahh now I understand” “good idea” he said. At this point, it is understandable, why we had no inkling that we were breaking any rules. All was fine, until the quarter-finals, and this is where things went awry.
Initially, we brought several hand tools and the outboard compressor to the arena area, in preparation for the matches. After the first or second quarter-final match (I am not certain which), one of my adult team members, was approached by a very hostile sounding lead robot inspector Bill Tompkins. We were instructed to remove the compressor from the arena, and that it was illegal, to purge the system and that we must use the onboard compressor, to fill our tank. We immediately did ALL of the above, in the presence of Mr. Tompkins. Still, unaware of the actual rules, we were eager to comply, rather than jeopardize our stake in the finals. At that point, we followed what we considered to be “due diligence”, and removed the now disconnected external compressor to the pit area. (One must bear in mind, that this regional was taking place in the heart of New York City. There is no parking area nearby, our vehicles were a great distance away, and would have entailed a high monetary cost, to access the vehicles to load the compressor. By virtue of its location, the convenience factor in NYC, is low).
Lead robot inspector Tompkins, continued to harass the team, even though the offending compressor, was no longer anywhere near the robot, or playing field, where the robot had to remain for the duration of the final matches. When he got no satisfaction from the head referee, he continued on to the FTA, and beyond. It was evident at that point, that there was some determination here beyond the responsible discharge of his inspection duties. When he was unable to have the team disqualified for the air compressor, he directed his efforts toward our air tank. He demanded to see our BOM and the specifications on the COTS air tank we had chosen. We provided him, with the requested material, and showed that this was a standard tank, available from McMaster Carr.
Consequently, it was at that time, that I became aware of Mr. Tompkins affiliation with Cold Fusion, team #1279. As an aside, I cannot fathom, how a member of a team, may serve as a lead inspector at a regional, where his team is is a party with interest. This would appear as a potential “conflict of interest”. It was also evident by his actions that Mr. Tompkins was acting as an instigator, going from one official to another, looking for an audience.
Perhaps the most disturbing action, occurred after the matches concluded. Upon returning to our pit, to put away several tools, I found Mr. Tompkins with his cell phone camera, photographing the stored compressor. When my presence became known, he wheeled around; half surprised stating “I have photographic proof now ““You were told to remove this compressor from the arena”. When I attempted to explain that the pit was not the arena, and that we did “due diligence” to remove the offending compressor from the arena, He began to accuse me of lying to him twice, and that he did not like to be lied to. He also stated “ I just want you to know that your team CHEATED” “Now enjoy your win” This was unsettling, and egregious, as it is not only a question of my personal integrity, but of the integrity of the team as a whole.
Needless to say, the following five matches were played without use of the external compressor. All system air was supplied by F.I.R.S.T.’s specifications for onboard air. Not surprisingly, it had no effect on the performance of the robot, and therefore was proven NOT to have been a factor in the success of the robot.
I hope the preceding information, should give a clearer picture of what actually transpired, and possibly raise some very good questions, as to the driving force, behind the “smear” tactics that have been used against team 522.
  #137   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-24-2012, 01:21 AM
Lil' Lavery Lil' Lavery is offline
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
Following PRESCEDENT, this procedure, has been very common in past competitions. As we are a small team with limited resources, we were unaware of the rules regarding outboard air compressors.
So, because you're a "small team with limited resources" you don't read the rules?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
The decision to use an outboard unit, was made not to give the team an advantage on the field, but rather to preserve the small viair compressor.
Preservation of vital robot components doesn't give you an advantage on the field?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
Consequently, it was at that time, that I became aware of Mr. Tompkins affiliation with Cold Fusion, team #1279. As an aside, I cannot fathom, how a member of a team, may serve as a lead inspector at a regional, where his team is is a party with interest. This would appear as a potential “conflict of interest”. It was also evident by his actions that Mr. Tompkins was acting as an instigator, going from one official to another, looking for an audience.
And how is this any better than the "smear" tactics being used against your team?
Additionally, many key volunteers (including lead robot inspector, head ref, and FTA) often have affiliations with teams competing at events. I have yet to encounter any perceivable bias from them in my vantage point over the ten years I have been competing in FRC.
  #138   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-24-2012, 01:57 AM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

You know, there is one problem with using precedent as your guide in any FRC competition.

Every single rule may be rewritten either completely or partially every single year. Just because it was legal last year does not mean that it is legal this year. (And if something is illegal and slips through the cracks at one event, you can't assume it'll fly at another event where the inspectors may have sharper eyes or a better understanding of the rules or an update addressing some interpretations of rules.)

The moment that you assume something is legal because it was legal in a past year is the moment that you need to look very carefully at the current rules that could govern that particular item's legality.



Could the situation have been handled better? Yep. I can tell that just by the amount of barbed comments in this thread. Is all this complaining/personal attacks/outcry going to do anything? Uh, I don't think so! Particularly not this year; maybe for next year. (I don't count making unfriends as doing anything.)
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  #139   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-24-2012, 02:06 AM
Megalodons333 Megalodons333 is offline
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

I personally didn't want to get involved in the negativity of this thread. While not trying to accuse anyone of cheating or unlawfully winning I just have to say the only thing i'm displeased with is the lack of knowledge of the rule.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
As we are a small team with limited resources, we were unaware of the rules regarding outboard air compressors.
Many teams in this competition are in fact fairly small with limited resources. However the rule book was given freely to everyone and accessing it was as simple as being able to go on their site.

Although the addition of the air compressor proved to have no effect on the outcome of the matches, to blame it on ones magnitude of resources seems highly irrelevant seeing how everybody had access to the rule book. To that degree at least everyone had the same resources.

I completely understand that you didn't mean to violate any league rules, yet I can't say I understand how a team was so unprepared in not being able to catch up on the simplest aspect of the game.

With all that being said i truly apologize on all this going on yet at the same time respect everyone's opinion, and will continue to have an open mind as I read on.
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Unread 03-24-2012, 03:37 AM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
The team had made a conscious decision, to use an outboard air compressor, prior to each match to pre-pressurize the large air tank on the robot. Following PRESCEDENT, this procedure, has been very common in past competitions. As we are a small team with limited resources, we were unaware of the rules regarding outboard air compressors. Precedent was our guide.
I think it's fair to say that your team erred in doing this. You're responsible for being aware of the current rules.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
As for safety, we did not see any trouble, as the large compressor has a regulator, as well as the prescribed 120PSI pop off valve on the robot. The pop off valve on the robot makes it virtually impossible to pressurize the primary side of the pneumatic system beyond the legal 120PSI.
Your system doesn't sound unsafe per se.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
Furthering our belief that our system was legal, our robot passed inspection prior to competing. During the course of inspection, the robot inspector noticed the male “Lincoln” quick connect, and asked why we had it on the machine. I showed him the coil air line, and the large outboard compressor, and explained why we chose to use it. The response was positive, “ahh now I understand” “good idea” he said.
And that was an inspector making a mistake.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
We were instructed to remove the compressor from the arena, and that it was illegal, to purge the system and that we must use the onboard compressor, to fill our tank. We immediately did ALL of the above, in the presence of Mr. Tompkins. Still, unaware of the actual rules, we were eager to comply, rather than jeopardize our stake in the finals. At that point, we followed what we considered to be “due diligence”, and removed the now disconnected external compressor to the pit area.
Purging and only using the robot's own compressor for the remainder of the event was the right thing to do. As far as I read above, this solved your robot's legality problem, without forcing the officials to penalize you.

As for the compressor, it's not a benchtop tool, but I don't know that I'd call it a "[f]loor standing power tool" either. The latter are prohibited by FIRST and must be removed, but only as a venue rule—noncompliance does not directly jeopardize your participation in matches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
Lead robot inspector Tompkins, continued to harass the team, even though the offending compressor, was no longer anywhere near the robot, or playing field, where the robot had to remain for the duration of the final matches. When he got no satisfaction from the head referee, he continued on to the FTA, and beyond. It was evident at that point, that there was some determination here beyond the responsible discharge of his inspection duties. When he was unable to have the team disqualified for the air compressor, he directed his efforts toward our air tank. He demanded to see our BOM and the specifications on the COTS air tank we had chosen. We provided him, with the requested material, and showed that this was a standard tank, available from McMaster Carr.
I hope we can hear his perspective on whether this account is accurate. And despite his alleged motivations, the verification of the air tank is within his authority—and you seem to have handled it gracefully by providing documentation upon request.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
Consequently, it was at that time, that I became aware of Mr. Tompkins affiliation with Cold Fusion, team #1279. As an aside, I cannot fathom, how a member of a team, may serve as a lead inspector at a regional, where his team is is a party with interest. This would appear as a potential “conflict of interest”. It was also evident by his actions that Mr. Tompkins was acting as an instigator, going from one official to another, looking for an audience.
It happens all the time. In fact, I've done it many times, as have many other inspectors at many events.

There are a few protocols in place. Firstly, key volunteers disclose their team affiliations and conflicts of interest to FIRST. They are required to commit to impartiality. Then, among inspectors, it is common (but not specifically mandated, last I checked) for a lead inspector with a conflict to designate an alternate inspector to handle matters relating to that team. That alternate is typically another well-qualified inspector, who would be comfortable making tough rulings against the LRI's own team, if necessary.1

In this case, apparently the LRI was involved with an opposing team. I wouldn't generally consider that a conflict of interest, because there's a degree of separation between his ruling about your robot, and whatever effect it might have on his team.

1 In fact, my designated alternate has made tough calls against my own team before, and I'm at peace with those rulings. That's the system working, because to any observer, there's no question that I stayed out of it, and thus did not manipulate the proceedings to my team's advantage.
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Unread 03-24-2012, 02:02 PM
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DonRotolo DonRotolo is offline
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
As we are a small team with limited resources, we were unaware of the rules regarding outboard air compressors.
That is no excuse. In fact, it paints your team in a negative light.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBlueTruck View Post
As an aside, I cannot fathom, how a member of a team, may serve as a lead inspector at a regional, where his team is is a party with interest. This would appear as a potential “conflict of interest”.
We, the volunteers who keep competitions viable, graciously invite you to volunteer as a robot inspector (or in another capacity) at any event where your team is not competing. By doing this, you will help eliminate the need for any "conflict of interest". At the moment, there are simply not enough of us to go around.

Listen, what is done is done. The team made an honest mistake, I truly believe that there was no intentional breaking of any rules.

Please use this as a teachable moment for the team
, students and mentors alike. Next time, make sure the rules are known and understood. The team might have a cloud over it for the moment, but a team as experienced and professional as yours will take this opportunity to grow into an even more awesome team, dissipating that cloud quickly.

Nobody likes their mistakes being thrown in their face. It is painful, I know from experience. Although my intent is to avoid any pain and any further pain, on behalf of everyone who may have caused offense I apologize for all excessive aggression towards anyone on the team.

While following the rules is very GP, so is the conscious avoidance of roasting someone who makes a mistake (other posters take note)

Don
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  #142   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 03-24-2012, 04:57 PM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

I am closing this thread for now and will re-open it tomorrow. Let's take some time to cool off.
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Unread 03-26-2012, 10:31 AM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

I am opening this thread with the hope that everyone involved has had some time to reflect and speak constructively.
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Unread 03-26-2012, 11:12 AM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

My belief is that it should remain closed forever, since personal attacks and accusations of collusion with FIRST volunteers have been brought into the thread.

Thanks for monitoring, Bharat.
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Unread 03-26-2012, 12:21 PM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

ASME article on the NYC Regional is posted at:
http://www.asme.org/kb/news---articl...ss-to-robotics
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Unread 03-26-2012, 09:36 PM
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Re: 2012 New York City Regional

No need to dwell on the past when we can learn from our mistakes and move on. What's done is done.
That being said, team 1230 and I had an amazing time at the NYC Regional and we wish the teams competing at other regionals the best of luck! We look forward to seeing teams competing at the Long Island Regional!
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