1519 - One Dual-Config Robot or Two Robots?

NOTE – I originally hadn’t intended to ask this question of the ChiefDelphi community prior to receiving an answer to our pending Q&A from the FIRST Game Design Committee, but so many people have asked about what happened to our dual-configuration robot in the four days since the start of our week 1 regional that I am having difficulty justifying the continued delay to reply to folks while waiting for the official Q&A response…

This year our team employed a strategy that piqued our curiousity in past years every time we saw the “different configurations of the ROBOT” phrase in the weight rule (<R12> this year) – we built a robot with two radically different configurations.

Our first robot configuration (which we call “Fezzik”) is a standard, but minimal, drive base with an arm; the second configuration (“Speed Racer / Mach 6”) is a very small, light, lap-runner with a cool autonomous mode. We worked hard to minimize weight on each configuration in order to have the total for both meet the 120 pound maximum weight limit. We designed a modular electronics board which would fit in the available space for each drivetrain, as well as have the appropriate circuit breakers and speed controllers. We also made compromises with each configuration to reduce weight as much as possible. When all was said and done, we just barely made weight with the two configurations – 87.7 pounds for Fezzik (including the electronics board) and 32.1 pounds for the Speed Racer without any electronics. We were very excited for the possibilities opened up by being able to choose which configuration of the robot to field in any given match given the composition of our alliances. We also thought our approach was innovative and potentially award-worthy.

However, upon arriving at the Granite State Regional, we learned that our dual-configuration robot would not be allowed, as it was considered to be in violation of Rule R09: “Each registered FIRST Robotics Competition team can enter ONE (1) ROBOT into the 2008 FIRST Robotics Competition.” We protested that we didn’t have two robots, but rather one dual-configuration robot. Prior to the tournament, we had not submitted an official Q&A asking if our approach was permissible, as we thought our design was completely within the rules. However, a different line of reasoning (“If it looks like two robots, it’s two robots”) would indicate that our design is clearly against the rules.

On Thursday afternoon, we submitted a multi-page description of our approach and design, including photos of each configuration, to the official Q&A. (You can read the same description in a link titled “official request for clarification” in the Team News section of our website: http://www.mechanicalmayhem.org/default.asp#GSR-Day1.) We realized when we submitted the Q&A that we would almost surely not hear an answer before the completion of the Granite State Regional, as those who would be involved with the decision were probably all busy at other regional tournaments! However, we wanted to submit the question to the official Q&A as soon as possible in case we might possibly have a reply prior to Saturday’s elimination rounds or before we would have to pack the robot into the crate in case we qualified for the Championships. As we anticipated, we didn’t receive a reply to our question during the tournament, but we still had a great time at GSR nonetheless. Fezzik performed admirably, ending up as the #4 seed, and our efforts at the tournament during the qualification rounds could be focused on Fezzik’s needs rather than being split between the two different configurations.

The need for an answer to our question has been overcome by events, as we didn’t qualify for the Championships (our alliance with 126 and 1307 was beaten fair and square in 4 hard-fought semifinal matches against 121, 40, and 134 who later emerged as the GSR champions) but we hope to hear the official response in the Q&A at some point regarding our dual-configuration robot.

In any case, we hope to get both Fezzik and Speed Racer some laps at post-season tournaments this summer!

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Ahh. That sucks. You had a good argument, and I’m surprised it didn’t go your way.

May I ask why Fezzik?

Fezzik is the giant in The Princess Bride who can pick up large rocks and handily toss them wherever he pleases. In one of our meetings early in the manufacture of the robot, somebody remarked that the prototype arm picked up the trackball as easily as Fezzik picked up large rocks… after that, the name just stuck!

Plus, Fezzik is a fun character!

Anybody want a peanut?

Did you need to transfer the electronics? If so, I think that would be what made it two robots. If not, then you (probably) had a modular robot that should have been allowed.

I believe they did have to transfer the electronics however I view that as still legal. In my mind the electronics board is the robot–anything else is just a module making their design fine.

That was how a robot was defined in previous years. However, that doesn’t apply this year!

ROBOT: Anything that has passed ROBOT inspection that a TEAM places on the TRACK prior to the start of a MATCH

I recall seeing at one point that a robot was minimally an RC, radio, and battery - you could place those components in a cardboard box and call it a robot. However, that is most likely from an older set of rules.

For this year, I have not yet found a list of required components for a “minimalist” robot. It seems as though your drive base was being considered the “minimal” component. Nowhere in the rules does it state that your robot must drive (Although you risk impeding traffic). Hence, that cannot logically be the “minimal” component to define a “ROBOT.”

Personally, I agree with your decision - the RC and Radio are the core components of the “ROBOT,” and the drivebase, frame, and arm are modular additions to that panel, and to the extent of my knowledge, this is legal per the 2008 rules. If all your components can pass inspection, then yes, it should be legal.

Here’s where it may get tricky - if your electronics board is the “stationary” component in the sizing, then it should be mounted at the same “x,y coordinates” on both robots. From the looks of it, Mach 6 is small enough that this should not be a problem.

The disqualification of your robot’s dual configuration on the grounds that “if it looks like two robots, it is two robots” is baseless and irrational according to the rules. Consider this: if I built two radically different arms that drastically changed the appearance of my robot, should I be only be allowed to use one configuration? NO. Making the whole robot a module is creative, unique, and innovative. Kudos on taking this risk.

-Alex Golec

“If it looks like two robots, it is two robots” is an arbitrary position with no defining line between what looks like two robots and what doesn’t. There is no rule stating that you can replace an arm or manipulator but not a drive base, or what fraction of the robot can be considered a seperate “configuration”. Generally I would say that unless a rule specifically prohibits something that the default position of tournament officials should be to allow the strategy in question until it is ruled against. When a rule is unclear, or subject to interpretation, and safety is not at risk, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the team.

It is a shame that a representative from GDC did not immediately answer your well stated request for clarification. People may suggest that you should have asked GDC earlier, but I see no reason why you should ask Q&A, “is it okay if we are creative so long as we comply with all written rules for the competition” at all. If the tournament officials had a problem with your set up, it is they… not you… that should have asked for and waited for clarification.

Mind you, it sounds like you didn’t need speed racer at all, but unfortunately it sounds like you were not considered for the creativity awards you so richly deserved. Based on what I have read, I hope GDC will find it fit to rule in your favour and present you with a creativity award direct from FIRST.

Congratulations on having perhaps the lightest robot to rank in the top eight in the recent history of FRC!

Jason

P.S. I note the CAD drawing of Fezzik in the request for clarification shows 4 CIMs attached to the gearboxes? Just an oversight, I presume?

I think both configurations should have been allowed.

STARTING CONFIGURATION-…This configuration is static, and does not change during a single MATCH (although it may change from MATCH to MATCH).

I see your Speed racer configuration as the same as if you had bolted every component on your robot together and when you wanted to go from one configuration to the other you would just have to make some modifications by unbolting(or bolting) certain parts ETC. As long as you met the weight requirement(which you did) and both configurations pass inspection, then you should have been allowed to compete with the configuration of you choice.

I wish it would have gone your way but I’m happy you had the success you did in spite of the hardships.

I was wondering why I didn’t see the speed racer on the field.

After having read the brief submitted to the GDC, and looked at the pictures and video posted of 1519’s multiple-configuration robot, I can’t see any reason to rule against it.

I too recall that past definitions of robots specified a minimal set of components. Since that is not in effect this year, I would be inclined to deem anything that meets all of the rules mandating certain configurations as a legal robot. (Most of those rules are electrical in nature, so a minimal robot would contain some electronics, a flag holder, and little else. That minimal robot might even be separate pieces, satisfying the rules as a set.)

I’m very curious what the GDC will say, and which rules they’ll use to justify it.

I don’t agree with the notion of requiring the same x- and y-co-ordinates. I don’t believe that the rules require any such thing. It’s like the “front” of the robot: I consider that to be arbitrary, and defined at the discretion of the robot’s designer.

Additionally, Jason brings up an interesting point, regarding the CIM motors depicted on Fezzik (which may not even have been present on the real robot, so this is merely a hypothetical situation). Is it legal to mount spare items on different configurations, anticipating that only one configuration (which satisfies all rules on its own) will be used at a time, but exceeding the parts usage limit for a single robot when all configurations are considered together? For example, you have 6 CIM motors; initially, you mount 4 for inspection, and leave 2 aside. Later, you mount 4 to Fezzik and 2 to Speed Racer. Is it valid to store your spare parts attached to unused configurations in this manner?

In the past, I’ve argued that this is a stretch of the rules, but not necessarily a violation, and not definitively an unfair situation. Especially given the 2008 definition of a robot (which describes it in terms of its use during a match), it seems that what you do with your robot in the pits is your business, as long as it’s legal when it plays. (That’s consistent with the idea that it is, of course, practically impossible for a team to be in continual compliance with the robot rules while the robot is in the pits being worked on.)

Another similar case would be if they brought in the all of parts for the second configuration, including the extra motors, assembled as a single fabricated upgrade part (weighing less than 25 lb). In this case, I think the rules clearly permit it. This case can be functionally equivalent to the original hypothetical scenario, and is permissible—so if the original scenario is to be disallowed, it seems we must distinguish it somehow. But I can’t think of any way (or any reason to do so, for that matter).

The argument against all of this is that it saves the team lots of time, not having to swap motors (or whatever the spares are), when they make a configuration change. I’d call that an advantage of a good design, and verify that the spares (if fabricated) fell within the 25 lb weight allowance, but I don’t think that I’d have any reason to disallow it.

Just to clarify, the quote about “If it looks like two robots, it is two robots” isn’t a phrase that was told to us, but rather an example of a different starting perspective that would clearly rule our design as being two robots, rather than one robot.

As best as I can recall, the ruling of two robots was based upon R09. (“Each … team can enter ONE (1) ROBOT …”) Prior to our even arriving at our regional, the GDC had been made aware of our “two robots” and had sent email to the regional’s tech inspector that our design did not comply with the intent of that rule. However, as the GDC had never seen our design firsthand or been presented any information from us directly, I was concerned that their decision was based upon a different understanding of our design than what we had actually built, despite the best intentions of all involved parties.

The other rule that I recall being mentioned to illustrate that our design violated the intent of R09 was R12 (the weight rule) which says, “When determining weight, the basic ROBOT structure and all elements of all additional mechanisms that might be used in different configurations of the ROBOT shall be weighed together.” Since our two configurations did not share a single “basic ROBOT structure” (other than the electronics board) it was considered as two robots.

However, as you mention, our robot being disallowed as two robots makes it unclear as to what fraction of the robot can be considered a seperate “configuration.” Hopefully the pending response to our Q&A question will clarify this.

We, too, would have liked a very quick response, but in all fairness, we really can’t expect an immediate response on a day when the entire GDC is surely involved with other tournaments.

Thanks for the kudos on making a light weight – we ran Fezzik all day on Friday at only 87.7 pounds in hopes of being able to add the Speed Racer configuration as on option on Saturday. However, since we had not yet heard a response to our question, on Saturday morning we added 30 pounds of dumbbells to Fezzik’s base in order to increase his stability. (He had tipped over twice in Friday’s qualification rounds in a way that we had not anticipated – when carrying a trackball and then bumping up sideways against a trackball which was wedged against the side wall, the two trackballs would smoosh together, storing up energy which would then rebound and flip Fezzik over onto his side. Amazingly, this happened not just once, but twice in qualifying rounds while driving around the field with a trackball while the arm (and the trackball) where in the “stowed” position!)

The 4 CIMs were in our initial design of Fezzik; they ended up being reduced to 2 CIMs in order to allow Speed Racer to use the other 2 CIMs and to save weight. We never went back and updated the CAD. (The reduction to 2 CIMs was one of the design compromises we made in order to implement the dual-configuration robot.) After receiving no answer to our Q&A, we would have liked to up Fezzik’s drivetrain to 4 CIMs for the elimination rounds on Saturday, but we weren’t sure of the effect that change would have upon our autonomous programs as well as potentially significantly changing the handling of the robot immediately before the elimination rounds. We stayed the course with the 2 CIMs for the elimination rounds and ended up having odd “stuttering” problems with our drivetrain that we still haven’t been able to explain.

I have to ask how they became aware and whether you were told before the event. Or do you know how they became aware of your intentions?

Q&A is silent in the matter, as far as I can tell.

Our interpretation is that the above scenario (pre-attaching parts to a configuration) would be illegal, as our perspective is that a “multi-configuration robot” always includes all components for all configurations, even though only a subset of those components is put on the field. Thus, a team must always be prepared to demonstrate that during a match their robot (the whole multi-configuration set) satisfies the weight rules. Accordingly, our plan for qualification and elimination rounds was to always bring the entire robot (even the configuration not currently in use) out on the cart to the field, but only place the current configuration on the field. (i.e. while the Fezzik configuration was on the field, the Speed Racer chassis would be on the cart. Similarly, while the Speed Racer configuration was on the field, the Fezzik chassis would be on the cart.) In this way, at the beginning or end of any round, we would be prepared (and able) to immediately have the robot re-weighed and/or re-sized to demonstrate compliance with the rules.

Do you have a picture of both robots as one entity, or as much together as weight allows?

I think what is burning you technically is the bumpers if I am envisioning this correctly.
Do all your bumpers that you would use on every configuration meet standard weight limit requirements?
Should they??

You have a very interesting case and plenty of valid points supporting your thinking, I’m just trying to take the mindset of both “by the rules”, and “by the interpretation of the rules” and look for what they saw which would be illegal.

A picture of both configurations together would be good.

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Ken, I think you’ve spent too much time in FLL. There, clearly the “Robot” is the NXT or RCX brain, and anything else you attach to it. Since you didn’t bring an illegal quantity of motors to the “table” at any time, you meet the FLL rules.

I find the definition of “ROBOT” to be somewhat circular:

ROBOT: Anything that has passed ROBOT inspection that a TEAM places on the TRACK prior to the start of a MATCH.
(From the “Game” section of the rules no less, not the “Robot” section.) The inspectors get to decide what a ROBOT is as part of their ROBOT inspection. Clearly there has to be a better definition of what constitutes the minimal number of parts that make up a ROBOT. And that definition has to be very carefully worded - what is a “base” or “frame”? are “wheels” absolutely necessary? etc.

If it’s any consolation, 1519 has earned itself a unique place in FIRST - the generation of a new rule in next year’s manual. :wink:

This is a travesty if I have ever heard one.

Congratualtions on building 2 configurations of your robot within the weight limit. I am quite annoyed at the fact that FIRST has turned its shoulder to creativity with this one. I could understand their ruling if your “robots” each complied with the rules, but if together they were able to comply to the rules of 1 robot, then what is the problem?

Could you imagine strategizing during elims…well which one are they gonna put out there? The awesome autonomous mode and quick lap runner or the effective ball hurdler…that would really keep teams on their toes.

Good job guys, keep us posted if you hear anything.

Our dual-configuration design was “unveiled” at an event held annually by one of our primary sponsors, BAE Systems, on the Friday prior to ship date. This year, there were over a dozen teams in attendance unveiling their robots. Also in attendance were many of the volunteers who run and staff the BAE Systems Granite State Regional, including the head technical inspector. Our design raised many eyebrows that evening and elicited questions from other teams as to whether our design was legal.

After ship date (and still a few days prior to the start of our regional) I spoke with the head technical inspector for GSR, describing our design and why I thought it was in compliance with the rules. I should note that I personally have the utmost respect and confidence in the GSR head technical inspector; he is an excellent engineer as well as a co-worker and friend of mine. Since our design was way off the beaten path, he inquired of FIRST as to the legality of our approach. He told us of FIRST’s answer as soon as possible; we learned of it in the “crate opening” period on Thursday of GSR. The response from FIRST said that if we disagreed with the decision, we would need to submit an official Q&A request on the matter. We did that as quickly as we could, which wasn’t until shortly after lunch on Thursday. I presume that an official answer in the Q&A will be forthcoming some time this week.

Would it have been possible to have the smaller "Racer’ bot be the core for the larger bot with the arm? Two drive motors for the core with an additional two drive motors and the arm as add-on to the core frame. Modular bumpers that could be removed from the larger frame and use only part of the bumpers on the smaller “racer” bot. I would assume your inivation in design was not considered for an award because it was not allowed to be used in the competition.

We didn’t get a picture of both configurations in the same place at GSR. However, we do have a photo from the “Robot Unveiling” from the Friday prior to ship date:

http://www.mechanicalmayhem.org/images/2008-Robot-at-unveiling-medium.jpg

A high-resolution version of the same image is available at http://www.mechanicalmayhem.org/images/2008-Robot-at-unveiling.jpg

We had a set of six bumpers which weighed exactly 15.0 pounds of which a subset would be mounted on either configuration, as follows:

  • Bumpers 1 and 2: Side bumpers for “Fezzik”
  • Bumper 3: Back bumper for “Fezzik”; same bumper could be mounted as the front bumper for the “Speed Racer”
  • Bumpers 4-6: Side and back bumpers for the “Speed Racer”

The bumpers used in either configuration covered just more than 2/3 of the perimeter for that starting configuration. We actually had a fair bit of difficulty getting all six bumpers into the 15 pound weight limit – we used 1/20th aluminum angle (instead of the 1/16th we’ve used in prior years) and carefully chose the placement of our fasteners in order to minimize weight and accommodate both robot configurations.