In NYC there was a team that had a similar way of picking up balls as us. It used the same material but instead of sewing the fabric together they used duct tape- they passed inspection and eventually made it rather far. The refs did not say anything when confronted and actually said that it is ok if it is just a quick repair. (even though it was on the entire time) But in UTC during our first championship match our thresher got ripped and there was no time to fix it. We grabbed a roll of duct tape and asked if it was ok to make a quick repair like they said in NY and the reffs denied our plea. We are not angry or anything but it is just another example of how the regionals vary with their enforcement of rules.
we actually had a legal use of duct tape (according to the canadian regional)
our gear boxes were open to the air, and we were worried about things falling into them and getting mangled up, so we asked of duct tape could be used as a cover, and it was cool by them.
Inspections are not intended to stop a team from running on the court. the inspections are intended to make the machine as safe as possible and as legal as possible.
I was a inspector at the VCU regional. My thought would be “Is the duct tape necessary”? Will the tape give them a unfair advantage? Is there another legal fix for the problem?
In some cases the team has limited resources and there is no adaquate fix in the short haul. I would consider this and the intent that the team needs to compete with their machine to see all their hard work in action.
I am not saying rules should be broken. However consideration of the circumstances at the time is in my opinion is a proper action. There are other material violations that should be strictly adheared to, such as motors, wiring and safety. In these cases no slack should be given. I would however steer them to a possible answer for the violation.
Again, all teams should compete with their machine if possible.
i think that the rules were a little looser at the nyc regional, probably because it was one of the first and contained many newer teams
UTC followed the type of enforcement i would expect to be consistant with that of the nationals… they were really careful about the rules
Yeah I remember that. I talked to the head honcho ref, and also Dean Kamen himself. I found it unusual that when I asked him if it was legal that I got the “I don’t know go ask the referee”. Oh well. Does anyone else remember in the kickoff the specific question about duct tape and the quick reply of “no”? I do. I also had another unfortunate duct tape experience on the bus ride home, but thats a different story.
During inspection at SC we had some duct tape used as a fastener and the inspector asked us to remove it. We complied. We also asked since velcro was specifically listed as a fastener could we use it as a replacement. The inspector said yes so we used the sticky side of the velcro instead of the tape… problem solved…
Phew… Finally done with 2 weeks of regional competition. It was really stressful, but interesting and fun as well. I was an inspector the last two weeks, and I’ve learn quite a lot about how the competition work and how things are done…
Being an inspector taught me how important the job is, and how hard it is to do it well. And yes, there is the usual check list for teams to go through, but inspecting teams’ robot is much more than going through the list and checking off each item.
Well, first, read these few cases and decide for yourself what would you do if you are the inspector:
A robot was using illegal structural material on the robot that isn’t on the additional hardware list or in small parts. So, it’s either allow them to keep the robot, or completely rebuild everything on Thursday.
A robot’s base is 1/4" bigger than the size limit, however, the entire base is giant pieces of aluminum welded together, and extremely difficult to reduce the size. Will you tell them to waste an entire day to try to fix it up, or let it slide?
A robot was allowed to use a globe and window motor on one speed controller for a regional, and was questioned about it at a second regional… The rule says there can only be one motor on each speed controller, however there is no problem with safety with the way they use it. The team say they were cleared for doing that on the robot, and there is no reason why FIRST won’t allow that. Will you follow the check list or let it slide?
These are only few of the many situation we faced at regionals… And it is tough to make the call from time to time.
And the core of the debate is, how strict should we be before we are in the way of teams when regionals only happen once a year, and they are there to learn, have fun, and get excited about science and technology.
On one hand, you are telling the team to waste an entire day to fix something that DO NOT give them an advantage on the playing field… The robot will behave the same even if they make the change, and it’s just busy work before the robot pass inspection…
On the other hand, you have to be strict and follow the rules… It is the only way we can keep consistency among the regionals, and strict inspection keep teams on their toe, so they will learn to be careful about the rules and not make the same mistake again.
At the end, we decide that being stict is better… Because it is necessary for us to keep a consistant voice about rules and such. And teams do deserve a stick inspection because so many of them work so hard to following rules during build period.
Like Mike Martus said, inspection is supposed to make the machines as safe as possible and as legal as possible. We have the responsibility to enforce the rules, to keep playing field fair and square, to keep the competition safe for both spectators and participants, and at the same time make it an enjoyable experience.
Missing the whole Thursday Practice rounds blows! We has to have our robot REWEILDED on Thur. of the SVR and ummm… we got it back 2 hours before the end of the day and had to put it back together. This was a nesisary repair from damage we took in Houston regional and to make it structurally better.
We did it and so can “you” but you are right Ken this is a very controvercial topic.
Being around as long as we have I have seen so much.
I saw a robot using 4 drill motors two years ago. This was so wrong but they were able to play. There has been alot that has been past by.
This is what hurt the teams that do stay within the rules.
Good example for this year was the mini me or the mouses. This I think was very wrong to change the game in the 12th hour. It was clear what was to be good and not. but enough people complain and the rule was dropped.
That hurt us because of the rule we thought that this would of been to risky to try without getting DQ.
If they put rules out there they should be enforced.
Duct tape is good if you get broken during a match and you need a fix. But to go to a regional with it on all ready that is bad.
Working in the defense industry, I’ve seen several cases where being “1/4 inch” out of spec would cause you to be thrown off of a plane, made to change/fix it, and probably sued. (Anyone from Lockheed remember the contract they signed where the contracts people didn’t convert from British currency to American?). To me, the most important part of engineering is precision - crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s. Although most of us don’t enjoy the attention to detail, it is a discriminator that shows the differences between good engineering and bad engineering.
The innovation that happens in a research or college laboratory is usually different than what goes on in a production environment. You can get away with “bending” the rules when you are only building one item as a demonstration. You get put out of business when building thousands or millions of items that don’t meet the requirements of the customers.
So, to me the real question is this - Is FIRST about inspiring kids to innovate, which may include pushing the rules envelope? Or is it to instill good engineering practices that will provide the world with proficient engineers in the future? My guess is that the good teams out there will say BOTH - and I agree.
Now, getting off my soapbox, I would also find it hard to throw the teams out in many of the above examples. So here’s my solution - provide a set penalty for infractions. If they are a 1/4" oversize or 1/2 lb overweight, they lose some quantity of points per round. Now, just like everything in engineering, they have a trade-off, do they spend all day getting rid of their violation, or do they live with it and lose points? Obviously, a safety violation would have to be fixed prior to competing.
Looking into my crystal ball, my solution would probably cause a huge uproar about penalties, judging, etc. Especially since the teams will be able to intentionally violate the rules if it plays into their strategy…I had a thought, but I won’t go there.
Maybe it’s not so great afterall…
Well this is a tough one.
The way this competition is set up, rules are there to “level the playing field”, i.e. not to allow any team an advantage. Our team sees the rules as the physical limits we must operate under, like gravity. As coaches, it is important that we teach the students that there are real world limits and constraints. There are constant meetings to discuss weight/size/function tradeoffs to stay within the rules throughout the season. There has been a real push by adult leaders to not cross the line, even if no one notices or the refs at one regional allowed it.
As to allowing teams to play with rules violations, I would have to say I’ll get back to you on this one. The adults on our team spend many hours at competition helping other teams. It is our intent that if you came to play, we will help you as much as we can. I am also sure many other teams would do the same if you ask, including at Nationals. With that in mind my first response is this. With all the help and resources available, any team ought to be able to get legal by the end of the first day (practice). In rare cases there may be too much to accomplish in one day (I have seen teams go from a box of parts to a completed robot at a regional) so I would think that for those rare instances legal compliance should be completed by the end of the first day of qualifying. Under no circumstances should any safety infraction be allowed during qualifying such as the two motor to one speed controller case mentioned above. Safety First, Play Second!
I personally think it is more valuable for a student to learn how to do something within a finite universe than to learn how to bend the rules. Finally, if you think this is an impossible task, I can tell you that there is one team I have a great deal of respect for, who had a lot of work to do at a regional recently, and who with help got working and legal and won the regional.
Good Luck in Florida
I guess the inspectors have the option of enforcing the rules to the letter or to the spirit. It depends on the circumstances as to which is enforced. If the inspector can determine whether a violation is a blatant attempt to skirt a rule, or just an honest oversight, then he/she can make a better judgement.
My suggestion: Issue a violation “ticket”. and make a record of it. If the violation isn’t life threatening, let the team play because other teams rely on them. Give the team until Saturday at noon to be reinspected and pass. If the violation remains uncorrected, they lose all their QPs, and they may not be chosen for the elimination rounds.
Firm but fair. After all, you have to consider the teams who built their machine to conform to all the rules.
In past years you had to provide a Bill of Materials (BOM), including the source of all parts, for your robot. This year it was eliminated because “nobody used it for anything”.
We made one anyway. If you pointed to any part on our robot, our compliance person (your team has one right?) could tell you where it came from and why we thought it was legal. We might have been wrong, but at least the judge would have our reasoning.
The act of creating such a document forces you to consider your sources. This is a very good way to self-check your robot for illegal or questionable materials.
The weekend before ship Chatsworth, Team 22, hosts a practice competition every year. Inspection is part of it. I was one of the inspectors this year and I tried very hard to be ruthless. I’d rather have a team at least be aware of a problem before they shipped than have a surprise when they got to the regional. If you don’t have enough teams near you to have a mini-competition, just have another team send a representative to check your robot and you send one to check theirs.
Sample violations I found:
3/32 and 3/16 plywood - Only 1/4 and 1/2 were on AHL, and similar plywood was not from available from SPI. If it was really essential they could have sanded down 1/4 to get the right thickness, but they had used stuff they found around the shop. Both teams thanked me for pointing this out. In one case they were waiting for the “correct” material to arrive and were just using the plywood for the mini-competition. The 3/16 ply was a non-conductive support for the light. But it should only take 15 minutes to replace it with legal materials. Weight would probably be a push, depending on what the replacement was.
Control system grounded to frame - This was unintentional and a possible safety issue. This was later corrected.
Van Door motor - had a big argument on this one. There were mentions of the Van Door motor inadvertently left in the rules and the mentor assumed that meant he could buy one and use it. I don’t know if it was ever fixed or not.
Arguably the Van Door motor was the only violation that provided a possible competitive advantage.
At the mini-competition these violations got you a “fix it ticket”. You could still run your robot and then fix it in the two or three days before ship. Or you could just hope it wasn’t discovered. We left it up to the teams, what if anything, they were going to do.
Both the BOM and the courtesy inspection force you to THINK about what you are using and why. The rules are there to level the field a bit and ensure that the materials used are reasonably safe (ie. no Berylium). As long as we’re mostly on the honor system there will be violations, both purposeful and inadvertent. We can’t do much about the purposeful violations, some people will always bend the rules no matter what. But by forcing people to think about what they are doing, we may prevent many of the inadvertent violations.
If we’re going to have rules about materials they should be strictly enforced. If not enforced they should be abandoned. Mr Gray responded while I was writing this, but I like his suggestion. It allows inadvertent violators to correct mistakes while making it a disadvatage to violate the rules.
I think it would be a good idea to have students involved in the inspection process. They are the ones most intimately involved with the process and understand the kit and its materials.
Too often, inspectors have the list (the vast majority of which is electrical safety stuff) and simply ask: “all materials from the kit or additional hardware list or Small Parts, Inc.?” and the team says “yes” (when the inspector doesn’t know what is in the kit, the AHL or SPI at all).
We all know of teams who (unintentionally or not) have violated the rules, but in the spirit of gracious professionalism, I suppose, we have not said anything. Having students on the inspecting teams would allow any concerns to be aired before any matches were even played.
It would also allow inspecting students to say “Well, that part isn’t in the kit, but we can help you with a replacement…”
What do you think?
at UTC, we added a tether to our robot and we had a small (1" x 3") piece of duct tape securing a zip tie that was tied around the tether. it was only used to keep the zip tie from slidding around, not to hold anything on. and they made us take it off.