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  #196   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 04-04-2017, 03:43 PM
MrRoboSteve MrRoboSteve is offline
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by marshall View Post
We are really still in the early days of embedded systems (Some engineer is going to argue that's not the case but trust me, it is). We are only now starting to look at file systems that can't get corrupted when systems suffer from sudden power loss.

The two big reasons to run these things off of an auxiliary power source are that they are no longer subject to the sudden fluctuations from the robot power supply and that they can retain their power for a bit longer after the robot has been turned off to allow them to detect the power loss and then shut down cleanly.
Embedded UNIX and Windows systems have had to deal with random power failures for a long time. There's a set of techniques that can get you a reliable system, but they're not enabled by default because they impact performance:

. mount your boot filesystem readonly
. buffer data on a ramdisk, and periodically sync to your r/w filesystem
. use a very fast flash drive (typically external) for your r/w filesystem, to minimize the time the filesystem is in an inconsistent state
. disable write buffering
. with ext4, use data=journal
. tolerate non-availability of your r/w filesystem

If there's a total power failure on the robot, you still lose the last bit of data, but the positive is that you will boot cleanly on each startup.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 03:47 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by Jon Stratis View Post
Good luck getting that requirement past the Volunteer Coordinators. They already have enough trouble getting volunteers to fill all the roles at every event (and I know events have been run short staffed because of that), requiring them to start evaluating resume's when staffing different positions would be ridiculous. If, instead, you relied on people checking a box saying "I feel comfortable inspecting custom circuits", you'll still get wildly different results and be no better than we are today.
My intention isn't that every inspector should have expertise, but that there should be someone capable of looking at custom wiring and being able to figure out if it will explode. We don't need inspectors who can give you ways to optimize it. The horror story about the inspector who claimed a 35V capacitor is illegal is specifically what comes to my mind. This basically would be nullified if Lil' Lavery's suggestion come to fruition.

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Originally Posted by Lil' Lavery View Post
finding a FRC-specific vendor to create a product to explicitly interface with typical COTS custom circuits as a power supply/regulator in legal fashion.

Hey there CTR-E, Rev, Cooler Master, etc. You guys listening?
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Unread 04-04-2017, 03:52 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by Philip Arola View Post
My intention isn't that every inspector should have expertise, but that there should be someone capable of looking at custom wiring and being able to figure out if it will explode. We don't need inspectors who can give you ways to optimize it. The horror story about the inspector who claimed a 35V capacitor is illegal is specifically what comes to my mind. This basically would be nullified if Lil' Lavery's suggestion come to fruition.
Suppose there's no one who volunteers for the robot inspector position who has that expertise. What are you suggesting in that scenario?
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:01 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by MrRoboSteve View Post
Suppose there's no one who volunteers for the robot inspector position who has that expertise. What are you suggesting in that scenario?
Are you making me defend the idea that inspectors should ideally have engineering knowledge? Events should not be outright cancelled otherwise, but don't pretend that more knowledgeable staff is a bad idea.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:04 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by Philip Arola View Post
What is becoming plain to me is that there needs to be at least one RI who is an electrical engineer, or at least can perform circuit analysis. It is going to be insanely tricky for FIRST to come up with some sort of comprehensive checklist of what makes a circuit safe. If they can do so I welcome it, but just having RIs who can do it themselves seems to be the best solution.
I would respectfully disagree. It is not realistic to demand that all events have a RI whom is a qualified EE, with relevant experience, available. Even with such an EE it still would take them a significant amount of time to work through and verify a CUSTOM CIRCUIT. I am an EE, and I know that I would have a hard time ruling on the legality of many CUSTOM CIRCUITs based on the existing rules. I would also point out that even the RIs and LRIs that have posted in this thread have fairly significantly differing viewpoints on the legality and implementation of a supercap battery, mainly due to how they are interpreting the existing rules.

It is realistic to have a checklist of items for a knowledgeable RI (ie someone who has been trained to ask the right questions) to work through. Yes they may have to take the teams word for it, for the answers to some of the questions, but that is the reality today. No one is verifying all the wiring, all the components, all the interconnections, they just looking at the main building blocks and looking for issues. It is reasonable when in doubt to demand that the team prove compliance with the rules, as long as there are rules for them to follow.

With said additional rules, we would have clearer specifications as to what was legal, and the inspectors would have a greater ability to inspect against them.

Another issue that is getting lost here, is the reason we do all this. We are encouraging and promoting STEM, disguised as a robot contest, while imposing various restrictions to somewhat level the playing field. These resulting robots need to be somewhat safe so that no one gets hurt, but we are using them in a very restricted environment, not building consumer products. Why would we want to stifle creative problem solving? Cheap single board computers and sensors are enabling all sorts of amazing solutions to the game's challenges, at a price the is within the reach of all teams. Lets do all that we can to enable this.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:08 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by bjtheone View Post
I would respectfully disagree. It is not realistic to demand that all events have a RI whom is a qualified EE, with relevant experience, available. Even with such an EE it still would take them a significant amount of time to work through and verify a CUSTOM CIRCUIT. I am an EE, and I know that I would have a hard time ruling on the legality of many CUSTOM CIRCUITs based on the existing rules. I would also point out that even the RIs and LRIs that have posted in this thread have fairly significantly differing viewpoints on the legality and implementation of a supercap battery, mainly due to how they are interpreting the existing rules.

It is realistic to have a checklist of items for a knowledgeable RI (ie someone who has been trained to ask the right questions) to work through. Yes they may have to take the teams word for it, for the answers to some of the questions, but that is the reality today. No one is verifying all the wiring, all the components, all the interconnections, they just looking at the main building blocks and looking for issues. It is reasonable when in doubt to demand that the team prove compliance with the rules, as long as there are rules for them to follow.

With said additional rules, we would have clearer specifications as to what was legal, and the inspectors would have a greater ability to inspect against them.

Another issue that is getting lost here, is the reason we do all this. We are encouraging and promoting STEM, disguised as a robot contest, while imposing various restrictions to somewhat level the playing field. These resulting robots need to be somewhat safe so that no one gets hurt, but we are using them in a very restricted environment, not building consumer products. Why would we want to stifle creative problem solving? Cheap single board computers and sensors are enabling all sorts of amazing solutions to the game's challenges, at a price the is within the reach of all teams. Lets do all that we can to enable this.
If you've read my responses since, then you would notice that I took the care to mention that EEs aren't necessary. Even for an EE, comprehensive analysis is time-consuming, that is fact. But I didn't say that comprehensive analysis is necessary. You and others seem to be making assumptions about my post which are simply untrue.
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  #202   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 04-04-2017, 04:16 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by Philip Arola View Post
Are you making me defend the idea that inspectors should ideally have engineering knowledge? Events should not be outright cancelled otherwise, but don't pretend that more knowledgeable staff is a bad idea.
More knowledgeable staff is what every event strives for. That doesn't stop it from being staffed almost entirely by volunteers. There are many different branches of engineering, and people specializing in one branch often have little or no knowledge in others. Even within different branches, specialization can give you two people with widely different knowledge bases. I know EE's that haven't done anything with circuit design since college. I know CE's that haven't written a line of code in years. I know ME's that couldn't make heads or tails of a pneumatic system.

The question still remains... how do you ensure you get that sort of coverage for the different knowledge areas when you're dealing with unpaid volunteers?
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  #203   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 04-04-2017, 04:19 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by Jon Stratis View Post
More knowledgeable staff is what every event strives for. That doesn't stop it from being staffed almost entirely by volunteers. There are many different branches of engineering, and people specializing in one branch often have little or no knowledge in others. Even within different branches, specialization can give you two people with widely different knowledge bases. I know EE's that haven't done anything with circuit design since college. I know CE's that haven't written a line of code in years. I know ME's that couldn't make heads or tails of a pneumatic system.

The question still remains... how do you ensure you get that sort of coverage for the different knowledge areas when you're dealing with unpaid volunteers?
This is a broader question that in no way is a unique problem with my proposal, by your own admission.
At no point did I say that events shouldn't be held without an EE as an inspector, which is apparently how the message was received. If I need to better define my message, it is thus: that inspectors with EE credentials are becoming more important.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:22 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

Anyone else think that teams have a strong incentive not to violate the rules and catching their own robot on fire? I mean, that's a pretty big reason to make sure you get it right.

Again, "enable and inform" is the magic phrase... or something like that.

Whatever, I hope we get Al as the LRI for our division in Houston.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:34 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Anyone else think that teams have a strong incentive not to violate the rules and catching their own robot on fire?
I personally prefer when my robot is on fire. It's nice and warm that way.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:38 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Whatever, I hope we get Al as the LRI for our division in Houston.
I don't think Al has had his own division for a couple of years (I know he didn't last year). Instead, he bounces around and helps handle issues with the more creative teams across the whole event. I know it was a big deal among the division LRI's when Al stopped having his own division - It was always fun to be able to say your division "beat" Al's division and finished inspections first
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:40 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Anyone else think that teams have a strong incentive not to violate the rules and catching their own robot on fire? I mean, that's a pretty big reason to make sure you get it right.
Fire on the field has happened twice in the last two years that I know of. Both electrical and not to my knowledge involving super capacitors. The pool of robot inspectors isn't likely to change significantly in the next few years. If you or doing something unusual or pushing the envelope, be prepared to explain it and how it fits into the rules. While I don't speak for Marshal, I suspect that is what the Zebras do.

I should add my preference is to always say that is really cool. Have fun. Be safe. Rather than that against the rules, and you need to change it.
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:41 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Originally Posted by marshall View Post
Anyone else think that teams have a strong incentive not to violate the rules and catching their own robot on fire? I mean, that's a pretty big reason to make sure you get it right.

Again, "enable and inform" is the magic phrase... or something like that.

Whatever, I hope we get Al as the LRI for our division in Houston.
I don't think the concern is teams deliberately making dangerous robots, so much as teams unintentionally doing so..
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Unread 04-04-2017, 04:46 PM
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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If you or doing something unusual or pushing the envelope, be prepared to explain it and how it fits into the rules. While I don't speak for Marshal, I suspect that is what the Zebras do.
My favorite phrase when we think we've found a hole in the rules is "now pretend I've told you this isn't legal and prove to me that it is".

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I don't think the concern is teams deliberately making dangerous robots, so much as teams unintentionally doing so..
Every robot has the potential to be unintentionally dangerous. Just enable it in auto without telling anyone around it.
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Re: Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

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Anyone else think that teams have a strong incentive not to violate the rules and catching their own robot on fire? I mean, that's a pretty big reason to make sure you get it right.
I wanted to address this separately... Yes, they have a strong incentive. But there's such a huge difference in the knowledge and experience between teams. Just aside from the fact that you have rookie teams (or teams that had everyone graduate and are practically rookies again), you have a huge difference in mentorship between teams, and the knowledge that the mentors bring. Just wanting to keep your robot from catching on fire really isn't enough to keep teams from trying something because "we found a blog post describing it from team XXX from Einstein last year and it sounded really cool".

Seriously Marshall, you should give inspecting a try. Stick your head in a few dozen robots, see the things we have to tell teams to fix at every event, and you might be surprised Heck, just this year alone I've pulled out my copy of the rules at least 3 times while talking to teams and said "Make it look like this", while pointing to pictures in there (twice for the basic pneumatics diagram, once for the basic main power diagram).
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