Fix the Rapid React penalty rules

More so than prior years, it’s evident from the timeout rules, robot interaction rules, game piece possession rules, and so on that Rapid React will be remembered for inconsistent and missed calls. Let’s assume teams and referees acted in good faith and most of us came into 2022 with a decent amount of rust having not competed in 2-3 years. This thread should not take away from the accomplishments of teams that did well this year. Instead, what can we do to fix the rules as they are written for the future?

I’ll go first with the obvious need for video review, which has been discussed thoroughly in other threads.

I think it’s also worth reworking the question box. Right now it just feels like a place where you go to hear “sorry not sorry” from the HR when you have an issue. I’d rather see it as an “objection box” where you can present evidence that a call was either missed or made incorrectly and get an official decision as to whether it will be upheld or overruled. Make your point quickly, show whatever evidence you have, and get a yes/no answer. You may not like the answer but it’s a less ambiguous process than the current one.

What else should be changed?


I would argue against video review. Adds way to much complexity and cost - fields would need full camera coverage, local storage, reviewing equipments and extra staff just to handle that - and all of that to a minor improvement in gameplay and to aid in very few situations – would help in situations were something happened that is obvious enough to a human call a review, but no obvious enough to call the right decision based on the refs / teams questioning – and corrected me if I am wrong, but from the thousands and thousands of matches very very few are decided or impacted in a situation like that. And I know, maybe someone will come up with x examples of that, but a cost/benefit analysis must be taken into consideration.
And in a less factual argument, FIRST teams are genuinely willing to do the right thing, it’s not like traditional sports were most of the time there is intent in a rule breach, here most of the time is genuinely a mistake and the rules are there just to avoid strategically use of something that hurts the gameplay.

I think it’s valid to try to avoid rules that are tricky to enforce, but with the understanding that some are just not replaceable - like the time for pinning another bot, there is no way around that.

Regarding frame perimeter/disable bot I would say that some work can be done on the Robot Inspection side and rules, ensure that teams have their ESTOP and main wiring in a reasonably safe position from an unintended external contact to avoid disables.

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FRC is a contact sport. We should eliminate penalties for incidental contact inside the frame perimeter. Limit the penalties/cards to damaging contact only.


And have some sort of review process for damaging contact. More often than not refs will miss when the robot is damaged, and if they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. Video review, refs reviewing the robot itself for damages, or something of the sort would fix this issue.


I like where this is coming from, but it doesn’t quite solve the “I left a CAN tripwire exposed on the outside of my robot” issue.

I think the simplest fix to frame perimeter incursion is to change the required bumper zone to be higher than the ball - require teams to have their bumpers between 7"-15" off the ground such that mechanisms that are extended out above the ball aren’t by default above bumper height.

It would look rather strange, and change the way many mechanisms are designed, but it would make it much more difficult to incur penalties for frame perimeter incursions.


Wouldn’t the damaging contact then just move to below the bumpers instead of above them?

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GDC can just write the rules that don’t make normal gameplay get punished by a red card since there have probably been few penalties that were intentionally egregious this year.

At worst, throw a yellow card or 15 point penalty or something if you go inside a perimeter and the robot disconnects.

Teams aren’t extending that low for any particular reason. Their extensions are at 9.5-12" in height for the purpose of collecting balls. If you put the bumpers at the height that teams are extending mechanisms, it’s much harder for their mechanisms to accidentally extend inside frame perimeter.

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I’m under the impression that FIRST is trying to keep the bumper zone consistent from year to year in order to minimize confusion and maximize compliance with the bumper rules. I’m personally in favor of them doing that considering how many bumper issues I’ve seen as an inspector.

I didn’t see any teams with a CAN trip wire this season for as much as I’ve heard it joked about. Teams don’t want to die on the field, and when they do as a result of another robot, that robot should get appropriately penalized/carded.


Is there a level of severity between “incidental” and “damaging” that should be penalized?
No Contact → Incidental Contact → [TBD] → Damaging Contact → Disabling Contact

Because robots often move fast and there can be several robots in a Referee’s zone at a given instant, contact will sometimes be hard to see, and even harder to identify by level of severity.

I think what you’re looking for is similar to “no harm, no foul”, correct? That topic in the history of sports officiating makes for interesting reading.

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FRC has too many penalties. WAY too many. Probably more than Half of the penalties called in any given match have no weight in deciding the outcome. They’re basically worthless. I can’t keep track of them all in any given year, and I’m not sure how any referee could either (at least without a cheat sheet).

Lets get rid of Yellow/Red Cards. They’re annoying. The referee always ends up looking like they’re giving it to the team in the next match, not the actual recipient from the prior match.

It’s pretty simple. If you do something that egregiously inhibits the other alliance from scoring points or continuously take advantage of “no calls” to benefit yourself , and it obviously affects the outcome of the match, you’re DQ’d. No warnings necessary. Most anything else can just be gone, to be honest. We don’t need to do a cute show on the field like a soccer referee. GA can (similarly as now) get on the mic, explain the situation, encourage the team to come to the Objection Box to talk to the HR, and then we move onto the next match.

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I don’t think the GDC wants to anticipate or plan around “expected” robot designs (that aren’t explicitly regulated by the rules).

The everybot, for example, has a lower jaw that rides along the ground underneath your potential bumper zone. I’m not too concerned about an everybot intake damaging a drivetrain, but i would be worried about a drivetrain shredding an everybot intake when driving over it.

Do you want to talk about changes to penalty rules, or changes to non-penalty rules (ie video review)? Because your post starts on one and then swerves off onto the other…

I think we have enough threads about video review - I’d love to see posts about how rules for games can be written in a way that makes it easier for the refs to get the call right in the first place!


I have three proposals on how to improve game play and create more positive outcomes for teams.

1. Overhaul DQs in Qualification Matches

This rule is currently broken and has been as long as I can remember. Say a red team intentionally tips a blue team in a qualification match. Red then goes and wins the match easily, while blue gets 0 RP since they couldn’t reach any of the RPs because on of their robots was tipped. Well in this case, the red robot who does the tipping gets punished with the DQ and 0 RPs, but nothing happens to benefit the blue alliance for what happened to them.


When a Team receives a Disqualification in a Qualification Match, they receive zero (0) Match Points and zero (0) Ranking points.

If the Team receiving the Disqualification is on the winning Alliance, then Teams on the opposing Alliance who are not also Disqualified will receive the win for the Match and four (4) Ranking Points

This means that the DQed robot is still DQed and gets zero everything. Their partners are unaffected, as they should be, because they’re not responsible for the DQ. Their opponents who suffered and had their point scoring ability affected by the DQ, are rewarded with an automatic win and bonus RPs.

Now you might say, "hold up, why is the blue alliance getting an automatic 4 RP if their opponent just stepped over the gate and then touched their controls in auto. That brings in my next proposal.

2. Introduce the term Match Affecting

This is a concept used in other robotics competitions and has been very effective over the years.


Match Affecting - A rule violation is Match Affecting if it changes the winning and losing Alliance in the Match. Multiple rule violations within a Match can cumulatively become Match Affecting.

RP Affecting - A rule violation is RP Affecting if it causes an alliance to achieve or not achieve an RP bonus in the the Match. Multiple rule violations within a Match can cumulatively become RP Affecting.

Then use this definition in various rules like this:

Minor violations of this rule that do not affect the Match/RP will result in a warning. Match Affecting offenses will result in a Disqualification. RP Affecting offenses will result in an RP for the opposing alliance. Teams that receive multiple warnings may also receive a Disqualification at the Head Referee’s discretion.

This way we can stop calling fouls and cards on things that don’t actually matter. The wording here would need some further tweaking to match the intent of RPs and the such, and there’d need to be some decisions on which rules to apply this to, but the basic framework is here.

3. Stop penalizing offensive robots for fighting through defense.

This has frustrated me for a long time. Rules should incentivize forms of game play that we want to see. I’m a firm believer that our games should incentivize offensive play and scoring. I know others feel that defensive should be incentivized as much as offense, and we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I want to see teams who spend their whole season getting mechanisms to work, have a chance to use them on the field without fears of penalties. This proposal doesn’t eliminate defense at all, just helps incentivize offense.


{Game Name} is intended to be an offensive game. Teams that partake in solely defensive strategies will undergo extra scrutiny in regards to any rules dealing with tipping, pinning, and/or damage. In the case where referees are forced to make a judgment call on interaction between a defensive and offensive Robot, the referees will err on the side of the offensive Robot.

Basically, if you want to play D, go for it, but you’re going to be responsible for what happens as a result of the D, and in the case of a bang-bang call, it’s being called on the defensive robot.

I think these three changes could make a big difference in how FRC games are played and officiated, and would lead to fewer “feel bad” moments for teams and volunteers.


Have you helped write a Competitive Robotics Rule set before or something?


Random thoughts about rules enforcement in FRC.

  1. There should be more accountability on the refs in terms of calling penalties. I recall sometime in the distant past (2008 or earlier?), the called penalties were announced with the score. Was there a reason this was removed? Was it to prevent “shaming” teams? Or are there too many penalties to keep track of? Most matches I recall this year were floating in the 1-3 penalty range. Right now, we have penalties go up on the score sheet, and while someone might have noticed a flag, more often than not the audience and drive team have no idea what was called. This causes confusion for spectators and frustration from drive teams in not knowing what to correct in their strategy.

  2. If there are too many penalties to remember, decrease the number of penalties. Overall penalties should only be enforced when there is game-affecting play.

A few examples:

  • Controlling 3 balls. This one was contentious this year when combined with the “momentary” less than 3 second control rule. I would prefer this to move to a F1-style “gained a lasting advantage” rule rather than any particular time count. This would eliminate the rapid-fire 3 ball firing sequences, but allow teams to eject balls along the floor as now a team would have to re-acquire those game pieces.

  • Launch pad protection. Simple touching of a robot touching the launchpad was difficult to enforce for several reason. 1) It was not always clear when a robot was protected (this was a game design issue, in my opinion). 2) 2/3 opponent drive stations were basically blind to robots contacting the more used of the 2 launchpads (the one closest to the hub). Incidental contact here should not have been penalized. (Similar to pinning rules, if the robot backs away and redirects there is no penalty)

  • Contact inside frame perimeter. Another contentious one, and one which was harmed by the game design (combination of bumper height and game piece size – as noted above). This is nearly impossible to enforce for refs, in my opinion. Once again, I think incidental contact should largely be ignored, egregious use of something outside your frame perimeter as a weapon, or high speed contact while leading with an intake should be penalized. I feel like we got more penalties while driving carefully to pick up cargo with our intake extended compared to some of the more egregious uses which were too fast and went unpenalized.

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I do not think video review is a good path to go down for FRC.


The yellow/red card rules are broken. The “contact rules” have always been a little tricky to assess penalties for, and I’ll give a specific example.

At 20 seconds into the match a defensive robot comes in your frame perimeter and contacts your robot. They damage your pneumatics system such that your intake is fixed out, you cannot climb, and you cannot play the game.

The penalty for this falls under G205 - and loss of function means that the penalty is 8 points and a yellow card. But this is in the finals so yellow doesn’t matter. Is 8 points really enough of a penalty? How do you assess what the penalty should be?

I think FIRST needs to stop being scared of replays. It makes sense for a red card match to be decided 150-0 or whatever - because Red Cards (supposedly) require intent and are perceived as “un-GP”. In the event of a yellow card foul a replay of the match should be offered. Then we don’t have to care if the points are right. All situations are not equal and it seems impossible to assign a point value that would make it so.


One small thing that I think would be useful is recording what a specific foul was (if possible, aka not complete chaos on the field), that way drivers know what they did wrong so the don’t do it again (this happened to me, I asked what the foul was and they did not record what is was so I didn’t know what to do in the future).

The OP made this thread due to what they felt were inconsistent and missed calls affecting gameplay. While these proposals are interesting (and I agree with the third proposal though I doubt it would be implemented), I think that it would only make the issue of “inconsistent and missed” calls even worse. Referees would have more to worry about, and this proposals, from what I can tell, could make those stakes higher.