Do LRIs wield too much absolute authority?

I gather from the link that you used a 1000mmf capacitor. If that is the case then it was appropriate for your design and should not have been a problem. 1" x 5/8", 1000mmf is not “large” in my experience. Our transmitter power supply has two 2 mmf 40kv caps. They are oil filled, and are in a steel can approx. 36" x 30" x 6" not including the standoff insulators. That is my definition of “large” and they would produce a completely different method of evaluation when used on an FRC robot.

My info is after the fact and I can only gather from the reports that it appeared that this event only was facing a variety of modifications. The number of elim modifications is certainly on the rise this year but varies wildly from event to event.

Absolutely. Those pretty pictures tell me where I need to hit to get the smoke.

Absolutely. One of the things I emphasize to both my RIs and any teams I work with is that there’s a process of escalation. If either of them have a problem, they bring it to me. If they need to go above my head, then can contact the SRI. If they need to go above them they can contact Al. My goal is to make sure that everyone is safe, everyone is playing, and everyone is happy (in that order). I also like to emphasize to my RIs that if they’re not sure about something they should come to me; at the end of the day any decisions made at the event fall on me as LRI anyway so I might as well be the bad guy right away if something causes problems for a team.

Neither I nor the position description asks that the LRI be able to design a custom circuit. It does, however, suggest that the LRI ought to have a level of experience and understanding of electronics that, in practice, isn’t always the case. That’s sort of concerning, since electronics are a sort of big deal in a robotics competition.

Do you agree that the final authority on robot inspection at an event ought to view electronics as more than smoke filled boxes?

I remember this… I remember the team too and how it changed their town.
The ranching robots…

That was a fun experience as an alliance.

Cheesecaking before it had a name

Which electronics? Because when it comes to the specific items in the control system (RoboRio, PDP, PCM, Motor Controllers, etc), we have the Control System Advisers to turn to. As far as I’m concerned when inspecting, the RoboRio is a smoke filled box that sometimes requires someone in an orange hat to fiddle with it to make it work. The wiring diagram and rules give you everything you need to know about hooking up to it.

Exactly. There’s a significant difference between understanding a wiring diagram and understanding the component layout of a custom circuit board. I have no problem understanding how a FRC robot should be wired, but beyond a basic level of complexity I have to rely on the honesty of the students to ensure that their custom circuits are compliant. If I come into a situation where something is questionable then I consider it a learning opportunity for myself and a chance for the students to demonstrate that they know enough to prove their system is acceptable.

There’s already a specific example in this thread of a simple custom circuit being ruled against by an inspector who didn’t understand one of the fundamental building blocks of electronics. It took, apparently, two EE’s to convince the LRI that it was ok.

The LRI ought to, at least, be able to look at the circuit in situ, compare it to a diagram, recognize that it isn’t directly controlling robot mechanisms and that it’s not using or producing voltages in excess of 24v. This is part of the job description.

At the risk of being repetitious; the LRI is the final authority on the inspection process. If they are going to have that level or responsibility and authority they need a fundamental understanding of the technologies on which these machines operate. Based on the responses in this thread, and my experience as a student, mentor and inspector, I’m really not convinced that’s always the case.

This is a very interesting topic of discussion. As a team whom has both been in attendance at RI, and in our history been a team whom as been on the receiving end and giving end of a cheesecake, I’d like to touch on the three main topics I see in this thread: 1. Power of Event Volunteers, 2. Legality of “cheesecaking” 3. GP with regards to lending parts

  1. Re: Power of event volunteers. I’d like to preface the discussion without singling volunteers because in actuality we are all volunteers. I know I have never received a paycheck for my 13 years of involvement in FRC as I am sure many of you never have as well. I see there are typically four types of volunteers: A. The team mentor whom supports a team through their FRC journey. B. The event volunteer, who helps run, organize, officiate events, but does not support a FRC Team. C. The team mentor who is affiliated with a team, but also volunteers at events in an authoritative fashion. D. The team mentor, who does not volunteer to run event, but rather volunteers to help other teams at events.

I tend to fall in the D, category because I think my efforts are best spent helping other teams, when I am not helping my own team.

For the most part the event staff that I meet are great people, genuinely care about FRC, the program, and the students. I look forward to going to different events, because not only do I want to experience the difference in competition as a team mentor, but I do look forward to making many new FRC friends, and expanding our own team network. I think this is my 99% experience in FRC. I have noticed personally, that in most instances, the “negative” experiences with event volunteers occurs when a volunteer at an event is also affiliated with a team at that event, falling into that C category. Personally, I think this creates a bias that can not be avoided, especially once a stressful situation occurs. If you can, try to avoid volunteering at an event your team competes at, I know this may be inconvenient personally, but sometimes even thyself can’t understand how stress and bias can effect rational.

I have personally seen instances this season where Robot Inspectors, whom for a single Robot past initial inspection, and that same robot past re-inspection prior to elims, were told something on their Robot was no longer satisfactory (like the location of a main breaker) after being selected for an alliance and were told it needed to be changed. I don’t agree with this type of opinion change. I think pictures can help this situation. I like how the LRI in MAR, Raj, has an app set up that takes pictures during inspection. You can go back and say, look that component you are questioning was that way on Day 1 and passed, why are you asking me to change it now. Luckily that team did not have to change their main breaker location after further discussion, but it was a discussion which in my opinion should have never needed to occur. We do not have that APP in NE that I know of, but I think similar things like just taking pics of the Robot during inspection can go a long way to easing the “What has changed during an event” for Robot inspectors, without having to create a lot of paper work or last minute confusion.

With regards for pulling inspection stickers or threats otherwise, for administrative things not tied to the legality of the Robot, there is no place for that in FRC. My personal stance is threats of any kind jokingly or not is not tolerated on my team, it is the quickest way to get kicked off my team, and similarly, it should be the quickest way to get banned from being an event volunteer. This is a high school program to help kids succeed in life, not a place to make others feel less than you, and if that is the case in my opinion who ever does that should not be apart of the FIRST family.

Lastly, I just don’t understand why there are negative experiences at an event at all, even if you are affiliated with a team competing. You choose to be an volunteer, so you must either love it, be a people person, and work well under stress. If any of those qualities are not true, why not give yourself a break and not volunteer? Like I said, instead of volunteering at an event I do not compete at, I rather go to another event, wonder the pits, and help other teams stay working, cause that is where I think I can provide the most benefit to this program. We are all volunteers, and that alone is a great thing, but volunteer in a manner in which makes you happy, and makes those around you happy.

  1. Re: Legality of “Cheesecaking”. I think Gary at RIDE had good intentions and was trying to help teams understand what would be required of “cheesecaking” before it occurred. I welcome the better explanation of rules, as long as it is not made up and applies evenly to all teams and entities. I think that is what Gary’s intent was, especially with regards to a team specific withholdings, what was brought into the event pre fabricated, and what was made on site. He went out of his way to help communicate to us the reasons of the documentation, and I appreciate that. I tried to put myself in his shoes from a withholdings perspective I can see how sometimes it is easy to tell, sometimes it is hard to tell what is made on site vs pre-fab. Some events have machine shops, where I believe all Robot inspectors can and should pull work orders to understand what a team has done to machine things on site (like cheese cake parts for example), and not count towards the withholdings, but some events do not, like RIDE, making this a bit harder. I think Gary was trying to bridge the gap between events with different resources, and I welcome that, so as long as it is applied fairly, evenly, and all teams had ample time to understand it, I am all for it. I believe the breakdown was in the latter of teams not having ample time to understand it. In the future, it may be beneficial to make a Chiefdelphi post with the “unofficial forms” or “documents to track metrics” at particular events days in advance so attending teams can have time to absorb it and ask questions. I know at an event, I get like 3hrs of sleep the entire weekend, so having more time to understand particular changes would be helpful. Or better yet, make an official email blast to all main and alternate contacts. Now in the end RIDE did not have any cheesecaking officially, did my team try to help as many teams as possible, definitely, I am sure others did too, but would there have been cheesecaking if the forms were not passed, that I can not say.

  2. **Re: GP with regards to lending parts and not asking for it back. **This is a double edge sword and I will give my personal experience on the matter. At our first event in Bridgewater, MA we provided a cheesecake climber to our alliance partner 5563, who entered the event without a climber at all. Their team agreed on day 1 about the possibility of a cheesecake and we worked on the logistics from there. We provided all the materials and motor controllers out of our spare parts. They wrote the code without any help from us, and we installed it together. The cheesecake was a spare climber which majority pre-fab and within our witholdings, however some on-site work was done. After the event we learned that 5563 would be competing in a Week 3 event, and so were we. But we told them we wanted them to keep the climber, because we wanted to see them crush their next event, and we would go back home and figure out how we could to make a spare climber for ourselves. That moment 5563 was in tears of excitement, and it was no greater feeling to represent my team and allow them to keep everything. They went on to their Week 3 event and did very well.

The very next weekend we competed in a week 3 event as well, and did not have enough time to fabricate another spare climber. So we opted to modify the design a bit using all cots (the original design has custom ratchet/pawls and some other sheet metal items) and brought raw material with us to the event. We used the event machine shop to cut and make all the pieces required, we used COTS 1/2 wrenches for the ratchet/pawls, and we requested motor controllers/motors from other teams as we didn’t have any more spares. Again on Day 1 of the event we worked with another team who agreed to cheesecake, and in this case they were a lot more involved with the mechanical build because we had to build a whole new climber from scratch on site. I personally worked with their driver and programmer (Justin and Stephanie) to program and electrically set up the robot for the cheesecake, then together the teams integrated the device. After the event, the teams who lent us the motor controllers asked for it back, which I was expecting, because that is what I am accustomed too. We never expect to keep what we borrow (that is true GP), they helped us get as far as we could by lending those components, and I am grateful, but I am sure they need it too, so lets give it back. I would never want to intentionally keep another item from another team without permission. We learned that our partners 752 were not competing again at another event (That was their second district event, and they were now awaiting a MAR Champ invite) , but we were again competing in a week 4 as well, And because the design was modified quickly and not really too our liking of robutstness and maintainability, we left the event with an agreement with 752 that we would remove the climber (because it was useless to them without the motors and controllers anyway, we would go home, and 2168 would order all of the required material (motors and motor controllers) and ship them a complete assembly and work with them to integrate it onto their Robot. Again under our own decision. So if they do make it to MAR Champs, or go to any off season event they would be ready to compete. That shipment is going out this week. Further more we worked with an on-site sponsor to help back them in case they do get invited to MAR Champs.

As you can see, I personally believe it is a great idea to allow teams to keep things and also believe fundamentally, if you are in a position to help a team you help by keeping them involved, learning their names, and building a relationship that extends beyond the event…, but it should be a choice up to the team, so they can make a choice which makes sense financially and logistically for them, and not mandated. And while our personal budget is very tight, I would gladly spend it all to help another underfunded, lower resourced team, because not too long ago we were underfunded and lower-resourced, and I know what its like to be in that position, in some regards every team is always still in that position. But I believe, if you mandate all items must be left with a team like what was stated at RIDE, all that will happen is teams will not feel comfortable giving up expensive parts. If I go to an event and need a new TX1 for vision, I would hope another team would lend it to me, and sure as heck would expect them to ask for it back!!! If this were a mandate, I would never ask, because what team has a budget to just give away a TX1, after the event is over.

We walked into RIDE with the intent that a team would keep a cheesecake because we would have enough time to make another to NE Champs, fortunately, we did not need to use the cheese cake at all, but that was our choice going in.

Also if you do mandate it, it should apply to everyone equally, meaning I do not believe it is a fair statement to say “It is not GP to ask for something back” but then in the same sentence say “Anything borrowed from the On-Site Emergency Spares must be returned”. If you use the logic to say “the robot passed inspect with a part and it now belongs to the robot”, then that should apply to all parts no matter if it comes from teams or on site spares. The rules must be applied to everyone equally and fairly, if not, then they should not be applied.

I have been in FRC a long time, and at the end of the day, the true result is were the kids inspired, and did all teams feel they were treated fairly and equally? If the answer is yes, then great event, if the answer is no, then we have some work to do.

At the risk of oversimplification:

If I ask you for an item, such as a motor controller or RoboRio, then I should expect to return it after I’m done with it (since I’m imposing on you).

If you come to me and want to give me cheesecake, then you should do so with the expectation that I can keep it (since you’re imposing on me, and possibly damaging the original design of my robot by adding your cheesecake).

Or at the very least the agreement should be made clear before any parts change hands. “I’ll give you cheesecake, but I want it back afterward” should be allowed to be met with “no thanks”.

There is no rule written or unwritten that specifies the status of a mechanism at the end of a competition that has passed from one team to another. It is neither ungracious to ask for it back nor is it ungracious to return it. If you gave your opponent a half link, some hardware or a CIM motor to keep them playing, you do not expect them to play less hard against you? You just saw a need and you helped fill it as all teams are expected to do. Please think about these situations in the way a Chairman’s Team would answer. They are hard questions and require a lot of thought, but you will see there is no correct answer.

One thing about this side discussion of the “ethics” of asking for “cheesecake” to be returned - I think a lot of people may feel they are being fair and righteous in demanding all cheesecaked items be given away to the team at the end of competition, but the effect of this becoming an established norm will actually help the teams at the top at the expense of the middle tier.

Essentially, only teams that can afford to give away hundreds of dollars of robotics parts will be able to cheesecake. This further restricts the activity to something only particularly elite / well funded teams can do, further increasing the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

Personally I’m in favor of giving away stuff I cheesecake onto another robot, in almost all circumstances. But I’m not going to judge a team that asks for their stuff back, or talks to the team in advance saying the cheesecake would be only temporary. I would encourage them to work with that team after competition to show them which parts to order and how they can re-implement the cheesecaked feature later.

[quote=“Nate Laverdure,post:61,topic:158343”]
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.

This is so, so much better. This is what I’m talking about designing the (RI) system to pool collective insight instead of setting everyone to make it up on their own.

Essentially, only teams that can afford to give away hundreds of dollars of robotics parts will be able to cheesecake. This further restricts the activity to something only particularly elite / well funded teams can do, further increasing the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

Personally I’m in favor of giving away stuff I cheesecake onto another robot, in almost all circumstances. But I’m not going to judge a team that asks for their stuff back, or talks to the team in advance saying the cheesecake would be only temporary. I would encourage them to work with that team after competition to show them which parts to order and how they can re-implement the cheesecaked feature later.Agreed. As long as the alliance discusses and agrees in good faith beforehand, external authority figures (with no oversight or appeals) have no business hindering those internal decisions with normative dictates. It’s the teams’ relationship. For instance, had a team approached us this year with a please-return cheesecake offer to pull everything off our robot, we might ask that they help us reassemble and/or reobtain any destroyed parts of our original afterward. This would be a completely reasonable to me, but maybe not to someone else.[/quote]

As the mentor that attempted to deal with the issue, I would like to make it very clear that the issue was with the interpretation of the rule, not with the RI’s conduct. He did not understand the rule (R49: “… shall not produce voltages exceeding 24V”) has nothing to do with ratings on parts. Debates on electrolytics, over rating, ESR, etc are a completely different issue.

In our case we were using an over rated part as it supplied the capacitance value we needed for the application and while not optimal the over rating did not case us any issues. It was not a large enough device that we felt it added any risk to the robot (as an energy storage device). As was already pointed out, it was securely fastened down and properly insulated. Given that the issue was with the rating on the device, I will gently point out that if we had an under rated capacitor, it would have passed with no issues and been a disaster waiting to happen. The LRI also did not feel comfortable ruling on the issue, in my opinion.

I completely understand that RIs and even LRI are not going to be masters of all aspects of the robot. However, given that under rating can cause serious safety hazards, if CUSTOM CIRCUITs are going to be allowed, education in how to appropriately inspect them is likely a good thing.

Having said all that, I would like to again empathise that both the RI and LRI were polite and professional throughout and their intent was clearly to inspect according to the rules as they understood them.

While the message is not always received in the same manner, LRIs instruct their staff to report anything that looks odd or items they have not seen before. If they can’t rule on it, they need to contact me or JB. For all lurkers here, it is common practice to use a voltage rating on a capacitor that is at least 1/3 higher than needed. While 35 volts in this case is a little over kill, in this capacity and range, it is likely less costly than purchasing a 25 volt version (the next lower standard value). I would have questioned a team that used a 16 volt version for not having enough margin for the device in use on our robots. Spikes from motors backing up onto the 12 volt buss can generate voltages in excess of 16 volts.

Firstly, you are correct about the size.

Secondly, the design team has had many discussions about supplying more power to the drive motors, as peak torque values are produced at way above the available current. If not for R37 & R60 I am sure we and many other teams would have all sorts of “interesting” additions, producing all kinds of additional challenges to inspections. After all we had over 25 lbs of steel plate ballast on this years robot to play with.

Thirdly, [tongue in cheek mode on] if you don’t need a cart or dolly to move it, is it really a large capacitor?

Fourthly, and in all seriousness, both the RI and the LRI did not seem comfortable with issues posed by inspecting CUSTOM CIRCUITS. I can only see these types of additions getting larger and more complex as more and more off the shelf systems become available. As a tiny example of this, we had a NavX, Arduino, and Raspberry PI along with the custom power supply for the LED strips. None of this is covered off in the wiring diagrams (it is covered off in the various rules) and must be a nightmare of non EE types to inspect and ensure compliance. I am honestly curious in how FIRST is planning on dealing with the issue.

Is this too big? Or just big enough. It wants a Delta connection. Maybe one leg to the negative and two to the positive? It rated for a 460 line voltage.

I mean, we know a thing or two about putting capacitors on robots:

Yes please… Picture a 4 or 5 775Pro a side drivetrain, with a little extra “help”… stupid breakers.

Jetson TX1 power issues last year. Was the solution we had at the time and it worked quite well. So well in fact that I’ve been working on a circuit inspired by it that could enable teams to keep 5v and 12v systems powered up without having a dreaded “integral battery”. I’m trying to figure out how I can get it made and get the costs down along with introducing a decent voltage regulator into it.

EDIT: To be clear, we had it on the robot for one event and then found another solution involving soldering things and a different voltage regulator. I’m not sure if it would have passed Al for inspection but it did pass the LRI at the event we were at along with a particularly thorny FTA who did research into super-caps. I think I could have argued and persuaded our way past Al or another CMP LRI with it but I’m not sure. It was well protected on the robot and there was no potential for the energy stored to power any actuating mechanisms on the robot.

EDIT2: Ironically, I just realized that my entire statement above goes back to the start of this thread and we were at the mercy of the LRI looking at the circuit.