Dangerous precedent set by Q&A 461: Loaning Parts/Assemblies to other teams

A Q&A was posted as a spinoff from the ramps thread to clarify whether it would be legal to give other teams fabricated parts/assemblies that were 1) bagged with the giving team’s robot at a previous event 2) brought into the event as part of the giving team’s witholding allowance, or 3) fabricated at the event by the giving team.

That Q&A has been answered and seems to set a dangerous precedent that is contrary to FIRST’s goals.

Things that are now seemingly illegal:

  • Providing a battery to another team with leads installed (maybe not…the rules state that such assemblies do not have to be part of a witholding allowance and can be made prior to the start of the 6 week build season…but there is no specific exemption that says they do not count as ASSEMBLIES made by a giving team, per the Q&A response).

  • Loaning an assembled COTS transmission to another team (versaplanetary, AM planetary, toughbox, etc)

  • Loaning any motor with leads soldered to it or terminals attached to integral leads

  • Loaning a speed controller with terminals attached to the output side

  • Loaning a speed controller which has had the leads shortened

  • Loaning any COTS item that has been modified (gear, sprocket, spacer, etc)

  • Loaning a pneumatic cylinder with fittings attached

  • Any part fabricated solely by the FIRST provided machine shop at the event (yeah, that sounds alarmist, but that Q&A specifically states that any fabricated part at the event that goes on their ROBOT must be fabricated by that team)

  • Any part made by a giving team that brings portable drill presses/bandsaws/sanders/lathes/mills in their pit

That’s just the list of things I could think of in about a minute. I’m sure there’s countless other things you could add to it. Examples from previous years would include premade bumper segments for use by teams with non-compliant bumpers, or as Karthik has pointed out, making bumpers entirely for another team at the event.

It seems really hard to believe FIRST actually wants to be as harsh as they have indicated they will be. The easy answer is “stop lawyering the rules, clearly FIRST doesn’t want to ban teams from loaning out the reasonable things listed above”, but unfortunately the blanket statement as applied in the Q&A ruling makes that necessary.

Last year Team 1678 had an inbounder assist device they worked to modify many partners with to increase their ability to contribute to an alliance. They were widely (and rightfully) hailed for helping teams be competitive on the field. Other teams loaned spare shot blockers to their third partners in eliminations. In 2013 teams loaned out full court shooter blockers. There are plenty of other examples of teams loaning assemblies or fabricated parts to their partners (who can later become their opponents) going back to the beginning of FIRST.

I can understand if FIRST wanted to avoid a situation where a third partner on an eliminations alliance is asked to sit in a corner with a ramp tethered to them…but the answer they gave seems far too draconian and will only serve to further widen the gap between struggling teams and high performing teams. At the same time, FIRST also should not have created a game which basically encourages two high performing teams to either turn their third partner into a paperweight or take them off the field entirely.

The easy answer is “stop lawyering the rules…”

This, this, and so much more this. All it does is lead to a very confusing and super strict ruleset.

Yikes, the team behind us in the pits played with our batteries all weekend! And we recharged batteries between matches for them.

Could not agree more. What happened to the notion of no robot left behind? RIPBumpbox! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ofefwcw56Ow

So do you intend to lend any of the items I’ve listed to other teams? If so, please explain how you feel your team will not be breaking the rules, as written?

Not only is it mildly draconian, I’d argue that the Q&A response is BARELY supported by the rules. Saying it’s a violation of R1 is pretty much invoking the “I’ll know it when I see it” defense.

What draws the line? — “Well, the other team’s student put in a rivet on this part, so they helped build it AT the event.” It’s unenforceable and can only lead to more stupid calls.

If FIRST doesn’t like the fact that their game encourages bad behavior like that… well, I hope they learn their lesson for next year.

Edit: How will I lend those items to other teams without breaking the rule? I won’t, I’ll just break the rule and clear it with the LRI prior doing it.

This could get ugly real quick. That seems like a catch all that has much higher implementations then FIRST expected.

Also, the thing about lawyering the rules is that it kind of has to be done, especially with the way Q&A likes to answer. If they would give straightforward answers, maybe there would be less lawyering.

Some of the most inspirational in-competition moments have occurred from loaning parts/assemblies. I know we personally have helped dozens of our elimination alliance partners in the past enhance capability, whether it be through speeding up intake mechanisms, autonomous changes, added structural support or even sometimes completely new mechanisms.

What I do not understand is the ridiculous emphasis on mechanical components. This is why I feel the ruling is not promoting the intent/underlying message of the rule it is trying to enforce. If we essentially didn’t want other team’s intellectual property on another teams robot- then this rule would also apply to software, or sensor integration. Instead its focused purely on spare parts and components?

I feel that sometimes the baby is tossed with the bath water in these rulings. Everyone jumps to the powerhouses of the world trying to add to their alliances firepower. What about the rookie team who arrives with nothing but a box of parts? Well if we followed the letter of the rule, this team may have a tough time gathering the components necessary to take the field.

Why is it an issue for a team with additional resources to try to enhance the capability of their potential partners (or even opponents)?

This is just a big departure from what I’ve come to expect from FRC teams at events. The collaboration sometimes is the best part.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

This is something we’ve done for years. Encouraging well-established and -funded teams to help struggling teams has been called out as the point of, among other things: the alliance system, the serpentine draft, and the chairman’s award. It’s not “lawyering” to wonder if this is what FRC wants us to stop.

Maybe this goes hand in hand with a game that makes it hard for an alliance’s merely mobile third member to contribute meaningfully? If a robot that doesn’t move is more valuable than one that does, are the established teams off the hook?

The best stories that come out of FIRST events are teams helping each other succeed. Looks (from this Q&A) like FIRST wants to squash that?! I don’t like this one at all. Teams that, as Cory said, were previously hailed for being so helpful are now risking getting in trouble for their incredible work within their community.

I really, sincerely hope they revisit the intent behind this wording.

I see you point but it is a little alarmist.

Batteries are not part of the robot.

Assembled transmissions. Technically correct. Hopefully inspectors will be rational.

leads on motor controllers/motors are allowed while maintaining their cots status.

Nasa machine shop /team shops would presumably working with team input: legal parts.

Without the rule being like it is… A far sited mega team could bring in 2 40 lb ramp manipulators complete with can motor controllers in their bagged allotment in addition to their 120 lb robot. Strip the 2nd pick donor bot add the ramps, connect the canbus and power to the donor bot, load new software in the RoboRio & have a ramp bot that the 3rd team had nothing to do with. Probably not GP. I am not suggesting that a team would do this.

Teams helping other teams are so ingrained in First culture I don’t see this as being aimed at that.

Apparently I don’t read the ruling at all the way you did. Let’s break it down…

A. R1 (R15, R17 & T7 may also apply) is specific that the ROBOT that a team uses in competition was built by that team.

This seems like a rather obvious statement that in no way changes how anything is ruled.

R1 A Team must submit their ROBOT for Inspection. The ROBOT must be built by the FRC Team to perform specific tasks when competing in RECYCLE RUSH. The ROBOT must include all of the basic systems required to be an active participant in the game – power, communications, control, and movement. The ROBOT implementation must obviously follow a design approach intended to play RECYCLE RUSH (e.g. a box of unassembled parts placed on the FIELD, or a ROBOT designed to play a different game does not satisfy this definition).

This is just a restatement of R1, nothing new or earth shattering here.

We strongly encourage you to provide support to all teams (especially those with limited resources) at your events, whether that is helping fabricate elements, assisting in construction, assisting in writing software or development of game strategy.

Clearly stated that you can help teams at events, no big surprise - this is something we actively encourage just to get everyone on the field and moving!

As always, teams may work on their ROBOT while at events during the time that the pits are open per R15. Withholding allowance is determined at the time that team loads in per R17. No other FABRICATED PARTS may be brought into the venue after that time.

This makes sense, and I hope everyone recognizes that this has always been the case.

Elements and assemblies built at the event by one team to give to another do not satisfy R1 above.

This might be where you have a problem with the answer. What they’re saying here is that my team can’t build something, hand it to your team and say “put this on your robot so you can now do X.” It’s easy to take that to extremes… But combined with the previous statement about helping teams it’s clear that it shouldn’t be taken to extremes. I can help you by giving you a COTS part, even if there may have been a slight modification or two (like attaching connectors, assembling a gearbox in the standard, intended way, etc). In that case I’m not building anything, I’m giving you a COTS part that may be slightly used. But I can’t build a ramp and give it to you to attach to your robot. I can’t give you a specially designed winch to use to lift totes. That’s going way, WAY beyond helping by supplying a few COTS pieces.

Please remember that the addition of any item to any ROBOT requires re-Inspection prior to any MATCH in which that ROBOT competes per T10. That re-Inspection also requires an update to the team’s BOM reflecting the the change in ROBOT parts.

Reinspection is a well known aspect of competition, even if teams sometimes forget about it.

So, to answer your questions by number: 1) No. 2) No. 3) No, but you may certainly assist another team in building new parts for their ROBOT at the event, and we encourage that.

Please note that, per this year’s rules (for batteries) and last year’s (for bumpers), batteries and bumpers are not part of the robot. That exempts them from a lot of rules, like being included in the withholding allowance or needing to be constructed after kickoff.

Keep in mind that it’s ALWAYS been legal to have others machine stuff for you - you can give a CAD file to a machine shop during the season and collect parts later for use in the robot. How is that different than utilizing a machine shop at an event, or a team’s tabletop bandsaw?

Just recognize all teams as sponsors of all other teams. <R11>, baby.

I see this being a correct ruling for the following example:

Team A is a high seeded alliance, and picks team B to be their 3rd alliance partner in the elims. Team A then sends their pit crew to team B’s pit and adds components that team A built, so that team B can do what team A wants.

I’ve seen this happen, and I think THAT is against the spirit of FIRST. Essentially it is one team making a second robot on top of another team’s chassis. This is very RARE, but I feel it is wrong.

I guess this is where the debate will diverge for people. To me, you’ve made a lot of assumptions in here about COTS parts, slightly modified COTS parts that are not outlined by a rule somewhere.

Why is the mechanical structure the end all be all? A can hook could be as simple as a tube with a bent piece of sheet metal on it. What about the software to control it in both teleop and autonomous? There is often a lot more work than ‘here put this on’ even if a team was given a complete mechanical solution.

I’m not condoning the above action, I just think the trivialization of integrating even the most simple mechanisms is a little much.


That’s awesome. Loopholes FTW.

On one hand, I don’t want the alarmist behaviors to continue. The intent of this rule is straightforward, and Q&A rulings are not actual rules. This holds no precedent over the manual, and inspectors have common sense.

On the other hand, 708 machined hubs for our Colson wheels this year (during build season). Are they illegal for us to use because another team helped manufacture them? Are they legal because we broached them? Do we have to list 708 as a sponsor? Is FIRST asking us to move away from this behavior?

Btw, I would have no issue listing 708 as a sponsor. They’re awesome.

My two favorite quotes from the Q/A Response:

Elements and assemblies built at the event by one team to give to another do not satisfy R1 above


you may certainly assist another team in building new parts for their ROBOT at the event, and we encourage that


Two new potential strategies:

  1. Work “with” the 5 worst teams at an event on 5 sets of RC grabbers at the beginning of the week to guarantee one of the 5 is available as a second pick. Take back the parts from the other 4 teams before elims (or don’t work “with” them to install key component until after alliance selection).

  2. Change our RC grabber from a 2 day build to a 2 hour build. Still pull our 3rd robot off the field for Quarters and Semis, and hopefully we can build an RC grabber “with” them in 2 hours. We will now only picked the most competent, experienced team that will guarantee inspectors know we were helping them, not the other way around. Heaven forbid we pick a rookie team that will need more help than is allowed within the rules!!

Kris said it well. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. And boy do I hate this game!


I understand why this was written. It wouldn’t be right for a team to throw two robots in the bag, and add 30 pounds of a third robot to their bag at each competition, and give away two complete robots to their alliance partners.

However, that’s not really what’s happening. This is similar to the sharing of the minibots of 2011, the bridge stingers of 2012, the 10 point hangs and full court blocks of 2013, and the inbounder modifications of 2014.

This year, the third alliance partners seem to have a smaller role than ever before, so I don’t think it’s right to prevent great teams from planning ahead and giving these teams meaningful tasks. It’s sad to watch a team dominate in the finals while a member of their alliance doesn’t attempt to score or move.

Not according to R1. They are a required component of the ROBOT

R12-C says that the FABRICATED assembly consisting of a COTS (motor) plus connector is exempt from the requirement to be fabricated during the 6 week build period. It does not say that it does not count as a FABRICATED assembly when given from team A to team B. Normally one would not lawyer this wording and would just go ahead and do it…this Q&A is so specifically harsh that you have to wonder whether R12 applies to inter-team distribution of normally compliant FABRICATED assemblies.

And here we arrive at the crux of the problem…how would Team A integrate a COMPONENT/ASSEMBLY in scenario 1, 2, or 3 (as defined in the Q&A), without working with Team B’s input?

Depending on how the scenario you’ve laid out occurs I would argue it could be quite inspiring. Do you really think the third team would have nothing to do with the addition of this functionality? Why couldn’t the act of refurbishing their robot with a team that is motivated to help make them better not be inspiring?