Designing/strategizing to utilize the "MOMENTARY" <3 seconds?

Our team tends to not ride the very edge of limit/min/max rules, but I’m wondering if perhaps that’s an error. When “MOMENTARY” was defined as fewer than approximately 3 seconds, which implies 2 second rule violations of rules that refer to “MOMENTARY” exceptions are fine, does your team design/strategize for utilizing the 2 seconds? For example, if you designed a robot last year that could intake and shoot a ball in under 1 second easily, would you design the robot for 3-ball cycles, with the 3rd ball of each cycle being acquired and launched easily within the allowed momentary time? Or would you design for the 2-ball limit?

If you designed for 3-ball cycles, it seems like you still are subject to hard nosed refs who might penalize you if they perceive you as frequently and deliberately momentarily violating rules, so you’d need to shift back to 2-ball cycles in that case. Or maybe you’d defend the practice with the rule book?

Maybe nobody’s actually doing this, but my perception is it is fairly common for teams to go right up to the edge of these rules including exploiting exception rules for benefit, and I’m curious about the thought process there. Thanks.


Teams are absolutely doing this. I dont remember which team(s?) in 2020 were pushing the 5 ball limit (theres video somewhere but its escaping me), but this year both 1577 and 254 made full use of G403’s “greater-than-momentary control” qualifier for the max ball limit for their autos.

Edit: I was reminded that Einstein Finals 1 even had 254 pick up a fourth ball, which went unfouled.


We did that this year in our 5 ball auto too. The robot would pick up its second ball then move to the third, extending the intake and picking up the third ball as it was shooting the first (pre-loaded) ball. We very much skated under the momentary control rule with that one, but since we didn’t have three balls in control for more than about a second, it passed muster with the refs. It was a very efficient 5 ball auto and earned us the Autonomous Award at NCDCMP. Here’s a great view of the auto in action (we’re the red alliance robot in the center):


In my experience at local events (especially early events) referees tend to call penalties for possessing more than the specified number of game pieces, regardless of whether the possession is momentary or not. It’s not something I will be designing my robot around, as I won’t ever be confident in a consistent ruling from ref to ref and event to event.

I would also suggest that this strategy presents a lot more risk than potential benefits… very few teams are operating at a high enough level that they will benefit from possessing an extra game piece momentarily.


“highest level play” (eg Einstein caliber) in CA required practicing and executing 3-ball volleys throughout the match. 3 seconds is a long time.

Very few mid to low level teams designed for or executed 3 ball volleys, and plenty of those mid level teams were holding their own against teams with 3ball capability.

I would not recommend 99.5% of teams chase that particular margin, but it can be pretty dispiriting to see Einstein captains play a different game than we do.

For CA play, I’d prefer a 1 second definition of momentary. If it’s not match affecting or the team clearly doesn’t gain advantage (spends time removing the ball rather than scoring all 3), refs don’t have to call it.

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I don’t recall us ever even considering the idea for the 2022 game. After seeing teams do it at Champs, I think we will be looking at the 2023 rules through different lenses. I don’t know that we will be “exploiting” definitions like that, but at least we will be aware of the possibilities and make an informed choice.

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We talked about it, and made sure our robot could support it but never really pushed it hard into our match strategy.

We did a handful of 3-ball cycles at tidal tumble, and I was really a fan. I dont think this would have flown at many official events especially early in the season, with many teams getting called on < 1-second possession of 3 balls. If enforced consistently, it is significantly faster and could have been a huge advantage early on, im honestly surprised we didn’t see this more often.


We briefly entertained the idea of building a robot that could catch balls directly from the ball return chutes by exploiting the MOMENTARY rules.

G405 says:

A ROBOT may not REPEATEDLY score or gain greater-than-MOMENTARY
CONTROL of CARGO released by an UPPER EXIT until and unless that CARGO contacts anything
else besides that ROBOT or CARGO controlled by that ROBOT.

Our way around this would have been to have the ballpath between a hopper and our shooter touch the ball to the ground briefly (thus fulfilling the “until and unless” criteria). I have no doubts this would have worked within the rules (and after seeing real-world ball return dynamics play out, I bet it could have been reasonably effective at rebounding on a swerve drive, especially if the top of the hopper could expand to the maximum allowed dimensions), but would have totally upended all the other aspects of the robot architecture and been at risk to a Team Update that closes that loophole at any time, so it wasn’t seriously pursued.


It was used quite effectively by a few teams at Carver field.


Just wanna point out 1771 built their robot’s 6-ball auto around the momentary phase… IIRC they were the first to at least show a doable 6-ball. (Also I think their robot name was also Momentary until they changed it to Robosaurus).


Gonna play devil’s advocate here for a sec, I think the 3 ball rule was incredibly poorly enforced. If we had some kind of counting system (like what we have for pins currently), I could see many more teams doing this. For our team, we could barely fit 2 cargo in our robot since it was so small, and we still managed to get penalties for holding 3 for what seemed like almost no time. 3 seconds is a LOT, and many good teams could probably get away with 3 ball cycles very easily if there was a uniform way to enforce it.

I think the main reason why I didn’t like this rule was because of how we lost beach blitz this year. We held onto a 3rd cargo for 1.5 seconds before a ref decided to call a foul on us (The beach blitz match videos aren’t up yet, so I can’t link the match). While yes, we did eventually have possession of 3 cargo for just over 3 seconds (someone counted frame by frame), having the call made so early doesn’t seem right. And then the fact that we lost the tiebreaker on penalty points (The only penalty in the game) just added insult to injury. I could go on a tangent about why I think that we should have replays for ties in double elim, but that’s a topic for another thread.

Sorry for the long-winded response, I just wanted to voice my opinion.


Adding to your comment on perfect enforcement making it more common, I will note that in xRC (where fouls are perfectly timed and defined for the most part) 3-ball cycles were a large part of the metagame. While a strict counting rule would definitely help ease the inconsistency problems and add another element to robot design, we need to see a better definition of “possession” before it can be implemented.

(Not an expert of the xRC meta by any means, just my personal observation)


This so much this.

I wanted to see if I could set a benchmark for teams who either were already using the 3 ball strategy or might have benefited from adopting it. I decided the best criteria was for auto teams who at least ran a 5 cargo auto where they acquired all 5 cargo, and attempted to score them. This data point to me means they have the programming means to get the robot where it needs to be in auto and might benefit from the momentary rule to get through the 5 ball quicker. The other criteria I looked at was scoring 13 cargo in teleop, this means if you get the 5 ball you are at a point with your driving/scoring where you can solo the Cargo RP. These are teams who have reliable scoring mechanisms who can make use of the extra cargo they are momentarily in possession of. I was not looking at averages just if you were able to do it in a single match.

South Florida, Week 1, 33 Teams in Attendance:
Teams who acquired 5 cargo in auto: 2 (179, 4481)
Teams who scored 13 cargo in teleop: 4 (179, 2168, 2383, 4206, 4481)
Teams who can do both: 2 (179, 4481)

Orlando, Week 2, 56 Teams in Attendance:
Teams who acquired 5 cargo in auto: 3 (179, 180, 4481)
Teams who scored 13 cargo in teleop: 4 (179, 180, 3937, 4481)
Teams who can do both: 3 (179, 180, 4481)

Bayou, Week 5, 41 Teams in Attendance:
Teams who acquired 5 cargo in auto: 5 (118, 179. 364, 2992, 3039)
Teams who scored 13 cargo in teleop: 6 (118, 179. 364, 2992, 3039, 8044)
Teams who can do both: 5 (118, 179. 364, 2992, 3039)

So at qualifying events you are looking at your top 4 robots at an event are at a level where they could look to improve or did improve potentially by utilizing momentary control.

But what about Champs? Well the criteria for a qualifying event seemed a little low for Championship so lets limit it to teams who scored the 5 cargo in auto (achieved the common “best” auto) and teams who scored 20 cargo in teleop (could get the RP even without auto)

Carver, Championship, 75 Teams in Attendance:
Teams who scored 5 cargo in auto: 10 (179, 987, 1114, 1296, 1323, 1690, 1796, 2046, 4028, 6421)
Teams who scored 20 cargo in teleop: 10 (16, 179, 604, 696, 1114, 1323, 1690, 4635, 4639, 5727)
Team who did both: 4 (179, 1114, 1323, 1690)

Now several of the teams on here did use momentary control. However for the 20 cargo teams specifically it was used sparingly or not at all, to the point where everyone listed would still have scored 20 cargo with all of their “3rd” cargos being misses instead of scores.

We are just over 3 weeks away from kickoff and looking over my old data reminded me of some sad data points from Carver of the 75 teams:
51 moved in auto in all of their matches
47 averaged 1 cargo or more scored in auto (aka the preload)
44 averaged 6 or more cargo scored in the entire match

This means at the toughest to qualify for Championship, probably in FIRST history, 32% of teams had movement issues in auto. 38% could not consistently score the game piece in auto and 41% of teams (nearly half) if randomly assigned together would not be expected to get the Cargo RP.

Once again these were not from my Week 1 event these were from the Carver Division. We as a community do lean to be represented more by haves than have nots but these stats show, at least to me, that we really need to be preaching fundamentals and good practices even more so than in the past.

Teams who might be considering strategies or designs that push the definition of momentary need to seriously think about if they are at the level where that is necessary. More consistent autos, more accurate scoring, quicker intakes, more driver practice, better scouting and more secure electrical connections all of these are examples of things that 99% of teams need way more than pushing the bleeding edge of “momentary”.

Sorry for the long post, I just get worried when ideas like this are posted so close to kickoff and teams lose sight of the best ways to improve.

Edit: Somehow missed 604 in my initial post for Carver good catch @Ethan_Reed


I agree with all of your arguments. Please recognize that 604 scored 23 cargo during teleop in their fourth quals match at champs. You seem to be missing that data point.


Honestly, the way G403 was written made it sound like it was going to be enforced a lot differently than the way it played out:

G403 2 CARGO max. ROBOTS may not have greater-than-MOMENTARY CONTROL of more than 2 CARGO at a time, either directly or transitively through other objects.

A. the CARGO is fully supported by the ROBOT,
B. the CARGO travels across the FIELD such that when the ROBOT changes direction, the CARGO travels with the ROBOT,
C. the ROBOT is holding CARGO against a FIELD element in attempt to guard or shield it, or
D. the ROBOT is preventing a CARGO from leaving a LOWER EXIT.

Violation: FOUL per additional CARGO. If egregious, YELLOW CARD.

Egregious examples include but are not limited to the following:
a. simultaneous CONTROL of 5 CARGO
c. frequent CONTROL of 3 or more CARGO (an approximate count for frequent in this context is if this rule is violated more than 3 times in a MATCH)

It was the c part of the blue box that had me the most convinced that this was going to scrutinized by the refs and flagged much more frequently than it was. Now, it could be argued that the “greater than momentary” part of the main rule was being considered here such that you would have to have frequent greater than momentary control and not just frequent control. But they left the “greater than momentary” out of the blue box criteria.

We had the ability to carry 3 balls in the robot if we wanted to. But, we did not try to leverage this 3 second allowance. We had one particular 5 ball auto run where the third ball did not make it to the shooter while parked at the spot where we had picked it up. We then drove to the terminal and picked up the 4th and 5th ball and shot all 3. The announcer responded with “How is that even possible!?!”.

We had one other time where we we pushed by a defender while intaking a ball such that our intake actually grabbed a 3rd ball. The ref’s flag went up immediately, but it did not show up as a foul in the final score, so he changed his mind (or remembered the 3 second rule after the flag went up). We shot out 2 of the balls before the 3 seconds expired, so we were, in fact within the rules.

I honestly believe that in 2022, holding 3 balls was not much of an advantage. I believe that, due to the limited number of balls on the field, it was better to shoot the balls quickly so that they could be returned to the field for the next cycle rather than holding onto the balls while you drove around looking for that 3rd ball. In fact, I would argue that shooting 1 ball was better than hunting for a second ball in many instances. But that calculus certainly depends on how long it takes to line up for the shot and also how starved the field could become by carrying the balls for the time that it takes to get to the second or third ball.

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There are several very important parts of the manual every year that are paramount to understanding the rules.



so for this year when you analysis the rules remove the colloquial language, your left with

Robots may not have greater than momentary control of more then 2 cargo at a time.

Replace all defined words with the definition.

Robots may not have control of 2 or more games pieces for greater then approximately 3 secs.

Also never read intent.

Lastly always have a printed copy of the manual with all of the above tabbed to show if a dispute arises.


You can get to Champs lots of ways that don’t include having a top-tier robot. I started at the bottom of the Carver rankings and the bottom 13 teams [63…75] all got there by other than winning an event (eg Chairmans, EI, RAS, etc). [62nd spot, 6637 won a District Event]

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There are a few teams in that bottom part of the ranking who got to champs via district points, so while they do not have an event win they did qualify at least partially based on robot performance.

I understand there are many ways to qualify for champs, and if you look at my post history I have been a proponent of making sure that award winners do not lose their spots.

However, when 31 of the 75 teams can not average more than 6 cargo in a match we are no longer dealing in the realm of “top tier” robot vs not. We are dealing with a majority of teams lacking the ability or skill to contribute directly to the main scoring objective and the rp associated with it.

To compare at our Regionals

South Florida (33 Teams):
Moved every auto: 9
Scored an average of 1 cargo in auto: 6
Scored an average of 6 cargo total in a match: 6

Orlando (56 Teams):
Moved every auto: 16
Scored an average of 1 cargo in auto: 8
Scored an average of 6 cargo total in a match: 11

Bayou (41 Teams):
Moved every auto: 25
Scored an average of 1 cargo in auto: 12
Scored an average of 6 cargo total in a match: 13

So yes Carver was better than your average regional in terms of teams who could complete the tasks I outlined. However the point I was trying to make was that teams are looking at what the 1% are doing and trying to emulate that meanwhile you have alliance captains and first picks who are in fact top 15 robots at their event and they can’t even consistently score. Fundamentals are being lost and teams are looking at or pursuing things that shave fractions of seconds in an attempt to score one extra game piece a match. Meanwhile they could work on the fundamentals and increase their average match score by way more than 2 points.

I really hope future versions of these rules put the “strategic” exception back in. Teams who take a rule that is fairly clearly intended to help avoid needless penalties for minor violations that don’t impact the match and then contort it to find a way to use it to their advantage is how we end up with stricter rules, more referee burden (additional “count” signals), and generally more controversy over when something is and isn’t called. Adding back in a clause to the rules stating that referees may call teams for “strategic” or “repeated” violations helps avoid this.


The way I read c there is that if the robot is breaking the rule multiple times, they’ll be yellow carded. To break the rule, they have to be in possession of 3 for more than 3 seconds!