We had an unfortunate encounter with an RI at our last competition. We have a custom circuit (lighting strips that do status signalling). Part of the circuit is a small power supply which had a large decoupling capacitor between the 5V rail and GND. This particular capacitor had a 35V rating. The controller in the led strips are fairly noise sensitive.
The RI failed us as he claimed we were violating R49. Both the controls mentor and I attempted to explain that the 35V was a rating and that the circuit in no way produced voltages exceeding 24V. We offered to demonstrate this via measuring with a DVM. The RI stuck by his interpretation of the rules and would not pass us with the capacitor in the circuit.
The LRI was not available and we needed to get a sticker, so we removed the capacitor. The RI did offer to verify/revisit this ruling, but he never came back after we removed the capacitor to get our sticker.
This was very frustrating as the RI clearly did not understand how capacitors work, and was completely misapplying the rule.
We did meet with the LRI the next day and he also was vague on how this worked. However, he was willing to accept the explanation supplied by 2 electrical engineers and override the ruling, allowing us to add back in the decoupling capacitor.
The whole situation was unfortunate, and very frustrating “in the moment”. However, the RI remained polite and civil throughout. We accepted the ruling, even though it was clearly incorrect (as we believe in the process and thought that “walking the talk” of GP was more important than escalating the issue). The LRI handled the situation the next morning, professionally even though he clearly did not fully understand it.
We had a separate issue with getting our rope inspected. The LRI was requiring teams to show their attachment process and was failing ropes that had a knot more than 2 inches from the top side of the davit fingers. We had the revised version of Q142 available that states in part “extends more than 2 inches below the DAVIT fingers”, and clearly shows the change in intent of the ruling. Once we politely showed the Q&A, he passed the rope and changed his inspection process.
I believe that FRC events do need a local point of ultimate decision making. It is very upsetting when you run into a ruling that you feel is wrong. It is even worse when you believe the person in the position of power is clearly abusing it (Note: This was clearly not the case in our particular situation; the RI and LRI were enforcing the rules, as they understood them). However, the RIs and LRIs have a difficult and complex job that needs to be done fairly quickly. I don’t think it is fair to give them all these duties/responsibilities, without giving them the power to back it up.
It also is important for teams to understand the process and the stresses the RIs and LRI are under. Maybe I have just been lucky but all the LRIs I have dealt with have clearly been invested in FRC and the process and been doing their best to be fair and consistent. I can say the same about most RIs. I certainly have observed situations where team mentors or students behaved less than professionally. I have seen where the LRI made the students work for the inspection, after the student was rude and condescending to a RI.
There exists a formal process to document abuses. Hopefully FIRST takes reported incidents very seriously and deals with them appropriately.