Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

The topic of this thread is contentious enough that we don’t need to continue an argument from the FUN show about an entirely different thread here.

If someone asks to borrow a spare roborio for the event because they fried theirs. Asking for it back at the end of the event is the natural thing to do. It isn’t not GP. If anything it is not GP of the team that borrowed the roborio to not give it back, because now the team that graciously let them borrow it for the event is down 400 dollars. Cheesecake is effectively the same thing

So when the Pit Admin asks that I return a part from the spare parts desk is that an example of being not GP?

I agree with you. We make it a point before doing mod work with another team on whether or not we’re going to ask for something back later; and that takes away any awkwardness.

As far as the all powerful volunteers. One suggestion I’ll be making is that we really ought to have a mentor/coaches meeting where whoever is in charge of the customer experience at the event can introduce themselves. I’ve had two or three bad experiences that all stick out and the most frustrating part was I felt like there wasn’t an outlet at the event to bring up what had happened.

There is always going to a bad apple in the tree. Ignore and get someone who can help you get through your problem.

To those who are there to make our experience at FRC events better, thank you!

I have had LRI’s who blatantly made up their rules and were extremely rude and unprofessional and I have had LRI’s that would sit in a teams pit for hours trying to make them competition ready.

There are definitely plenty of bad volunteers in FRC. I like others have noticed alumni make much more understanding and reasonable volunteers. However, the amount of good ones far outweigh the bad ones.

PM Al, email Frank and let them know what happened. LRI’s are high visibility volunteers and if you let those in power know of a fault they will definitely be quick to fix the situation for teams in the future. I’ve also found sometimes even a threat to do such a thing makes an unreasonable volunteer comply very quickly.

What is in worse taste: asking for your parts back or avoiding asking if the team who gave them to you wants their parts back?

When I first started in FRC it was common for teams to be sharing more common parts like the goods you received in the Kit of Parts back when they were loaded with items or raw materials. Today we have seen a huge shift to COTs based solutions $$$ and withholding allowances that teams are using for themselves or to benefit other teams.

As a former student I know whats its like have unforeseen breakdowns or realize you forgot key items at your shop. This is why as a mentor I am usual involved in my team over packing for events knowing that while a good portion an be used for our robot, we have plenty to help other teams when they exhaust their resources. Some years it has been key motors that kept failing and while we weren’t breaking ours I kept giving them to another team who kept seeing them fail. Other times it has meant a $200 gearbox we had on deck as a spare for our machine to get another team back up and running.

Something to keep in mind though is we are not a team who makes financial decisions with our parts lightly. A typical our design meeting ends with the pro/con list heavily in favor of the cheaper option so we can use what we have more effectively. When a team starts asking around for parts they need we know it is unprofessional to hold back because “We might need it eventually.” For the most part the receiving team has asked if we need these parts back and we let them know on a case to case basis. There have been occasions where a part has been given out in haste meaning we have to follow up later about if we could have it back. Other times a team has stopped us on the way out the door to give back a part we expected them to keep.

I see where you are coming from, however holding back on parts is unprofessional (IMHO) and avoiding the conversation with the team who gave you the parts is unprofessional. Granted large items like cheesecake should be discussed before parts start to be removed or added from a machine, however I fail to see where the argument of, “It the sole property of the robot it is mounted to”. If that is the case then I guess we will have to ignore certain part requests because we might want to walk out with what we brought.

As an aside note I would like to mention that we are blessed to work with some incredible teams in New England who gift, lend, & offer parts freely to each other in a positive environment before, during & after events. If you are reading this and remembered a time you gave our team something that we failed to return let us know, we’d like to get said item(s) back to you.


I don’t know where to begin here, just spent a night with a small family emergency so I am not tip top…

As to ‘Cheesecake’ ( I don’t like this word as it is a derogatory term from my childhood. Look it up, also used with beefcake.) There are no rules against bringing parts, making parts for another team or adding functionality to another team at an event. Helping other teams is encouraged. However, this practice can be abused in a variety of ways. Personally, I don’t want teams who have worked hard on their robot to have another team bully them to throw away their work and add something else. I also want to give teams a chance to bring home hardware. That’s a big dilemma. However, what Gary was trying at his event was a way to get a handle on something that was about to get out of control. As inspectors we need to know how a mechanism came to be on a robot at the last minute. Where did it come from, how did it enter the building and when did it show up? There are rules governing all of this for said parts to be legal on any robot at that event. When more than a few teams start making wholesale changes to their machines with mechanisms donated by other teams, we get concerned. It is difficult to remember everything that you see and a formal document may be a way to keep track. Other than what is written in the robot rules for withholding and COTS parts, there is nothing that covers adding parts/mechanisms to alliance partners.

Removing an inspection sticker can only be done in a case where a team refuses to remedy a violation of the Robot Rules upon reinspection. I have only done this once and threatened it once in my entire time as an LRI. In the first case, a team mentor continually added mechanisms to the team’s robot that I had watched them remove to get to legal weight. He told the team I had no authority and added back about 20 lbs of sprockets and chain for a ball pickup. The queue passed the inspection station so the team couldn’t get out with the added material. I removed their sticker after discussing with the Head Ref. I reapplied it after they removed the parts in the queue. The threat was for a team that had a faulty CAW, that was allowed to play while they worked on it. (A decision of the LRI, the Head Ref and the FTA) They were taking their time to finish the work and I made the threat to speed them up. It worked.

We train our LRIs to meet regularly with the Head Ref and the FTA as I feel we should act a team when making difficult decisions. Each of us have contact numbers where we can phone for help. All LRIs have my number and this year I have fielded 40+ contacts (phone call, email or text) on average for each of the first four weeks. And yes, I am a volunteer.

All teams can ask for a review of an inspector’s decision by going to the LRI. You can ask that the LRI contact me for my opinion. LRIs are great people. I expect them to have inspected for several years prior to being an LRI. I expect inspectors for the most part to have actually mentored on a team where they were in a position that they needed to comply with the robot rules. That means that LRIs have about 6-8 years minimum experience. I am in my 22nd season and I still see new things every event. Some of them are cool and some are very challenging to determine if they are legal. We also expect our inspection staff to consider themselves a member of every team at the event. That changes how we look at your robot, and it makes us want you to win.

Yes, rarely, someone will have a very stressful day and will forget all the training and the expectations. I say rare because there are over 145 events this season with approx. 10 volunteers at each event doing inspections. I am expecting in excess of 60 at each Championship. While you don’t see it, they work hard all through the event.

We measure success by the smiles of the team members in the pit and the teams that return next year. And to some degree on all teams being inspected and ready to go by the first match.

Thanks for listening.

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Thanks Al.

In your opinion, is the systematic addition of mechanisms for eliminations a new phenomena in the dynamic of the FIRST Robotics Competition, or has it been in existence for a longer period of time?

I am not privy to the totality of the bureaucracy to get official changes related to robot inspection made official and properly communicated. What can be done in the short and long term to ensure the the tracking of such activities can be uniformly communicated and executed in an official, above-board capacity? I do not disagree with the existence of some kind of official documentation for withholding allowance, I am just wary of what passes for an official inspection process becoming an incredibly inconsistent affair from event-to-event and from team-to-team (not that there should be any kind of fantasy that inspection is ever consistent from team-to-team in the first place).

To get to the point of this thread, I have not seen any place in the rulebook where this is explicitly expressed. This conclusion can only be reached indirectly through the preamble of section 9, which gives the LRI final authority on robot inspections at the event.

This isn’t meant to be a tooting of the horn, but we make very concerted efforts on our team to ensure that we are following all rules in the manual and in the myriad of web pages on FIRST’s website pertaining to awards and events. When we broke our intake and ripped it off at our event, we did not get reinspected in time and when consulting with the robot inspector and manager, offered to be retroactively DQ’d for it. We take it seriously and we are sure that the key volunteers want to do the same.

While everything you said here sounds nice and very well could be true, none of it has been explicitly, specifically stated in any official documentation available to teams and as far as I can see, it only all can be authorized under the universal provision of Section 9.

I have to ask as an attending team - what situation was about to get out of control? We’ve already heard there was no cheesecake at all at RIDE. Can you go into more detail into the concerns you LRIs share?


Check out I05:

Unless the change is listed below, any change to a ROBOT must get re-inspected. If a ROBOT is modified after it has passed its most recent Inspection, that ROBOT must be reInspected before the ROBOT is eligible to participate in a MATCH.

Pulling the inspection sticker is a means of communicating this state to queuing and to the field. Sure, the LRI can go tell the queuers and the Head Ref, but pulling the sticker is a much more visible and motivating way to ensure the team gets reinspected and is allowed back on the field once again.

As an interesting note, this past week in Iowa I had 2 different teams that actually “pulled” their own inspection stickers. They removed the part of the robot that the sticker was on (oops!), and we had to get them a new one when they got reinspected. One of them ended up putting the part back on, resulting in them having two inspection stickers… we only saw/signed one of them before playoffs, and the Head Ref happened to see the other, which led to some questions to verify their legality in their first QF match. Fortunately, I was right there field side, so it didn’t get out of hand.

This is certainly a valid concern, and I agree. But the note expresses none of that clarity. I think what we’re seeing in this conversation is that reasonable people can disagree, in part because there’s an absolutely massive pool of potential cases. (What if the cheesecakee agrees to return a roboRio beforehand and then breaks it or even renegs?) The statement assumes all the weight is on the cheesecaker, but these situations can have far more problems and nuances. That’s why I’m shocked that an (ostensibly) authoritative document would issue such a sharply blanket statement with no oversight, appeals, or elaboration in not even a complete sentence. It’s trivializing all the complexities here and unilaterally instituting a normative mandate on just one population.

I understand the intent is positive. That’s about as good as can be expected from any one individual–because this shouldn’t be an individual’s responsibility. But the fact that an individual undertook this can’t let us ignore shortcomings in the output itself. That’s what affects teams, and many teams don’t have the experience to dissect and respond the way we are (with more time and not at an event).

This is the second example in as many days of RI communication leaving a lot to be desired. It’s not that these particular individuals are somehow bad: we know that; we know them. What we’re seeing here is a common phenomenon in which good people attempt to plug holes in a large but flawed system without the benefit of its full synergistic insight and iteration. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it causes situations like this (or far worse). Blaming the individuals for one outcome or another is off-point; it’s the system needs a lot more supervisory guidance.

So kinda quasi-serious hypothetical question. If a team showed up with a robot that was bagged and it included a drivetrain and a mechanism that could be removed and then that same team also brought in an AM14U3 kit unassembled in COTS form along with COTS control system items and then spent part of one day building up the AM14U3 chassis and then at the last second wanted to switch out their robot for the new AM14U3 chassis… at what point does the new KOP chassis resemble a robot to a reasonably astute observer? Is it when they add the RoboRIO? Is it when they add the fuses on the PDP or the VRM? Is it when they finish building the KOP chassis? At what point might the team have two robots and be subject to having their inspection sticker taken away?

“Pulling the inspection sticker” is a question of semantics. Most of the robotics getting red carded for playing with uninspected changes have an inspection sticker. Rule I05 covers the actions that take a robot from the inspected state back to the uninspected state. Threatening to pull the sticker for non-robot issues is a little over the top & doing so is not within the rules. Just as staying in the pits past closing when asked to leave. (or performing actions that indicate that you are intending to stay in pits past closing.)

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.