Annual Reminder--Please Read the Manual!

To: All FRC participants
From: More experienced FRC participants, your inspectors, your referees, and your field crews
Date: 1/4/2014 (published a couple days early on 12/31/13)
Topic: The Manual, and Other Resources

We know that on the date shown above, you will see the 2014 FRC game for the first time. So will we. It’s natural that you’ll have some questions about it. That’s great, so will we.

But when you see the game and immediately go onto Chief Delphi asking “Can we use CO2 on the robot?”, “Where do the bumpers have to be placed?”, “Can we use another battery?”, “Is there a design for X device?”, and “How many robots can we tip before we get a penalty?”, please expect a tough response from us. It’s not that we don’t like you; on the contrary, we’d very much like to get to know you better (and some of us probably will!). In fact, it’s that your questions have probably been answered already, very clearly.

This typical very clear answer can typically be found by a quick reading of the Game Manual. You just have to find the right section. Of those 5 questions above, 4 answers will be in the Robot section, 1 in the Game section, and one will get a response something like “you’ll learn more by designing it yourself”, as it is not in the Manual. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Ctrl-F brings up a find feature, or there’s a search box on the Manual page. Search a couple of key words, and you’ll probably get all the answers you need for those “obvious” questions. Generally, if you’ve looked, and/or you show evidence you’ve looked, the responses won’t be quite so harsh as if you just post “hy guys can we us3 a engine on the robot thx”.

Now, on occasion, you’ll see something in the Manual and have a question. Chances are some other folks did too, probably the rest of us participants and officials at some point. A quick Chief Delphi search will help show what if anything we’ve discussed about the topic; if nothing crops up, start a thread and see what develops.

Bear in mind, however, that ANYTHING you see on Chief Delphi is NOT official. I’ll repeat that: NOT official. If Dean Kamen, Woodie Flowers, Dave Lavery, AND Frank all got onto Chief and said something, it still wouldn’t be official. CD is not the Manual, and it is not the official Q&A system. (Al Skierkewicz on inspection items? Not official yet, but probably will be once you see the officially-released documentation.)

The official communication channels for rules-related items are: The Game Manual, including any Updates up to the latest one, gives the rules. The Q&A answers questions about those rules and gives interpretations. FRC Blog? Not a rules source, but if Frank says something it’s reasonable to assume that a Q&A or Update will address that shortly–but it still isn’t a rule.

Short version: Please read the Manual before asking questions on CD, and bear in mind that no CD answer is ever official.

P.S.: For anybody ANSWERING rules questions, please, please, please put the rule number in your post, so that others can track it down! Quoting the rule verbatim is also a good idea–but then others won’t have the fun of finding it in the Manual and maybe noticing some other rule that affects their design. :stuck_out_tongue:

Great post. This is definitely something essential for all teams to do. I’ve seen teams show up to events and have to redesign/remove entire components year in and year out. Bumpers being the most common problem for teams. Now how do we get everyone to read this post?!

Eric, thanks for posting this reminder: reading through it was good for me! It’s definitely an important one that needs to be given every year… hopefully the folks who especially need the reminder will see this thread!

The reminder to people answering rules questions is perhaps even more important though… it’s one thing for someone to ask “what are the robot dimensions?” It’s an even bigger issue when someone answers with “28x38… what they’ve been for at least a decade”.

So, to all the rules experts… make sure you’re really an expert on the relevant rules before you answer a question! :slight_smile:

Now, how do we get everyone to read anything?! At least with the game hint guesses, it doesn’t really effect anyone’s ability to compete. I’ve also seen teams show up with no idea that their robot violates basic rules. Here’s hoping for less of that this year.::rtm::

Sigh… It begins.

Anyways, can we get this posted on the FRC blog or something more noticeable like that. Maybe have it announced at the kickoff broadcast :rolleyes:. Although people still probably wouldn’t listen.

tl;dr :yikes:

Are we allowed to tell people RTFM? (Read the FRC Manual) :rolleyes:

Best you don’t, some may misinterpret the F ::rtm::

Ultimately, The Manual answers All Questions. Use it wisely.

Bad information is worse than no information.
Please avoid spreading bad information.

Fixed the date.

My favorite trick for remembering if I’ve got the rule right when I answer a rules-based question is to check the Manual right before, exception being if I’ve answered the same question 47 times in the last week or so, in which case I’ve probably got the rule in short-term memory pretty solidly.

Also, read the Tournament section of the Manual in addition to the Game, Robot, and Arena sections. You’ll never know when FIRST will decide to mix up the ranking algorithm…

Much truth, considering the game hint seems to be pointing towards assists and we all know how well coopertition rankings went down in 2012/2010…

Is the manual even out coded so that we can download it pre kickoff?

I suggest you not base decisions on anyone who answers that “they think the manual says XXXXX”, and doesn’t quote the manual. I cannot state strongly enough that opinions on CD are merely that and the Q&A is only legal response to a question. For newcomers and rookies alike, there will be frequent updates (at least weekly) that modify the manual sections. Robot Inspectors, refs and judges will be using the latest changes at your event.
While this happens every year, I have a hard time telling a team that their assembly was ruled illegal in Team update #16 only to find out that they had faithfully copied and bound all team updates except #16. Thanks Eric for starting this thread. Teams if you have specific questions that you think may compromise your strategy, you may PM me for an opinion until such time as the Q&A is answered. While the Q&A team tries to respond quickly, correct answers are important to them. That may require more input from the team before a response is made public. Please be patient.

Also, do NOT use FIRST Q&A to find an answer that IS in the manual. This wastes their time when they could be answerring a legitimate question (and it makes them cranky :rolleyes: ).

To expand on this, assuming Q&A doesn’t change this year, also don’t use Q&A to ask questions about robot design. And odds are, if you have to include a picture to describe what you’re asking (as I look through last years Q&A to see what the GDC wouldn’t answer), odds are they can’t specifically answer.

And generally, if a question involves electronics of some sort (ie. electronics, custom circuits, lasers) the rules/specifications/safety concerns are explicitly laid out in the manual!

This really frustrates me. Ok, I understand why you can’t be uploading CAD files to the Q and A, but the excuse that the GDC “doesn’t comment in robot design” is far overused. I’m far from the first one to point this out, but issues like 118 in 2012 should have been definitively answered before 118’s first match, where they were ruled illegal. Top notch teams who know what they are doing and want to play by the rules should not have to wait until their first match to figure out if they robot they built is legal.

It’s fine by me if the Q and A isn’t intended for pre-vetting a extremely specific design, but if questions like “can we hang off the side of the bridge” won’t be answered there, then I’m confused as to how the Q and A really serves a purpose.

Seconding this. The point of robot rules is precisely to limit the space of legal designs. If you cannot put forth a specific design and get an answer as to its legality, then how is the Q&A serving its intended purpose at all?

Some of their answers are (in my opinion), really quite rude. Half the answers are “we cannot comment on hypothetical situations” , “the purpose of this q/a is not to perform design review” , and a statement of a rule (see q42 this year)

My favorite answer -“Carbon Fiber is not wood.”

Last year, somebody asked about the bump. The reply “there is no bump on the field”

I do remember there being some funny ones in the old Q and A though, like what’s underneath the scoring table, and the answer went all the way to the center of the earth. I’ll see if I can find it.

I don’t necessarily agree with the way the GDC answers certain things (2012’s ‘grab, grasp, grapple’ definition for example) but I understand why they won’t look at a picture or design and give a ruling; pictures and descriptions are great, but the problem is they might not fully convey the design/look completely different in person. Also, what happens when Team XXXX gets a ruling based off a picture on Q&A, Team YYYY does something similar, doesn’t get a ruling? Are they able to reference Team XXXX’s Q&A? It, in my opinion, overly complexifies the Q&A system and adds another burden on the GDC if they start openly reviewing designs via the Q&A.