Al's Annual Inspection Thread

OK, This is week one and for those competing today, I hope this helps a little.

  1. Targetting will be an issue this season and bright lights seem to be a common item in discussion. However, bright lights are an issue for volunteers and inspectors. If you are using a bright light, you may be asked to come up with a method for only turning the light on when needed, masking the light to just the area you are targetting or to find some way to dim it. There will be more volunteers on the field this year and they didn’t sign up for bright lights in their eyes. See R9.
  2. Bumpers, always bumpers. The bumper rules are very specific and you may not modify the pool noodles or deviate from the bumper rules. As always, bumpers must cover at least 6" of the frame on both sides of each outside corner. The bumper segment can be longer but the hard parts must cover the 6" of frame and must be supported at both ends. If you are running tank treads, this will be an extreme challenge for you.
  3. Compressors and pneumatics will be in use by many teams. Please be sure to check your system against the pneumatics section in the rule. The pressure relief valve needs to be attached to the compressor by “rigid fittings”.
  4. If you are using the large ViAir compressor, it comes with a stainless steel hose. The manufacturer considers that hose to be part of the compressor and it must be in place if you plan to use that compressor for safety purposes.
  5. All pneumatic parts must be pressure rated by their manufacturers. If your inspector has never seen one of your pneumatic parts, you must provide documentation showing the pressure rating.
  6. Many teams will be using pneumatic cylinders to raise their robot during the end of the match. You will need to insure that those cylinders do not extend during initialization of your robot to prevent injury to others in your pit or during inspections.
  7. BOM rules have changed this year. Mostly reverting back to previous definitions. You will be asked for the BOM during inspections. You can have it printed out or viewable on an electronic device for the inspector.
  8. Team Update 15 requires a new version of firmware be loaded on your RoboRio, FRC_roboRIO_2019_v14. Be sure it is loaded prior to your inspection.
  9. Weights have changed this year, 125 pounds for robot and only 15 pounds for bumpers. I recommend you weigh both early to be sure in case you have to modify your robot or bumpers before inspections begin.
  10. Help your robot inspector by clearing the pit of everyone but the two or three students working with the inspector. Be ready to give them a tape measure, be ready with the battery and driver’s station with an ethernet cable for power on testing.

Just to clarify, there are two items that can get loaded on the RoboRio, firmware and image. The firmware has not changed, only the image. The rule requiring image FRC_roboRIO_2019_v14 was in team update 14, but the inspection checklist wasn’t updated until team update 15.

Hi Al,

Very important thread.

Could you please clarify what do you mean by large ViAir compressor?
Is this the air pump which used to be sold by AndyMark:

It didn’t come with any hose.

I think he is talking about this one

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Yes, it is the one linked above and shown with the hose in the picture.

OK, Installment 2.

  1. Be sure you have legal motors on your robot. the rules have changed this year and many of the former automotive motors are no longer legal. Please see the list in Table 10-1.
  2. This is important so I am saying again, make sure your team numbers are to specification listed in R29. i.e. 4" high and 1/2" stroke, white or outlined in white, and no weird fonts or logos.
  3. For those teams that have unusual pick up mechanisms, be sure that your mechanism meets the cross sectional area spec in R8. Inspectors will be checking for possible damage to other robots, the field elements or the area in
  4. Your robot must meet the STARTING CONFIGURATION specification in R2.
  5. Your robot must meet the PLAYING CONFIGURATION specification in R4. If you have mechanism(s) that extend outside the Frame Perimeter, they can not extend beyond 30" from the Frame Perimeter at any time. i.e. during deployment or retrieval.
  6. You cannot have anything that “tastes bad, smells bad, glows in the dark or stains the carpet” as specified in R9. Even though this is space based game, that includes heat seeking missiles and flame.
  7. Although this is not a new rule, many teams using “swerve”, “crab” or other drive module steering may try to use mercury slip ring modules or mercury wetted or gaseous mercury electrical contacts. These are strictly forbidden under R9.
  8. R9 also covers using decorations on your robot that have the potential to interfere with other robot vision systems. That may include using retro reflective tape on your robot or bright green lighting.
  9. As always, field elements must be able to be removed from your robot at the end of the match as in R10.
  10. Our Inspectors are trained to assist with robot issues and the LRIs in particular are trained to help. If you have any issues with the robot that you cannot solve, ask one of them for assistance. They want to help, have been trained to consider themselves part of your team and really enjoy when your robot performs well on the field. Little problems become really big problems in just a few minutes during elimination matches. Don’t wait, use them as a resource.

I wish more teams understood that; many times, bumpers are the most difficult part of the robot to design and build. More so if you wait until the robot is done or nearly done to start thinking about them.

@Al_Skierkiewicz I admire your willingness to take on the sisyphean task of helping teams get ready for and pass inspection. godspeed to you in this endeavor.

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OK, as we start into week two, here are a few of the things we work on every year but are really covered in the robot rules.

  1. Ballast must be firmly attached to the robot with appropriate fasteners and must not be able to contaminate the field or damage other robots or field personnel. If you choose to use something of great mass (tool boxes and vises jump to mind) then these devices must be attached to the robot using hardware, metal straps, clamps, etc. Wire ties, no matter the size, are not meant for “live loads” and are not appropriate for our robots. It must also fulfill all other robot rules.
  2. Such ‘ballast’ cannot be contained loose material like shot, ball bearings, sand, gravel, etc. Containers break and leak contents on the field. You do not want to be the team remembered for having put a beach on the Deep Space field.
  3. Main breaker placement. You need to have the main breaker mounted where it is easy to get at for someone who hasn’t worked on your robot so they can shut it off. do not hide the main breaker behind a shroud, do not put under moving mechanisms, do not place it where only someone with a small arm can reach it. Do protect it so it cannot be turned off by dropped cargo or hatch. Add a label on the outside of your robot so everyone can find it.
  4. Make sure all connections to the main breaker, PDP and batteries are tight and do not move. If they move, you are producing your own brownout conditions.
  5. Use standard electrical insulation products for covering all exposed electrical contacts. This includes both battery terminals, the main breaker terminals and un-insulated electrical terminals. Use electrical (i.e. vinyl or PVC) tape not paper based tape. In the event of high temperatures due to loose connections, paper based tapes will ignite.
  6. Remember that the Wago terminals on the PDP are meant for only one wire per terminal as listed in the electrical rules. If you are feeding multiple loads from one breaker (when allowed in robot rules) then you can splice using standard splicing products away from the PDP.
  7. If you are using pneumatics, I highly recommend using a PCM connected to one of the breaker outputs on the PDP. Since these are auto resetting, a blown fuse will not disable your compressor or valve function.
  8. I highly recommend bringing your KOP to competition and bring spares for things used on your robot like specialty connectors, hardware, etc. You might just want to modify your robot after seeing the actual match playout.
  9. Please remember that there is no grinding, open flame or other hazardous activity in the pit. You may not machine hazardous materials like lead weight or graphite in the pit.
  10. You may only use battery chargers meant for robot battery use. These are rated for 6 amps or less or can detect the battery they are charging. You may not use a 50 amp car battery charger or one meant for chemistries other than SLA/AGM batteries.

When I imaged my roboRIO to FRC_roboRIO_2019_v14 we were no longer able to upload code to it from VScode. When I brought it back down to v12 using another computer with the old update suite it we were able to upload code to it. This problem occurs with both computers. Help?

You need to update WPILib to 2019.4.1 (or at least 2019.3.2, but 2019.4.1 is the latest version). After installing 2019.4.1 you will be prompted when opening your project to update your project to that version.

Have you updated WPILib? I believe there is a required update there as well.

So if I were to use my angle grinder on aluminum (it produces zero sparks), this is not allowed?

Personally, I’d rather use a real angle grinder on steel with all its sparks than on aluminum. Putting aluminum on a solid wheel grinder can actually cause a grinder wheel to explode. Strange, but I recall being convinced that it was true. Perhaps someone can explain this as the details currently escape me.

Added: Thanks, Jon! The piece missing from the description below is why the stone explodes when it gets so hot. The answer is water becoming really high pressure steam. If you want to see where this occurs naturally, go to the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia; lightning strikes have blown countless divots out of the granite there. Indeed, the carving on the side was mostly done by heating the stone to make pieces fly off.

Good explanation here from MIT:

I use flappy sand paper wheels most of the time on our angle grinder. So technically it is a angle sander. (Don’t expect to win that discussion with the safety guys though). Point is though are appropriate for use with Aluminum. image

Al, I’ve fought this particular battle many times over the years but this isn’t a rule. It’s a “strong recommendation” in a blue box. And somehow, inspectors have interpreted that as license to drag the brakes on inspection and send past kids of mine into a tizzy that they won’t pass unless it’s labeled. 1293 has had the same experience before I returned to them last year as well. Whether it’s an actual impediment to passing or not is moot once kids are spun up to the point of telling mentors with the same worry as being five pounds overweight; as Vince McMahon would say, perception is reality.

Being a UL-backed team, we did label both the breaker and the vent plug (although I may have called it “inspector appeasement stickers” on our to-do list because of the above). That said, I would really like to see that either made a rule with a standardized sticker (which FTC has done for years, gives anyone reacting in an emergency something to look for specifically rather than random stickers or masking tape or black Sharpie on smoked polycarb and okay, it’s a rule now) or see that language removed from the manual entirely.


As a first-year inspector, this is very helpful to me. Thanks!

Bill, yes it is suggestion but here is where reality meets the robot. If your robot catches on fire, you want a field person, FTA or RI to be able to turn off the main power that could potentially save your robot. If we can’t find the breaker, our alternative is to point and …
Yes, wiring smoke happened yesterday at Midwest. It happens a lot. Not a rule but a preventative measure “It is strongly recommended”…

What can our students say that will convince our RI that we have considered, and appreciate, their strong suggestion?


Just finished my rookie inspection stint at San Diego Regional - really appreciate this thread and advice.

Nate - having the team show me they implemented the suggestion would be great. Realize this is not always possible in the chaos of competition.