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

Without putting too fine a point on things, the mentors I’m talking about are just tired when it comes to trying to influencing the GDC.

For the most part, they have come to the conclusion that there is little to be gained by complaining publicly about this or that feature of the game design, preferring back channel communications or suffering in silence depending on how strongly they feel about the problem and whether or not they think FIRST is open to hearing their input.

One mentor has actually started a tradition of writing a “Dear Frank” letter shortly after the kickoff with specific predictions of how things are going to play out during the season, hoping to gain some street cred for influencing future years.

For my part, I take comfort in the observation that the FIRST community (you and me) are robust to occasional bad games. We’ve survived terrible game designs and even worse Q&A decisions. It’s all going to be fine. We’ll get through this. Together.

Dr. Joe J.

Same. I’m always one of the first people to get upset when teams cheer for others’ failures, but I caught myself in quarterfinals with our team thinking “We’ll advance if they knock that stack over… Please knock your own stack over”.

That’s really ugly. It didn’t feel good at all. I wanted to slap myself for even thinking it - so why is that a part of this game?

That’s so sad to read. I only asked because I was envious of having the foresight and experience to make those predictions, but consequently I haven’t had to suffer the weariness of constantly being ignored.

I will echo any calls for pre-reveal consultation with experienced mentors. I also agree that there are issues with this year’s game that cannot be fixed now.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think most of the manual could be changed, especially early on. For example, a (perhaps unpopular) fix could have been changing the value of the bins respective to totes. Unfortunately it’s too late for that now.

Other issues (such as this loaning one) can still be fixed, and would be better fixed if there was more community involvement (such as this thread) earlier on*.

*And FIRST/GDC listened to it

As in every year, the rules are the rules.
Not once have we been required to like them. We are only required to follow them. If you aren’t willing to follow them, then why have them at all?

Quite often teams take the rules and use them to their advantage, sometimes the advantage(s) are overlooked and missed. Sometimes they are exploited. One perfect example of both this year is the tethered robot and tethered ramp.

Here is how I describe the rules to my students when they start complaining about them. When company “A” approaches company “B” to have “B” design and build a widget for them, “A” provides the design parameters. Now “B” can follow the design parameters and build a product that “A” will pay them for. Now if “B” doesn’t like the parameters, “B” can choose to not build according to them and thus not be paid by “A” and not gain the profits that could have been made.

Play by the rules. Exploit them if you can, but play honestly and fairly.

Nobody ever said you had to like it.

True, however as a customer buying the product of FRC that FIRST is selling (because that is what this whole situation is - buyers and products), it would be a smart decision for FIRST to take customer feedback and improve their product, lest we switch over to a competitor who gives a better experience for less money.

I’m going to put this whole discussion into a more palatable context: Cheesecake.

Brandon from 125 mentioned on GameSense S02E03 (check around minute 42) that they internally referred to assisting other teams with mechanism modification or addition as “Cheesecaking”.

But why cheesecakes, you may ask?

Because everybody LOVES cheesecakes.

We haven’t cheesecaked a team that wasn’t thankful, grateful, and better off by the cheesecake we gave them. We have cheesecaked rookie teams, veteran teams, you name it. Just in 2014, I estimate we cheesecaked over 20 robots. Arguably, there isn’t a team out there that cheesecakes harder than 1678. We’re proud of how much effort we put into our cheesecakes, because we know the more we cheesecake, the better everyone gets.

Common, who doesn’t love cheesecake?

I have first hand seen how inspired a rookie team can be working with our students and mentors to put cheesecake on their robot, and the thrill they get watching their cheesecaked machine succeed on the field. Just this past weekend, we started cheesecaking with 5529, a rookie team, to make their stacker robot more effective. I wish everyone could have seen the joy, excitement and inspiration on each of their students and mentor’s faces seeing their cheesecaked robot make its first successful co-op stack.

In fact, 1678 got its first Blue Banner on the receiving end of cheesecaking. In 2011 we selected 1868, who had a wicked fast mini-bot that was just asking to be cheesecaked. We cheesecaked that little cheesecake onto our robot in the 45 minute cheesecake-break between cheesecake selection and our first cheesecake match, and it ended up being the fastest cheesecake in the cheesecake race.

For teams hating on the cheesecake, consider this: Everybody LOVES cheesecake.

When it comes to cheesecake, everyone’s a winner.

I thought of some cheesecake hashtags for those of you who would like to cheer for cheesecakes at your future events:


Cheesecake? Yes, Cheesecake.



I don’t think telling students they have to silently comply with circumstances they weren’t aware of until someone let’s them know is really the message I want to send them into the world with. Especially when someone actually knows the circumstances and conceals them.

If someone did that to my business under the guise of contract law - perhaps I wouldn’t care to make anything for them in the future because the contract seemingly means very little to them.

There’s such a thing as constructive criticism.
I’d like to think FIRST can encourage some reasoned debate.
Perhaps educate in how to reasonably debate.
I don’t always expect FIRST will respond to criticism.

I do expect FIRST will strive to be, well, first? :rolleyes:
That, of course, means sometimes FIRST will have an off year.

Keep in mind that I don’t care who wins. So that changes my threshold for annoyance when it comes to game time shenanigans.

I think Jon’s post is a reasonable interpretation of the Q&A. He is a LRI & has been an LRI at worlds. If you have a question at your competition on how the rule is interpreted ask your LRI. Have your robot reinspected (required by 2015 rules) making sure the added components & source are documented.

Frankly (and that’s not meant to be a pun, FrankJ), if things are enforced as Jon suggests, it’s a problem since it’s not in line with this Q&A response. If Jon reads this, I agree with your interpretation at a moral and common sense level, but the Q&A response explicitly disallows a lot of what you say you would allow. To me, Jon’s interpretation is UNreasonable given the text of the Q&A.

I vehemently disagree with the Q&A response, but the response is also pretty darned clear cut and explicit. Having various volunteers at various events “interpret” the response with the “intent” of fostering a positive experience is just as bad as volunteers “interpreting” the rules in the strictest manner possible a la Dallas. We don’t need interpretation of bad rules to make a good event, we need the rules to be good in the first place.

The path to hell is paved with the best of intentions. While I don’t think anyone is trying to make things evil here, I’d suggest it is more righteous to consistently enforce the letter of a bad rule everywhere than to create a scenario of mixed or muddled expectations from event to event.


One of the things I most about the First community is how we celebrate our & others successes rather than failures. But in the end it is a competition. In games past did you ever hope that an alliance would lose because it would help your teams ranking? Not really different. Even the angst you feel when that happens is a good thing.

Perhaps the GDC is lactose intolerant.

You’re a fantastic human being.

Even through all this discussion, I still have some serious questions.

Parts given away during build season
We regularly give away sheet metal parts we make during build season after we have iterated on them or no longer need them for our robot. In these cases the teams that receive them had no hand in their design or manufacturer. Are these parts no illegal, even through all the transactions happened during build season?

I’m not sure how to handle this situation as a Robot Inspector, do I get to choose where to place this imaginary line between a team building something and helping another team build something?

The Q&A doesn’t outlaw any form of penalties so I can only assume that the main penalty would be for the receiving team’s robot to not pass inspection. So as the lending team what is our responsibility?

Additions to the BOM
I was LRI at Alamo last weekend. Teams regularly modified their robot and added things through out the event, as all teams do. Not once did I ask them for an update BOM. The BOM is barely glanced over as it is and asking teams to add every square inch of lexan they add to their robot is just a waste of everyone’s time. I don’t remember having ever been told to recheck a BOM at any event or LRI training I have been to but now the Q&A is asking us to do this for all modifications.

I’m glad my LRI duties are over for the season, I’ll let other people decide what is and isn’t legal under this new rule interpretation. Hopefully we get a lot more clarification from HQ on this.

If you were on the GDC and had to answer the question, how would you answer it in order to allow teams to help each other but not do something like taking a second pick, handing them a ramp on a string, and saying “your going to add this now”? How do you, in a short and concise way, draw a line between what is acceptable and what isn’t, while staying consistent with R1 and requiring that the robot be built by the team?

At some point, you have to rely on your trained key volunteers to interpret the rules correctly. There are many examples of rules we could list where some level of interpretation comes into play.

Yes…if you serve it to every alliance, not just your own.

What if you served some too? :wink:


To me it sounds like FIRST just wants teams to at least have some sort of influence on what goes on their own robot. They specifically say that “assisting” is allowed which to me seems to indicate that as long as your team had a student helping to construct it, it can go on your robot. Shouldn’t really change anything with the ramps, just have someone on both teams go and help make it.

For me personally, if I were on the GDC then I’d stop adding more rules and let teams do as they have done in the past and allow them to add components to other robots freely provided the newly formed amalgamations pass inspection. I don’t see the harm in it. Strapping last minute mechanisms to robots to try to improve them has become a tradition of sorts in recent years and I don’t understand the reasons for limiting it.

You know, the GDC could help themselves and us by providing explanations of intent when answering Q&A questions. Establishing intent with the rules helps to make “common sense” rulings easier… it’s not a perfect solution but I think it might help.

I agree with this.

Wow… This is quite the emotional thread.

I just can’t seem to get too upset about the answer to the Q&A after having read is several times. To me, it basically says, “Yes, keep helping other teams to fix and improve their robots. However, if you are helping the to construct new parts at a competition, the team with the receiving robot needs to be taking the lead in the process and, unless the receiving robot’s team brought in the parts, they need to be COTS. So, if you have a brilliant idea for a can-grabbing mechanism that you’d like to have your alliance members sport, you should bring in all the pieces as COTS parts and show your alliance members how to build it themselves.”

I’m good with this. Clearly, it’s not okay to construct a second robot at home and bring it to competition with the idea of “loaning” it to an alliance member. So, how much robot is it okay to “loan” or “gift”? 50% of a robot? 20%? The line must be drawn somewhere and the Q&A is attempting to draw that line at “If it is on your robot, your team needs to be the one that built it - though accepting assistance is certainly encouraged.”

From my perspective, there just seems to be something wrong with seeking out that third alliance member who is so inept that it would be willing to play dead (as a ramp) or sit on the sidelines during matches so that the other members of the alliance can reap the glories of victory. Instead of focusing on the aspect of helping other teams to “win,” this rules seems to be push us more in the direction of "helping other teams to “learn” by insisting that those other teams are intimately involved in the construction of all aspects of their own robot. This is a good thing. After all, if a team is so inept that an alliance would do better if they were not on the field at all, is it not clear that that team has some things it needs to learn in order to have a better experience in the future?

From another perspective, if I am going to build robot parts in my shop before a competition with the idea of finding a robot to which I could attach them to help my “alliance” to win, am I really trying to help other teams, or am I attempting to use other teams to help myself to win? However, if I am scouting the robots at a competition for a second alliance pick, but not finding the “right” pick, asking a team with a potential robot if they can make a couple of modifications (with help, if needed) seems very different.

Could the Answer be clarified? Yes, it does seem to be a little restrictive for smaller items (assembled gearboxes, for instance). However, I do think it’s on the right track.

As for the game itself, I’ve grown rather fond of it. Yes, I like throwing things at targets better and I agree that it may not be the most spectator-friendly and I do think that thrown pool-noodles weigh too heavily in lower-level events. However, it is a fantastic engineering challenge. Having gone through a build seasons and recognizing just how difficult the tasks are, I really appreciate seeing any team finding success.

As for some of the knocks:

  • It encourages you to root for toppling stacks. I disagree. It does not encourage you to root for a stack of toes to fall any more than Ultimate Ascent encouraged you to root for robots to fail to make the 30pt. climb or Rebound Rumble to root against the triple-balance being attempted by the other alliance. We are competitive people. Rooting against the other team is a part of our nature. We use Gracious Professionalism as a tool to learn to be better sports.
  • It encourages strong teams to sideline weak robots. Perhaps. I look at it like this: An alliance consists of three robots. All three are supposed to be on the field. Part of being a great robot is the ability to work with weaker partners and helping them to maximize their potential. It is not GP to ask them to sit on the sideline so that you can score more points. Get them on the field and help them to find a way to be actively useful.
  • The points for recycling containers are too high when compared with totes. I disagree. The value for the RC’s is awarded for having the ability to manipulate a second, very different object. RC’s only score if placed on top of a tote on teh scoring platform. If an alliance can only manipulate one items, they’ve missed the point of the game.
  • Coopertition is annoying. I really like it. It sets a related, but different, standard for qualification and elimination matches. Teams must be able to perform in both games in order to win a competition. Yes, it’s hard. That’s the point.