Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

Marshall -

That’s an interesting question, and one I don’t think I can really answer in the hypothetical (now, if you show up at my next event I may have to actually figure that out…). I will say that, if you go that route, get your LRI involved early. It’ll go a lot smoother if you give us a heads up and avoid surprising us! With a heads up early, I could get with the Head Ref and FTA to discuss the situation, and even have time to call Al or even Frank to figure out what the proper answer and procedure is. I believe that’s what you did with the Harpoon bot at champs a couple of years ago, so we all knew to expect it, we had time to talk through it as a group and get Frank involved with the decision at least a day before you actually brought it up for inspection.

I think the result may depend on what you want to use the new chassis for… If you’re trying to build an identical second robot so your programmers can sit with it on the practice field while your drivers are on the real field, you might have an issue (as that is a serious competitive advantage over other teams at the event that only have one robot). On the other hand, if you’re just trying to efficiently swap out a drive train that wasn’t working for you, it seems much more reasonable to work through to get the robot upgraded properly.

Who can say why teams make the decisions they do? Hopefully to improve upon their strategic chances of advancing.

Fair enough. I appreciate the candid response. I don’t have an answer for it either but it seems like the two times we’ve run into this it comes down to when the RoboRIO is added and that seems arbitrary to me and I wish there was a better set of defining characteristics for what a “robot built to play XYZ looks like to a reasonably astute observer” or however that rule reads now.

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.

With the current rule set this is how I look at it. The assembled box of parts becomes your robot when you take to the inspection station to get it inspected. The other robot becomes not a robot with all the associated rules about reattaching parts from it to your robot. Otherwise you are violating the more than one robot rule. I guess you can debate whether or not making the second robot violates C04. The events I have been to only allows inspected robots unto the practice fields. I can’t find the specific rule that covers this, but it seems common. So while you are free to play with and program your spare parts in you pit you cannot run it aroung outside your pit.

This is how, if I were presented this situation at an event I was the LRI for, I would handle it:

The second they modify the existing robot they require a re-inspection, so technically that’s when the inspection sticker could be “taken away”. Whatever they actually do during the course of the modification is irrelevant so long as they follow all of the applicable rules. In reality I wouldn’t physically remove the sticker unless the team attempted to play without getting reinspected. If you mean hypothetically the team builds an entirely new robot from spare parts, leaving the original intact, and actually ends up with two complete robots then it’s at the point where they actually want to compete with the second robot. At that point I would physically remove the sticker from the “old” robot, put a new sticker on the “new” robot (assuming it passed inspection), and congratulate the team on building an entirely new robot in a few hours. I would also remind them that if they have another event C04 will require that the team either remove the first robot from the bag or disassemble it so that the bag only contains one robot and spare fabricated items.

Wow, what a big difference from the sheet that was handed out by GuamFIRST inspectors! Hopefully FIRST will try to make these documents consistent in the future.

GuamFIRST_working_winning_alliance_rev1.pdf (191 KB)

GuamFIRST_working_winning_alliance_rev1.pdf (191 KB)

I love GuamFIRST. They have the best volunteers and events.

C04 only requires that you enter only one robot into the competition, and the blue box clarifies that it means bringing it to the event to aid your team. If a team is able to physically build a second robot entirely out of COTS parts and their withholding allowance then more power to them. They still won’t be able to bring that robot to another event.

I think the problem with this is that… The LRI is given absolute authority for a reason. Someone has to have absolute authority to make decisions at an event or nothing would ever get done.

I believe that the LRIs mentioned in this thread are the minority, because I have had great experiences with volunteers.

When we were at Perry this weekend in Indy, the LRI was very helpful and always quick to ensure we passed re-inspection when we had to get reweighed.

All this being said - volunteers are doing their absolute best to ensure fair game play. Volunteers are giving us hours, upon hours of their time to make sure our students get to play Steamworks.

Sometimes these key volunteers have to make hard decisions. FTAs, LRIs, and refs have the hardest decisions to make. Their decisions can directly affect a team. I have never met one of these people who is anything but sincere. Have I ever been upset with a call made by a ref or frustrated with inspection? Sure, but this isn’t the fault of these volunteers. They are doing their best to interpret the rules.

I am very lucky, because I rarely run into a key volunteer in Indiana that hasn’t been in my shoes before. Most LRIs, FTAs, and refs are either FIRST alumni, current mentors, or former mentors.

So you enter one robot. Build a second a second robot. The rule says enter one robot, not one robot at a time. How do you justify entering the second robot? Claim the first robot really wasn’t a robot? I am not expressing my opinion or making a judgment. I am just pointing out that it is debatable. Marshall seems to like these debates. :]

Hey, they wrote the rules, not me. I just have a dedicated staff of students and mentors who enjoys reading them. If it were up to me, I would have removed bags a long time ago and told teams they are only allowed to enter one control system (regardless of what it is attached to or what it looks like to a reasonably astute or otherwise observer ) with the sole exception of replacement control system components. I prefer the more open model if you can’t tell.

Marshall first. As I understand your theoretical proposal, you bring in COTS parts (an Andy Mark Kit) and a bagged robot. You then assemble the COTS parts into a robot base and move robot parts from your bagged robot to your new base and call it a robot. If that is your question then no rules were violated. COTS parts in their original state can be brought in and do not count for withholding. This is all provided that no other rules are violated and the CAW you display at inspection/re-inspection reflects the new cost.
If your were to partially assemble the base or make cuts to fit the sizing requirements, then you may only bring the modified parts in under your withholding allowance and then only when you load in. Any parts you have not modified prior to the event are still COTS.

As to removing inspection stickers, please see Jon Stratis’ post above. It is a way for the queuers to recognize they suddenly have a robot that is not ready for competition. As I said, it rarely happens, once for me in several hundred events and thousands of teams.

As to the “large 35volt capacitor”, how big was this device? Was it part of a COTS power supply or did you add it to the wiring? While capacitors are not specifically illegal, their use on FRC robots may still come under other robot rules in particular, R07. Large electrical storage devices can produce hazardous conditions for participants and other robots. There are specific methods that I would expect a team to employ to prevent any damage under R07. I would also suspect that the reason you are using that device actually covers up another electrical problem on your robot that needs to be checked. Again a robot inspector is a good person to turn to for help in that situation.

As to the cheesecaking, it was apparent that many teams wanted to add parts to other robots. Whether all or none that indicated actually made modifications I do not have a final report. Please see my other posts on this subject, there are many. I want teams to help other teams be successful. I want to see teams win. I do not want teams to feel bullied into making changes. Some of them may not be fully aware that they can refuse. I have had many teams tell me they refused but it was a team decision that they all believed in. I supported them too.

Andrew, you know how I feel about Guam except on April 1.

I can speak to the capacitor as that was my team. Physically the capacitor was not excessively large. Perhaps 1" long by 5/8" diameter. Granted this is on the larger side of what capacitors usually look like. We added it based on the recommendation of the manufacturer of the strip lights:

Note that these seem to be the same light strips sold at AndyMark (am-2916).

The capacitor terminals were soldered to very short pigtail leads that were installed across the screw terminals of a 5V, 10A-rated power supply (which the RI had no problem with), and all exposed leads were insulated. There seemed to be no issue with the reason for having the capacitor, or the way in which it was wired - the conversation kept revolving around the “rated for 35V”. The inspector in question did not seem to understand or accept that a component’s rated voltage is not the same as the actual voltage it will be seeing in a specific application.

I mean…it’s a decoupling capacitor. How is it even questionable to allow it? I mean…the higher voltage rating doesn’t really have any bearing on the capacitance. It probably just looks large because it’s likely an electrolytic. Sure, it’s overrated for a 5V line, but that shouldn’t matter. In fact, I would be more concerned if it was less than a 10V rating on a 5V line.

Mighty oaks grow from from tiny acorns. I once was a mentor for the only FRC team in St. Louis, the same year that St. Louis FIRST was formed. Fifteen years later, the Championship was held there.

Two rookie teams from Guam will compete April 1 (really!) at the Hawaii Regional. Expect mighty oaks, in due course.

Hey Al - are you indicating on a global level it was apparent many teams wanted to add parts to other robots? Or specifically at this event. If its the latter, I’d like to understand how we knew it was going to be such a problem that this event ended up creating supplemental forms to help the process, before anyone arrived. Particularly with the outcome being no teams actually cheesecaked at the event.

I completely agree with the rest of your statement.


Hey now, how’d I get involved in Guam FIRST?

As long as whatever you do on April 1 is in better taste than the joke Team Update at MSC in 2010… By which I mean, I’d fully support if there was an item added to the inspection process that required all Matt Lythgoes be removed from the venue.

I’m sure it’s been done earlier, but the first instance I saw was in the 2012 “Rebound Rumble” game at one of the Pacific Northwest regionals. A rookie team had a robot that consisted of nothing but a drive base. One of the top teams outfitted them with a little sheet metal ball-holder that that, when bumped, would allow the balls to roll out and into the other team’s ball pickup, allowing that team to score an extra shot or two.

It can be seen working just after autonomous in QF1:
and working in autonomous in the next match:

Please keep in mind that inspectors come from many different backgrounds with different bases of knowledge. You might get an inspector that’s an electrical engineer and can tell you exactly how that works. Or you might get one that’s a mechanical engineer and understands everything that went into the custom gearbox you built. Or you might get one that’s a software engineer, or civil, or industrial, or… You get the point. Most likely the inspector you got wasn’t an electrical engineer. He saw an electrical part that said 35V on it, and thought of the rule limiting voltage. And that’s fine. That’s what the LRI is for.

Personally I have plenty of experience working with mechanical systems, but I still consider electronics to be these weird plastic boxes that emit smoke when you hit them hard enough. I actively enjoy having teams show me how things are supposed to work, especially when they have a motivation to show they’re compliant with the rules.