FIRST HQ Review of Regional Matches

We had a unique experience at the South Florida Regional this year with FIRST HQ intervention in a qualification match result, and I wanted to hear if any other teams had experienced something similar or had any insights.

Qualification Match 54, was originally concluded with a final score of 97 to 95 in favor of blue (see video below). 5ish matches later teams 179 and 5410 were summoned to talk to the head ref and were informed that HQ had reviewed the match and determined that 179 was to be given a G205 penalty for causing damage inside the frame perimeter of 5410 and would be receiving a tech foul and yellow card for the match , which would flip the results of the match in favor of red. The Head ref apologized and stated that since the decision had come down from HQ it was final despite his initial ruling that it was not a tech foul.

You can watch the video and decide on the merits of the call for yourself, the damaging impact in question happens with 5 seconds remaining in the match, what I’m more interested in is what precedence/process is there for FIRST HQ to review a match and make calls? Is there some documentation or insight that clarifies when HQ is consulted and how that process works from anyone who has had a similar experience?

While the outcome of this match didn’t affect us directly, The interesting side-affects of this call is that 5472 would have dropped to the 4th seed and 4065 would have been ranked 3, likely resulting in 4065 being the 2nd seed alliance captain instead of 5472 and possibly a different outcome in the play-offs, so the call was not inconsequential.


:writing_hand: Put :writing_hand: Fragile :writing_hand: Objects :writing_hand: In :writing_hand: Bumper :writing_hand: Cutouts :writing_hand:


How on earth is this a G205 on 179? 5410 made the design decision to have a frame cutout, and 179 collides with them as a part of normal match play while completely within their own frame perimeter.


G205 also exempts contact and damage to components in and above a bumper opening. Something else feels odd.

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I hope there’s a blog post explaining why this happened. I can’t tell enough about what got damaged from the video to say if this was the right decision, but I do want to know what prompted HQ to reverse their stance that “The Head Referee rulings are final” in this specific instance.


Well, I’m intrigued.


I look back to the game animations where a poorly constructed Dozer received impact, either from a field element or another robot, and the phrase “robots must be built robustly” was spoken by the narrator. In all of those situations, dozer crumbling to pieces was its own fault, because Dozer wasn’t built robustly. None of the robots in the game animation received a card for damaging.

Robot to robot interactions are complex and very nuanced based on the circumstances, but we need to find a better way to evaluate the outcome of an interaction based on the cause and effect, because the blanket statements just don’t work. The excess of tipping-based red cards this year follow the same pattern. At what point is playing the game normally punishing because of someone else’s decisions? You bump into two robots the same way, but because one of them had a frame opening and something fragile inside that opening that broke your impact with them punishes you despite the same impact with the other robot having no punishment? You bump into another two robots and one falls over because of its high center of gravity while the other with a low CG just ricochets off you and drives away, but the one that falls over gives you a card despite the action being the same? This doesn’t seem fair to teams.

HQ calling in to change the ruling on such a mundane and standard gameplay interaction is also weird, but that’s a can of worms I can’t even begin to comprehend.


Got my attention on this one… especially in light of the allegation that the HR didn’t want to make this call and Game Manual 11.2: (Italics added)

The Head REFEREE has the ultimate authority in the ARENA during the event, but may receive input from additional sources, e.g. Game Designers, FIRST personnel, FTA, and other event staff. The Head REFEREE rulings are final.

Secondarily to this - how did HQ get involved?


This is what’s interesting to me. Everyone except Manchester seems to recognize the suite of robot-robot interaction rules are outmoded in the current competitive environment, but this is a potential new frontier in the information war if true.


Clearly, someone must’ve been trying to cover the spread.

On a more serious note, how does this even happen? Is FIRST watching random regionals at all times ready to swing in to make calls? Why in a qualification match at the South Florida Regional at a relatively non controversial play?


Woah… video review is happening.


Reading the rule carefully, HQ may have used a loophole in their own rule to step in? It continues on to say: (emphasis mine)

No event staff, including the Head Referee, will review video, photos, artistic renderings, etc. of any Match, from any source, under any circumstances.

This only says event staff can’t perform video review. It makes no mention of if FIRST staff outside the event has or doesn’t have the power to do so. Still at odds with the first part of the rule, though.


This seems… wrong.

Besides the G205 having an explicit exceptions for contact inside of a frame cutout, the actual collision where 5410’s wrist breaks and flops down occurs at 61 seconds left in the match due to a bumper-to-bumper collision with their own partner 3932:
(edit: direct timestamp linking appears to not really be working with the embed, I tried)

So the process here for HQ to get involved is suspect and should rightfully be questioned. It may not have occurred exactly how OP understood it, but something happened in the chain of communication for that impression to be given and that alone is worth evaluating. But on top of that, the ruling appears to be flat out wrong…


This has been in the manual for at least a decade and has been used seemingly randomly over the years.

Edit: here is one example from 2018 of HQ reviewing match video

I would really like to see some corroboration from some of the other parties involved as this sounds unbelievably unlike FIRST.

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To add clarity, I was the “Silent Observer” with my student hearing this directly from the head ref . I cannot speak for the HR, but I have interacted with him for years as a coach on 179 and he didn’t seem to enjoy anything about having to make this overturn.


I’ve watched this match 5 times and I can’t figure out what contact was even necessary to cause this discussion. Like I can’t even post a time stamp of what impact they MAY have been looking at…

Edit: This is what I get for assuming things, I hadn’t watched the last few seconds of the match because I was assuming when 179 stopped in the community at 15 seconds they parked and didn’t leave again. So at least now I’ve found the hit in question.


I see 179 hitting 5410 with ~5 seconds left in the match, but 179 hit 5410 in a bumper cutout, which should not be a foul of any king, as G205 says that

Contact between the ROBOT’S BUMPERS or COMPONENTS inside the ROBOT’S FRAME PERIMETER and COMPONENTS inside an opening of an opponent’s BUMPERS is an exception to this rule.

…and there’s no way that 179 hitting 5410 on the way back to 179’s own community is deliberately meant to damage 5410.


Speculation, but having been on the periphery of other situations… I think it’s most likely that the Head Ref / FTA contacted FIRST to get direction. I would guess it went something like:

  • Scores posted
  • 5410 goes to question box and says “look at the damage we received!” (perfectly within their right, I would expect any team whose robot got damaged on the field to head to the question box).
  • Head Ref thinks “oh no, did we miss something? What do I do now?” and reaches out to HQ
  • Once HQ responds (this can easily take a few minutes, especially if there are more urgent “this event cannot proceed until we get help” issues elsewhere at the time) HQ says “how do we handle this, we’re 1000 miles away… lets watch the match”. 3 minutes later, they make a decision and communicate that to the head ref.

All of that taking around 30 minutes sounds about right to me.

I agree with others that there is nothing obvious here that says a G205 should be called (from the video, there’s no obvious damage, and the only apparent contact inside the frame perimeter is the bumper contacting inside the gap, and that is the only significant interaction between those two robots).

HOWEVER, G205 is not simply about contact inside the frame perimeter. Any contact that is deemed “intentional” that results in damage, even bumper to bumper contact, can trigger G205 - that’s part A of the rule. I would not call the contact in this case intentional on the part of 179 (I believe their intention was to get back and score, and would have been happier not to have another robot between them and the community), but it’s possible they were considering that part of the rule and not part B. The announcer even says it’s a hard hit. It’s possible HQ didn’t even watch the match, but received information about damage from a contact, determined the damage was form the impact and not the interaction inside the cutout (keep in mind, we don’t know what the damage was that caused the card!), and worked on imperfect information to help the HR make the call.

As for this, I can help out with a good, on-site example (I’ll leave it up to you to guess at which match in which event in which year this was from). Big collision in the middle of the field, after which one robot is disconnected. They came back up and moving around, only to take another big impact and disconnect again, this time for the remainder of the match. After the match is over, LRI, CSA, and FTA go out to look at the robot to determine what broke (normal part of helping the team get running again). Ultimately find the root cause is a small wire that is pulled out of the VRM and powering a network switch - switch turns off, RoboRio looses comms.

In this situation, the HR is pondering a card, since a robot was disabled for a large portion of the match, following hard impacts with opponents. Absent other information, it would be a reasonable call. Discussing with the technical experts who assessed root cause, the HR asks a simple question - was the root cause because of the impact, or was it something the team did to themselves (due to design or implementation). In this case, unanimous decision was the team did it to themselves - the wire was too short, not seated properly in the VRM, and was actually being held in place with a piece of tape, not the terminal like it should have been. So, no card issued in that particular instance.

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