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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:03 PM
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Inspection Stories

There was a 2012 thread for this, but I didn't want to necro-post it.

As inspectors, our goal is to get all teams on the field with a legal robot that meets the rules. Sometimes, this requires herculean efforts by the inspection team and the valued and experienced mentors and students that will work with another team's robot with no notice, to make sure everyone gets a chance to compete.

Inspectors, what are the crazy things you've dealt with at events? Please share your "war stories" below.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:36 PM
Andy A. Andy A. is offline
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Re: Inspection Stories

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Originally Posted by engunneer View Post
Inspectors, what are the crazy things you've dealt with at events? Please share your "war stories" below.
At one event I inspected a first or second year team. We were blowing through the inspection on a really nice 'bot till we came to a linear actuator mechanism they bought off the shelf. They had a catalog page showing it was available online and met all the accounting rules. Looked like this was no sweat. I asked to see which motor they had powering it.

Team member: Oh, one of those black ones.

Me: Oh, a CIM? can I see it?

TM: Uh, well, it's all sealed up in the device and kind of hard to get to. It looks just like that motor from the kit, though.

Me: Does it look like the motor or is it the motor? Does it have any of these part numbers on it?

TM: It's the one that came in the thing. Its from the same motor manufacture and looks like its the right size, so it's close enough, right?

Me: ...

What ensued was a long meeting with the LRI, me and the team. I don't know what the final call was. we were behind on inspections so I went to look at other teams. They did eventually passed inspection, but I never figured out if they swapped in a legal motor, if the one in the device turned out to be genuinely legal or if the LRI just let it go. It did look legal...

Besides that, I think 98% of inspection issues have been about bumpers. No one likes hearing about bumpers not passing, so I'll save those stories.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:36 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

2013 our team used copper tube from the compressor to reduce the chance of heat affecting the vinyl tubing. After the first 6 inches or 1st fitting we used the vinyl. We passed inspection initially then our inspection was revoked. The head person of the event (not inspector) said it was illegal. Could not cite a section in the rule book as to why since it was the proper size and was not unsafe. They made us change it. We changed it and then saw two more robots with the same setup who also passe inspection. They made them change it after we mentioned the other teams. We felt bad pointing out the others but felt it was wrong that we had to change something that was perfectly safe and not illegal in the rules book.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:42 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

My inspection war stories are coming from a team mentor's perspective, wondering why the inspection takes over an hour when the robot is 100% legal, beautifully wired, and passed at its prior event. Some inspectors just want to chit chat, and others are not familiar with common FRC parts. And then there was the one that had an issue with our bumper pins not being robust enough. After my students refused to change it, and called over the head inspector, lifted the robot by its bumpers, then swiftly kicked it in the side, we were finally passed on it.

They really need to stop hassling 15+ year veteran teams who know what they are doing, and focus on the rookies who need the help.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:44 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

Last year I had to inform a 2nd year team that they had to rewire all of their 40 amp circuits because they were all done with 14 AWG wire. It killed me to do it. Much of their wiring was inaccessible, but the kids took it in stride and had it done 5 minutes before pits closed that night.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:53 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by sanddrag View Post
My inspection war stories are coming from a team mentor's perspective, wondering why the inspection takes over an hour when the robot is 100% legal, beautifully wired, and passed at its prior event. Some inspectors just want to chit chat, and others are not familiar with common FRC parts. And then there was the one that had an issue with our bumper pins not being robust enough. After my students refused to change it, and called over the head inspector, lifted the robot by its bumpers, then swiftly kicked it in the side, we were finally passed on it.

They really need to stop hassling 15+ year veteran teams who know what they are doing, and focus on the rookies who need the help.
As a long time firster, this frustrates me sometimes as well. I've trained a few inspectors on the job, which is not the right time to do it, but it's better than not having them. One of the reasons I inspect is because I like having experienced inspectors, (the other main reason is that I like working with many teams all in one weekend, and the challenge of helping them solve issues on the spot).

However, veteran team status does not equal "always complies with all rules". Team leadership changes, both on the student and mentor side. I've called teams with three digit numbers on (admittedly small, yet important nonetheless) items. I've had teams recently in the high 1000s with illegal motors or fans, and teams with low 4000s numbers with massive frame issues.

Lastly, passing at a prior event is not evidence of passing at this event. Lots of things can happen in the 6 hour rush of unbag time (for district events), and sometimes inspectors just miss things.

EDIT to say that all LRIs would be happy to welcome experienced mentors to help, even if it's only for a few hours during unbag/initial inspection.
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Last edited by engunneer : 01-24-2017 at 02:59 PM.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 02:57 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy A. View Post
They did eventually passed inspection, but I never figured out if they swapped in a legal motor, if the one in the device turned out to be genuinely legal or if the LRI just let it go. It did look legal...
I'm reasonably certain that I inspected that same team at a later event. They had managed to pass at a previous event with a wacky linear actuator that had an integrated motor. It was not clear if they had disabled it at the previous event, but the team seemed to expect they could use it. I asked them to remove it entirely and find a different way to do the same job, but I think now it should have been ok to let them keep it as a structural member of the robot as long as the wires were never plugged in to anything (though i think an unplugged illegal motor still counts as a motor)
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:00 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

From a team's perspective: My sophomore year of high school our robot was made out of steel. At CVR that year (the first year the event took place, 2012), we got 95% of the way through inspection until one of the inspectors noticed that our frame had current going through it. We looked through the entire robot's electronics, and nothing was contacting the frame. Every piece was isolated. We took apart and rerouted all of our electronics, several inspectors had come by and tried their hand at it, even some of the control systems people from other teams tried their hand at it. It all looked perfectly okay, but the frame still had a charge. They eventually passed us telling us to keep an eye out and the robot worked normally the rest of the event.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:00 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by sanddrag View Post
They really need to stop hassling 15+ year veteran teams who know what they are doing, and focus on the rookies who need the help.
A couple of years back I had to "hassle" Wildstang (a 25 year old team now!) because of their BOM. They had missed something, and when its cost was added they were over the limit. They had other stuff on the BOM that never actually made it onto the robot, so they were able to get it fixed fairly easily... but it was still something wrong that needed fixing.

15 year old teams aren't immune to making mistakes, sorry to tell you. They also aren't immune to turnover - losing one or two key people can send you from being division finalists at champs one year to ranking in the bottom half at both of your regionals the next, with a robot that barely works. I've seen it happen.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:07 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

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Originally Posted by Jon Stratis View Post
A couple of years back I had to "hassle" Wildstang (a 25 year old team now!) because of their BOM. They had missed something, and when its cost was added they were over the limit. They had other stuff on the BOM that never actually made it onto the robot, so they were able to get it fixed fairly easily... but it was still something wrong that needed fixing.

15 year old teams aren't immune to making mistakes, sorry to tell you. They also aren't immune to turnover - losing one or two key people can send you from being division finalists at champs one year to ranking in the bottom half at both of your regionals the next, with a robot that barely works. I've seen it happen.
I understand both sides of this equation here as both an inspector and a dude on a team. I don't think sanddrag is talking about legitimate mistakes or rules violations. He's more referring to sometimes, some inspectors seem to give greater scrutiny to teams who look like they know what they are doing than other teams. Or the inspector seems to have this notion that the inspection should take a certain amount of time, so they look for things to prod at and question when there isn't actually anything wrong. Both of these are rare occurrences for me and if they have ever happened were quickly fixed by asking the LRI for clarification, but I understand where he's coming from here.

It's all part of, as a volunteer, putting the team experience at events as the top priority, and treating teams fairly while assuming good faith. Just something we all have to keep in mind when inspecting (and I'm sure the vast majority of inspectors do!).
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:14 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

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Originally Posted by Chris is me View Post
It's all part of, as a volunteer, putting the team experience at events as the top priority, and treating teams fairly while assuming good faith. Just something we all have to keep in mind when inspecting (and I'm sure the vast majority of inspectors do!).
I should add... Almost every year since I've become an LRI I've made sure there was something I failed to tell me team they needed to fix before bagging the robot. Basically, I try leave something there for the inspector to find so my team gets that same experience as every other team. Nothing major, nothing that gives them a competitive advantage or is going to be too difficult to fix. One year it was the driver station version. Another it was a pressure gauge. Last year we forgot to put an MPX expansion board on the CAW. That last became absolutely hilarious when Al got to grill the only electrical member in the pit, a freshman who actually put together the CAW, on what that part was and if it was legal or not (the electrical lead, who wasn't present at the time, could answer in a heartbeat, but she had no idea). Sure, he knew the answer right off the bat, but it was an invaluable experience for her, one that I still get blamed for from time to time
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:21 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

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Originally Posted by Jon Stratis View Post
I should add... Almost every year since I've become an LRI I've made sure there was something I failed to tell me team they needed to fix before bagging the robot. Basically, I try leave something there for the inspector to find so my team gets that same experience as every other team. Nothing major, nothing that gives them a competitive advantage or is going to be too difficult to fix. One year it was the driver station version. Another it was a pressure gauge. Last year we forgot to put an MPX expansion board on the CAW. That last became absolutely hilarious when Al got to grill the only electrical member in the pit, a freshman who actually put together the CAW, on what that part was and if it was legal or not (the electrical lead, who wasn't present at the time, could answer in a heartbeat, but she had no idea). Sure, he knew the answer right off the bat, but it was an invaluable experience for her, one that I still get blamed for from time to time
I, too, like withholding valuable experience and knowledge from my students so that I can laugh when they make mistakes. /s/


Chris makes a good point though - one that I've seen happen often out in California. Some inspectors out here seem to like giving certain teams a hard time for no better reason other than the fact that they're different from other teams. I was always confused as a student why my barely functioning team flew through inspection at most* events, and while the very well put together team in the pit right next to us (back when pits were in numerical order) was being harassed by an inspector.

*see above post of mine for exception
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:34 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

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Originally Posted by Andrew_L View Post
...Some inspectors out here seem to like giving certain teams a hard time for no better reason other than the fact that they're different from other teams. I was always confused as a student why my barely functioning team flew through inspection at most* events, and while the very well put together team in the pit right next to us (back when pits were in numerical order) was being harassed by an inspector.

*see above post of mine for exception
I'm sure there are bad eggs in every basket, but sometimes it's also just diligence on the part of the inspector. Often those well put together teams can have a tendency to construct more complex robots that need further scrutiny. Also, as an inspector, I never trust a previous inspection. I've seen robots arrive at events with inspection passed stickers from prior events that had major problems coming in the door. Even lesser problems, like not having the pneumatic pressure relief valve hard plumbed to the compressor can occur on teams of any age.

Also, to jump the gun a bit here, I would say that diligence on the part of the inspector is a service to both the team and the event. For the event, it is making things safer and more consistent. For the team, it's judging the robot's compliance with the rules at a higher level of scrutiny. So long as the inspector isn't inventing rules, I think we should all appreciate attention to detail.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:35 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

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I, too, like withholding valuable experience and knowledge from my students so that I can laugh when they make mistakes. /s/
This is way snarkier than the post deserved. Clearly his intention isn't to laugh at students, but to allow the students to experience a small, but not crippling, failure and to learn how to deal with the situation. Allowing students to fail in a controlled way is one of many valid approaches to mentoring. It's not like he's erasing parts of the game manual so kids can't read it or something, just not catching every single small mistake the kids make.
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Unread 01-24-2017, 03:49 PM
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Re: Inspection Stories

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Originally Posted by amesmich View Post
2013 our team used copper tube from the compressor to reduce the chance of heat affecting the vinyl tubing. After the first 6 inches or 1st fitting we used the vinyl.
R78 E covered tubing
Quote:
R78 E. Additional pneumatic tubing, with a maximum 0.160 in. inside diameter, functionally equivalent to that provided in the KOP,
ID would have to be less than .16" (standard 1/4 OD copper is .19). Up to interpretation rather or not copper is functionally equivalent to plastic. I agree that it is completely safe. Rule compliant is debatable. That is what LRIs are for.
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