Dangerous Practice Field Behavior

This year I have seen dangerous conditions at the practice fields during competition. This includes driving at high speeds near students and testing full speed auton within two feet of other teams sitting on the ground. I have also watched the ethernet cable holder sprinting around the field to make sure a robot spinning 360 degrees does not get tangled.

All of this behavior is extremely dangerous and is going to get someone seriously injured.

If you cannot test safely - don’t test.


I kinda wish the tether rule would go away. I know its a concern of the fms system but I feels like it adds a greater hazard. There are wifi protocols which should be resilient to a lot of networks.

At NE Championship they had this first come first serve practice field rule (which IMO, was the way to do it - I think a lot of pratice fields waste time waste can occur from requiring slot signups. Teams miss it for matches, a team really does not need the full practice field etc.)…

but because of the tethering rules, most robots basically required someone to be right next to it. Right there alone if you had 4 or 5 robots on their field setup, you now add humans to the mix. Nevermind it was a little unneeded because the field was very far away (although I guess most of these practice fields are in the corner of the gym of whatever competition).


This year I have witnessed the following on practice fields:

  • A student sitting where the teams cube is in autonomous, holding said cube in their hand and waiting there as the robot runs its 2 piece auto routine, handing said cube off as the robot approaches them
  • Practice fields with zero barriers between robots and the general public
  • A team refusing to disbable their robot as they allowed another team by while getting off the practice field. The enabled robot in question then proceeded to accidentally start driving as people walked by because the driver was still holding the controller and dropped it by mistake.
  • Students with their heads pressed against the floor/robots’ bumpers trying to diagnose an issue, all while the robot was still enabled and drivers holding the controllers.

I find it bewildering to see teams sending “safety captains” around to other teams, ensuring everyone is partaking in safety theater, meanwhile those same teams with the safety captains can be seen doing the things I listed above…

I’ve said it before and will continue to say it, the majority of the time in FIRST, safety is a complete joke/afterthought.


Nobody should be sitting on the ground on the practice field…


Forgetting to or refusing? These are 2 very different words.


Ok, I’ll out myself in that specific story.

The team trying to leave the field was mine, and I’m the one that asked the other team to disable. The students were about to disable like I requested, until their mentor jumped in and told them not to disable, as it would be an inconvenience for them…

Despite my better judgement, I cautiously walked through (trying not to cause any tension between the 2 teams), which was when the controller accidently got bumped. I proceeded to direct my students still on the practice field, to leave a different and much less direct way, in an effort to not have them be run over by an enabled robot.


Full speed testing is essential (especially for autons). The root problem is people on the practice field. There should only be people on the field putting/removing robots. If champs can run 8 fields in the same room, it should definitely be possible to run a game field and a practice field concurrently at a regional/district competition!

I also greatly dislike the practice slot signup – you’re essentially betting on just how far behind schedule the main field is going to get to try not to miss your slot. It should be first come, first serve and if there is a line, at the end of a slot, everyone gets off and gets back in line.


I can understand not having much support at district events, but I swear way back in 2015/16 there was a “radio practice field” at MSC, along with un-barriered practice areas. I think there might have been one in 2017 too? But this year, there was nothing to stop a robot plowing into the inspection station or the walkway.

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yeah wait a second…


There definitely used to be. I remember using it. It was the andymark field.

This year was a bit weird. There was less overall practice room and they were trying to jam as many people on it as they could.

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100%. Tethering should only be allowed for isolated tele-op like on the wooden fields at world champs. Auto on closed fields should be wireless. I know this is tough at smaller events but it is clearly dangerous as it is being done now.


Hopefully the next time the word disable is mentioned, the mentor flashes back to this moment. Robots can be are very dangerous.

I had once asked a team, in their pits, to explain how their mechanism worked, as they were still working on the robot. They proceeded to test their robot (not as a result of my question), but upon enabling, the motor turned on and they struggled to disable it immediately, and went as far as grabbing the belt to prevent motor drive. Yeah…

I know that rules not there for safety but if your worried about safety it definitely makes it worse. I wouldn’t even require tethering on one off wooden fields either IMO

Would like to note that at CHCMP the practice field was incredibly cramped, and included the addition of a no-stand “fire lane” that forced students to either leave the practice field area entirely or risk standing on the carpeted area. At least one of the volunteers assigned to the field was incredibly strict about keeping the lane clear (the lane, I might add, was actually on top of the practice field carpet) to the point where if a tether crossed into it at all, a team would get quite a stern talking to. It’s definitely incredibly important to keep fields clear, but in my opinion FIRST should put more effort into making sure practice fields are set up in such a way which promotes safe access for students working on and operating robots. I hold the opinion that practice fields should not be in any high traffic areas, should have ample space to allow access while team members can continue to watch on (within reason) and should certainly not be shoved into a space where a “fire lane” is required to cut through field space.

With the wooden fields and a long cable I think you can test safely. And there is a need for isolated tele-op testing. But when you mix auto with people standing feet away often turned the wrong direction or driving on the other side of the field with people on the field not paying attention it is dangerous. But I would support wireless only as well, it makes sense.

Everything starts with human judgement.

Whatever the circumstances, a team should never test a robot near a person. The faster the speed and complexity of the move the more space is required. What I witnessed at the Michigan States was horrific. Mentors need to step up.

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This is very frustrating. We lost two slots to this last weekend. First because the schedule slipped and interfered with our practice field time, and then because they allowed us to sign up for a 7 pm Friday slot and later cancelled all the practice field times from 7 pm onwards because of closing ceremonies.

We’ve been on a practice field probably 10 or so times this season, and every time it’s a chaotic mess. The team before you is always scrambling to finish what they’re trying to do, by the time you get on you’re scrambling to get the robot booted up and communicating, you might get one auton test in, and if you want to change something and try again you’ll have the practice field volunteer (and the next team) breathing down your neck to get out of there. Plus the fact that there’s only one charge port so you might not be able to use it if the other team allowed on the field needs it at the same time.

I appreciate the difficulty, but there must be a better way.


You are correct. My understanding is it was discontinued due to a combination of lack of use (which I find crazy since at least our team used it constantly) and the amount of effort required to set up/tear down.

At the time I think FIM only had 4 fields, hence the need to bring up an additional AndyMark field. Now that Indiana runs it’s own District Champs on the same week as FiM, I suspect AndyMark has better things to do than set up and run a field at FiM champs, but also since I’m pretty sure there’s 5 FiM fields now, there shouldn’t be anything stopping FiM from setting one up again, other than the reasons mentioned above (unless HQ is requesting one of the fields get returned early for some reason).

NE Champ this weekend went First Come First Serve and at least from my perspective it went well.

Only thing is some teams would be on the field when they didn’t need to (robot just sitting there for longer periods of time) or just stayed longer than they should have. Worked pretty well if people are courteous of others time. Might not hurt to have a volunteer police it though.


At MSC Safety Captain Meeting, we were specifically told that autons had to be run at half power, and to inform our team. Despite that, several teams with captains present, still ran full speed autons running.
At the same moment, the initial gathering place for the meeting was right behind one of the practice fields, which was certainly not ideal. I remember a robot arm coming very close to my arm, and dropping a cube off.