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

Just to point it out in the event this Q&A isn’t changed between now and an event:

Q359 says deploying code to the RoboRio doesn’t intrinsically change it from COTS to FABRICATED. So, you can write code for other teams.

…well, you can write code for other teams, if the RoboRio is still in or returns to a COTS state after you deploy the code.

Interesting juxtaposition that further highlights the earlier points about Q461 being so mechanically focused.

Oh…and I received a battery shipment for a team that visited the Alamo Regional. I’m sure glad I didn’t assemble their batteries and verify the charge, even though I was asked to do so and felt it was the GP and just downright friendly thing to do.

Intent is what gets us situations like the Dallas DQ, the Orlando Incident, and other such issues over the years. Intent is what gets us “students cannot bring controlled substances to school” and someone get’s expelled for taking an aspirin.

There’s a lot of good intent in a lot of rulings. And then there’s folks who apply policy without any common sense. I’m worried about the latter.

This is simply a theoretical method of satisfying the Q/A’s precedent, while still getting to build a 2 day mechanism for use in the eliminations. Key is “for use in the eliminations”.

However, taking mechanisms back because we didn’t pick that certain team is a pretty jerk move, all things considered, and we wouldn’t do it. Not to say another team couldn’t though.

Very likely, we will go with Option 2 this coming weekend, and see how it plays out.


I think this example is really the crux of the issue. The GDC had an intent in 2011, and they designed the game to make it strategically beneficial to teams to execute on that intent. Or…they thought they did. I don’t know how common trading minibots or collaborating with FTC was elsewhere, but it was certainly a universal truth that fewer Tetrix parts meant higher scores. The ability to clone also left the top tier teams who’d done all the R&D with a very bad taste in their mouth (and way less money in their wallets).

This year, the bad taste is coming from the ‘boat anchor’ robots for other team’s ramps. I’m not arguing that this is or isn’t inspirational or GP or in the spirit of FIRST: what a team gets out of that experience must be very much its own. (And related to hopefully well-meaning but functionally unregulatable Alliance professionalism.) But if the GDC wanted to avoid this, they shouldn’t’ve made a game that had, from the start, clearly, painfully, obviously, ‘here, we’ll even make it easier to get four extra points if you take them off the field’-style diminishing returns for a 2nd pick of a dual powerhouse alliance.

Now that the GDC has set the game design–and I don’t even really blame them for not foreseeing this if they didn’t–stop with the over-legislating. (2013 G27 anyone?) This is a community concern now. And FIRST HQ has fostered a good one, in my humble opinion. Let the game play. You will make mistakes in life that you can’t save people from. Luck be with you if this turns out to be the worst of them.

This is awkward and I hope that Frank will clarify this and give us more than we have right now. If I have a printer at the event and print team numbers for other teams this is now frowned upon?

If the GDC doesn’t want better teams to strap components on to other robots, they should design a game that doesn’t require better teams to strap components on to other robots to win.

What about parts that my team has already machined for other teams? DO we request them back? Do we ask them not to use them? Dow we notify robot inspectors?

My reading of this Q&A is pretty straightforward:

**They want the team associated with the robot to be the ones primarily working on the robot - not any other team.

They want teams to be able to help each other, but not build entire mechanisms for another team.**

I think this is fair and 100% within my interpretation of what FRC is about.

Why this thread even exists is because it’s nearly impossible to come up with a rule that distinguishes between helping another team vs building an entire mechanism for them. I don’t envy the GDC/Q&A responders, because I couldn’t come up with a ruling that effectively distinguishes between the two myself.

But, I believe in the spirit of this response, and intend to respect it.

In hindsight, I’ll be the first to admit that we broke this rule at GTRC. Our tote-based ramp was constructed from COTS materials at the event, but it was designed, constructed and tested only by members of our team. Because the ramp had to be completed and tested before alliance selections began, we wouldn’t have known who our 3rd alliance partner was in order to involve them.

However, I honestly believe it would have been a better experience for everyone if teams who included the ramp as part of their robot were also the ones who constructed it. Now we’re being asked to ensure that this happens, and I think that’s pretty reasonable.

Does this ruling eliminate the possibility of ramps entirely?

No. But you have to go about the process differently now. Release your ramp designs publicly, and see if there are any teams who are willing to construct them. Truthfully, this is probably what we should have done at GTRC, and had we done so, I think it would’ve been a pretty awesome experience. It’s too bad our ramp didn’t come together until Saturday late morning, but I guess we’ll have another chance to do it right in Hawai’i next weekend.

I think I have found a way to circumvent the Q&A ruling a bit. As mentioned earlier in this thread, rule R11 specifies that a team may consider machinists to be “members” of their team “solely through the donation of fabrication labor”:

It is in the best interests of the Teams and FIRST to form relationships with as many organizations as possible. Teams are encouraged to be expansive in recruiting and including organizations in their team, as that exposes more people and organizations to FIRST. Recognizing supporting companies as Sponsors of, and members in, the Team is encouraged, even if the involvement of the Sponsor is solely through the donation of fabrication labor.

I don’t think anyone could argue that many teams are non-profit companies. Many have 501©3 status’s of their own, sell merchandise, pay employees, etc. Therefore, as long as members of a given team provide labor to the receiving team, they may be counted as members of the receiving team. FIRST made the rule intentionally flexible. Therefore the section of R1:

The ROBOT must be built by the FRC Team to perform specific tasks when competing in RECYCLE RUSH
is easily satisfied.

Clearly, this line of thinking is lawyering the rules. I think we all have a general idea of what the GDC was going for and I think we probably agree that the Q&A appears to be more restrictive than the GDC intended. But if we take the above idea seriously, I don’t see much of an issue with it. FIRST encourages teams to make connections with organizations that have capabilities greater than the team. I can’t imagine FIRST would disallow the “machinists” mentioned in R11 to fabricate something for a team in that team’s own pit. Why should that not extend to other teams wanting to fabricate things?

This is a confusing update. It is also not clear what is meant by elements and assemblies.

Assemblies are things like gearboxes, assembled ramps…, but what are elements? Are they parts, software, ideas, tools, giveaways, buttons, pins, hats, chemical elements :rolleyes: , or something else?

Possible Intent 1: Prevent ramp anchors or one time use container grabbers that ‘ruin’ the experience of a third partner.

The intent would be to prevent what happened to 1114’s alliance with 1547 (robot was a stationary ramp anchor) or 254’s alliance (1323 failed to show up for many elim matches, attempted to grab containers, failed, and didn’t move significantly in teleop).

The merit of preventing these situations is up for debate, but it’s clear that this rule update won’t solve the problem.

Partners can (and will) still do nothing in finals matches. If we were lucky enough to be the third partner of 148, and I knew that I was likely to get in the way, I know our team would hold our robot off of the field if necessary. It’s too late to correct the flawed game dynamics.

Possible Intent 2: Prevent a team from bringing another entire robot and giving it away. This is the situation where one team carries the other team to the point where they aren’t involved in their robot any more.

The argument can be made that donating a can burglar or a clever mechanism and adapting it to an existing robot can be a very inspiring process for a newer team, but it’s very hard to make the case that replacing an entire robot would be ‘inspiring’.

FIRST has happened for a long time, and this situation has never happened. There is no reason to think that it will happen this year, but common sense tells us that the happy, Graciously Professional tradition of lending assembled gearboxes, batteries, pneumatic cylinders…, will happen quite a few times.

Possible Intent 3: Prevent 2011 style minibot collaboration that helps both teams.

Why? I don’t get it.

I had to prevent this situation in 2012, so it may have happened some where else. It actually took quite a bit of arguing on my part to make sure the loaned robot never saw the field.

I believe that this ruling was not intended to hurt teams, and that their intention was good. The way I read it, they want teams to do well at competition, but they want them to do well and feel ownership of their robot, and be inspired by what they accomplished.

Where I feel that this ruling made its error is the line it drew between having other teams help, and being inspired. I’m glad they remembered to keep the section about allowing teams to help other teams with their robot, as long as the original team is activity working on it and the second is just advising, but I don’t see why a better team can’t help other teams more. As long as both are happy with the balance, and both teams agree on it, I don’t see why FIRST shouldn’t.

I think that the real issue here is once again how people are inspired. It is in many ways like the question of what role mentors play (which I am not trying to start a debate on, so please don’t…). The balance will always vary by person and by team.

Some teams will prefer to keep their own robot, work on it by themselves, and compete with a robot they can completely claim. Others welcome the help better teams can give them, enjoy working with and learning from others and find the improvements outweigh the fact that they release some of their ownership (arguably–I’d say as long as it’s their choice to work together, it’s their robot).

Overall, I understand what FIRST is trying to aim for, and avoid, but I don’t think this is the way they should try to do it. They’re trying to bring back the idea that inspiration, not winning, is their higher goal, but in doing so forget that learning from others–and success–is its own type of inspiration.

The ruling was also extremely confusing to read, which is something they should try to change in my opinion. I wish they could just say what their intention is and skip the overly complicated details, but they we’d probably be in a debate of what fits their intention and what doesn’t…

This is a little out there, but maybe - what if - not all robots are compatible with all alliances? It’s crazy, I know, to think that some teams would choose specific robots because they fit with their strategies, but it could happen.

Sarcasm aside, regardless of what the pickers’ intentions are (provided the pickers know what they’re doing), no team is chosen at random. Every team is chosen for a reason to play a specific role on an alliance. Now if a team is chosen with an intended role in mind, their alliance partners can help them better perform in this role, and the team is willing to improve their play to better contribute to the alliance, I see no reason why those partners shouldn’t be allowed to help the team.

I know why this decision was made, and while I wouldn’t break the rule if they enforced it, to paraphrase Nick Fury from The Avengers: “I recognize that the Q&A has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.”

I expect–given the furor currently brewing–and given the number of teams that may or may not be on CD that may or may not be considering this sort of thing–that there will likely be a message in tomorrow’s update giving some sort of reasoning/intent. If not in an update, on the blog.

Remember, Frank and the GDC do read CD. A thread like this is all but certain to have their full and undivided attention.

Actually, if I was going to “fix” the rule, I wouldn’t touch the rule itself. Instead, I would utilize a Blue Box and note that teams building items for other teams WITHOUT the involvement of said other teams would be counted as a violation, while teams assisting other teams to build such items would not be generally considered a violation, and additionally COTS parts or reasonable modifications to same (e.g. batteries with leads, charged) would not be a violation particularly if recipient had such COTS part on their robot already. (OR whatever the actual intent of the GDC happens to be.) That blue box should be enough to clarify to all concerned what the intent of the rule is and put this issue to rest.

This is what worried us the most. We know many teams including ourselves have made parts for other teams before and no one gave it a second thought. We read R17 very carefully this year though and the section about only placing parts on your robot that were either in your bag, in your withholding, or manufactured at the event seemed to imply that this was no longer legal unless a team manufactured the part themselves at the event. This would mean that a large portion of teams at events up through week 3 should have been disqualified (ourselves included for making a part for another team). Is this is the case or am I misinterpreting it?

“The meaning and origin of the expression: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” - Chinese proverb

One team can teach another everything they know, show them how to do it and give them the resources, others will learn. Second guessing GDC’s intentions are futile…end of the day every team wants to play a fair game and help others.

I agree with everything except that, of course we have to evaluate their decisions. How do you think we get things changed from year to year. We still have to follow their rules, but we better be very vocal about the things we don’t like. We are their customers and part of their goal is to keep us moderately happy.

As a team who has spent their withholding allowance the past four years making assemblies for struggling teams and having judges cite that as a key in our winning Chairman’s bid last year, I find this clarification disappointing and concerning.

That being said, we have been flummoxed as to how to do something like that for this game but it’s great to see the GDC eliminated that problem for us.

1 Like

This rule update seems as if it is going to end up causing teams to ultimately, not be able to help each other and thus getting rid of one of the things that people and I personally love the most about FIRST: the fact that we are a loving community where we help anyone, even if we have a match against them coming up.

I completely understand the element of FRC to aid another team to develop a portion of the robot to work better in the game itself. However, to ‘loan out’ ramps, claws, grabbers, etc. - that goes against all things FRC.

As a coach, I would have severe hesitation to allow another team to ‘loan’ an element of their allotment so that we can satisfy their needs. If my team is drafted, I would expect that you do so knowing my robot’s limitations. However, if we do have the allotments necessary in our own arsenal, then so be it.

Yes, it is great to win a competition. It is also heartbreaking to lose it. However, to draft a 2nd team just because they are the best fit for your own allotments, that is wrong. Not just against the ubiquitous ‘GP’ - but plain wrong.

There is both positives and negatives in finishing in the top positions… you get the first pick. However, it also means that the top teams must look deep into the field to get a team that can work with them. If the top tier teams are drafting their 2nd picks because they can ‘remake’ the 2nd pick - that is wrong. Then why even pick them? Find a robot that can truly aid them ‘as-is’ with little manipulation (and no lent elements).

Why? Well, ask the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. alliances that have worked their butts off to build their robots. - and then for the alliance captain’s scouting team working to no end to create the best alliance for their chances. Do they think adding a completely non-COTS element to the 3rd team on the first alliance is acceptable?

I saw 2526 draft two robots in Duluth that were better than them in scoring from the tote chutes. Not ranked higher, but better robots that could do what 2526 could not. Team 93 (rank 15) and 4818 (Rank 62) were great Tote Chute Bots that secured the win against an incredible alliance built by 2052. No shenanigans on either side - but 2526 won the Lake Superior Regional because they drafted robots that could complement their strengths - or in other words, played on 2526’s weaknesses.