Frustrations with Minor Technicalities

Today I wasted two hours duct taping polycarb to our frame rails to expand our frame perimeter (which looks like garbage) and then using the “fine adjustment tool” on our bumpers because, although we had already competed twice, apparently our robot’s frame perimeter was not within the rules.

Update 6 States:

FRAME PERIMETER – the polygon defined by the outer-most set of exterior vertices on the ROBOT (without the BUMPERS attached) that are within the BUMPER ZONE. To determine the FRAME PERIMETER, wrap a piece of string around the ROBOT at the level of the BUMPER ZONE - the string describes this polygon. Note: to permit a simplified definition of the FRAME PERIMETER and encourage a tight, robust connection between the BUMPERS and the FRAME PERIMETER, minor protrusions such as bolt heads, fastener ends, rivets, etc are excluded from the determination of the FRAME PERIMETER.

To me the intent of this rule is to encourage bumpers to be tight to the frame rails and robust so the teams can take the abuse necessary to play Breakaway. We had 1/4" bolt heads for our axles sticking out the bottom rail of our robot. We assumed after reading this update we were fine. We passed inspection on two separate occasions with our robot in this condition.

When I asked to see the rule book and stated this update as my defense the inspector read the rule aloud. “minor protrusions such as bolt heads, fastener ends, rivets, etc are excluded from the determination of the FRAME PERIMETER within the bumper perimeter.” That is not how the rule reads and the way that paragraph is worded leads one to believe that we were actually legal. The only statement of defense the inspector had was precedence from other districts and a supposed statement from Bill’s Blog that I cannot find. I was told this was Bill Miller’s ruling in the past and if we did not change our frame perimeter we would not be competing. PLEASE be my guest go to Bill’s Blog and search every posting this year for the word “Bumper” you will find only one instance and it is regarding changing your bumper colors. If I did miss something please point it out to me.

I completely understand that if that’s the way the inspector was told to call it that’s how he has to call it, and I have no problem with that, it’s out of his hands. He was very friendly and my complaints are not with him.

This rules intent was to keep bumpers attached rigidly to the frame. Our bumpers WERE. They are now held on rubbing up on a polycarb spacer that is held on by duct tape and are basically tie strapped down. The rule, in our case certainly did not “encourage a tight, robust connection between the BUMPERS and the FRAME PERIMETER.”

We gain no competitive advantage from our 1/4" axle bolt heads. We competed with them before. Why do we have to change? To fit some ridiculous ambiguity of an odd unclear interpretation of the rules that is stated nowhere in text for me to read?

I’m sorry to complain so much about this, but if FIRST is this knit-picky about a very unclear update and cannot even clarify the rule enough to the inspectors so that we “slipped by” two different inspectors at two different district events then how are we supposed to interpret the rules perfectly?

The rules contain 3 or 4 pages of bumper this bumper that…Are we building bumpers or robots here? How would our students have felt if we missed a match because of this? I encourage you to find one team to complain about a 1/4" bolt head sticking out. I can’t imagine that this didn’t happen to more teams.

It’s the little things like this that make me so frustrated with all of the minor technicalities within the rules and the time I waste trying to correct them. Penalties such as the line crossing in '08 the G14’s last year that decide matches, and some of the horrible and unjustified calls that were made during first week events this year are starting to really get to me. I sight the example of yellow card going on our partner in the quarter finals who drove over the ball and E-stopped once they realized they couldn’t get the ball out. We argued that they did not continue playing with the ball and were told they did not E-stop quick enough.

It makes me really consider if this is something I want to continue with as I grow older or if I should move on to other programs. FIRST is great but lately there have been so many things I’ve seen that I really haven’t liked.

I know you’re frustrated. However, if you’re going to Championships, you’d get the same response.

This rule has been discussed here before. I’m not going to get into that, except to say the following:

The bolts are not counted in the determination of the frame perimeter if they’re in the bumper zone, to facilitate the tight and robust connection.

However, the inspector made a mistake. He should have referred to <R16>, which bars anything from extending beyond the frame perimeter. The frame perimeter is defined by the frame–no longer by the bolts.

For reference, the rules in this case were contained in Team Update #6 and Team Update #7, and then clarified in response to a direct question–nothing outside the bumper zone is exempt.

I agree–you gain little to no advantage. But the rule is the rule. I have a decided opinion on the–err–nuisance factor of enforcing the rule the way it’s being enforced that I think matches yours.

Just as an addendum, the inspector was the same as at the first event we attended 4 weeks ago. Well after Update 6 and 7 came out. Mike’s complaint isn’t with the ruling, it isn’t even with the fact that the inspector didn’t call us in the first event. It is with the fact that the interpretation changed sometime since then and no one informed us. (To the best of our knowledge, and yes, I do read all Emails and Updates) Had we been informed that there may be problems with our bumpers and the updated interpretation been explained we would have had a plan in place (or already completed) to fix the issue. As it is they now look like utter crap and time was wasted trying to figure out how to do it. Time we could have been practicing or adding new features.

The issue is not with the rule, the change of interpretation, the inspector, or FIRST. Just with the lack of warning. FIRST has been very good this year about letting us know things are changing. I’d love to see this continue and improve.

You are aware that we’re up to Update 19, I hope.

The rule you quoted from Update 6 was revised in Update 7, dated 2/2/2010, 3 weeks before ship date. It hasn’t been changed since then:

Notice how it permits bolt head protrusion, etc ONLY WITHIN THE BUMPER ZONE?

I thought this was pretty clear, just like the maximum dimension rules. Should we be allowed to compete if our robot is only 1/4" too big and won’t quite fit within the sizing box? How about if it’s only 1/2 a pound overweight? Is that okay?

Just because you got away with it at 2 other events doesn’t make it OK at the next one.

The rules are the same for everyone. In the real world, if I ignored a requirement like you did the consequences would most likely be immensely higher than having to tape a couple of pieces of plastic to whatever I designed.

Sorry, I have a hard time feeling much sympathy when you’re complaining about something that has been published, questioned, and discussed for 3 weeks before ship date. It appears that as a Michigan team you would also have been able to take advantage of the 6 hour “windows” to bring your robot into compliance with the rules.

This is an interesting topic of conversation, I’m not going to get into the rule as it has been discussed in many past threads, but I have a comment about the inspection process.

I want to begin by saying that inspectors have quite possibly the toughest job at a competition. They have to inspect every part of every robot, and they have only a finite amount of time to do so. They also have to deal with teams that have many problems and make sure they get on on the field to compete. I have a lot of respect for our inspectors.

That being said, I do have a question regarding inspection. I was a scout on my team 2007, 2008, 2009 and I spent a lot of time in the pit in 2010 looking at other robots. Every year I have read the rules, and pretty much known what’s legal and what isn’t. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 I had never seen what appeared to me as an illegal robot take the field. This year changed a little bit. My team attended WPI and Boston this year. I saw 2 teams at WPI with obvious bolt protrusions that were on the field playing and had passed inspection, they were not rookies. I saw 2 more teams with these bolt protrusion protrusion in Boston that passed inspection. I’m not going to mention any names, but in Boston I saw a team that passed inspection with a globe motor on there robot; globe motors aren’t legal this year.

I’m curious under what circumstances do inspectors let teams go with such seemingly obvious illegalities? Has anyone else noticed things like this at their regionals, or in past years?

Honestly it doesn’t really phase me much, but I figured I would share this with the CD community. Although it doesn’t make a big difference, I saw teams in Boston and WPI work very hard all day Thursday to pass inspection and I can see how it how it may be frustrating to have worked so hard only to see a team with the same problem that didn’t have to fix it.

Sgreco, I’m like you, every year I see obviously illegal robots. It’s always been small, unintentional things like you mentioned - bolt protrusions and Globe motors this year, the wrong Mabuchi motor last year. Nothing to be worth worrying about, and to tell the truth, none of those robots have been competitive, top-rank robots. It seems that the teams that field the robots I’m worried about make SURE that they are compliant with anything the inspectors can throw at them.

I think that the fact that the inspectors are volunteers and not necessarily familiar with the rules leads to lots of robots “getting by” with things that are not quite legal. Some inspectors are VERY familiar with the rules, some have never seen a robot in their life and have read the rules maybe once. They don’t have a technical background and are not familiar with many of the things on the checklist.

We’ve always breezed through inspection. We always build our robots 1" inside the sizing limits (1/2" per side) and make sure we READ all the rules and updates and comply with them. Doesn’t mean we necessarily like them. Last year we had an inspector we could have got an M1 Abrams tank by, this year we had one that has been a mentor for 10 years and knew EVERYTHING about the rules. Doesn’t really matter if you comply with all the rules anyway.

When do you make your chassis? While I would love to have the ability to crank out a chassis after doing prototypes but when your team consists of 5 students and a handful of mentors who are all taking too many classes at college it takes all 6 weeks to field something that runs. The chassis was built during week 1. We missed it the bolts. Our bad.

But that is neither here nor there. It happened, we are solely to blame but now the question becomes, what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen. Does anyone have any solution that could help alleviate the combination of the inspectors not knowing all the rules (or just missing things) and of teams just missing things.

Perhaps the simple solution, before you bag/crate print out the inspection form and inspect yourself. I think from this point on I will be doing that. It is no promise you will catch everything but it should help. Is this a viable option for most teams?

As long as the inspection checklist is made available before ship, it is a viable option.

Also, if you go to a pre-ship event that offers inspection, ask someone there to do it.

Note: Any inspections you do in this manner will not be official. However, they should highlight issues that the inspectors will catch you on.

I have been reading FIRST rules for 10 years and I know them inside and out but I can still miss things. The best solution is have more than one person read and know the rules. Have everybody go over the robot looking for violations way before ship date. The best policy is have the students go over the robot with the inspector to be sure that they know the rules and that they will be expected to know the rules. Nothing like pop quizes to help them learn. Going through the inspection check off list with a fine toothed comb does not hurt (assuming it is released sooner than it was this year).

A hard lesson learned a long time ago is to build 1" under-size to prevent problems like this. Do you ever really need 100% of the allowed dimensions?


Great point, ever since 2007 1323 has designed their robots to be 27x37 which helps us in the long run. This year is a prime example, we had our wheels stick out an 1/8" but the inspector at SVR didn’t catch it. So we didn’t have to expand our frame perimeter, but in Davis they caught it. We had to expand it up to .5 inches but designing one inch under helped us make the adjustment easily.

Lesson Learned, just design one inch under.


This suggestion would be even better if you had someone who knew last year’s rules thoroughly read this year’s rules and look for differences.

Have everybody go over the robot looking for violations way before ship date. The best policy is have the students go over the robot with the inspector to be sure that they know the rules and that they will be expected to know the rules. Nothing like pop quizes to help them learn. Going through the inspection check off list with a fine toothed comb does not hurt (assuming it is released sooner than it was this year).
That’s another great idea - do an inspection within your own team. Or maybe get an “inspector” from a nearby team to go over the list with your students, while your “inspector” does the same with the other team.

While it is unfortunate that some of you have seen robots that have illegal parts, it is something I (we) strive to prevent every year. Some events simply cannot find enough experienced inspectors. Those inspectors who have not worked on a robot receive training via web and working with experienced inspectors at their first event of the season to try and come up to speed. Those people do catch most every part of the robot but still sometimes miss something. You do have the right to approach your LRI and question something on another robot. A Globe motor is a great example. You could be helping that team by getting a LRI to suggest ways to replace the motor, get the team compliant for their next event and prevent less stress for the team in the future.
The FRAME PERIMETER has been an issue all season and has been discussed at length. Most of us don’t really understand it but we have attempted to make the info available to all through Team Updates, the Q&A and here on Chief Delphi.
Outside of the obvious (i.e. Globe motor this year) items you think are non-compliant may in fact be perfectly within the rules. Protrusions of the FRAME PERIMETER cannot be determined from the stands or from the sidelines with the bumpers on. You would be surprised how many legal solutions there are to this rule.
If you are going to Championship, know that the maximum number of experienced inspectors will be present on site. Your chances of having something overlooked are small. Be aware that we will be inspecting using the latest versions of the manual, the inspection checklist and any team updates that happen to affect your robot that are issued between now and then.

For all teams: Many of the rules are not written as a response to competitive advantage. They are included as a means of getting you to think about real world problems and solutions. The FRAME PERIMETER rule is one of these. It is similar to the allowed motor list, weight, height, battery and pneumatics restrictions.

We did, but that wasn’t the problem…because we did build 1" under it was a simple® fix.

I would like to point out to point out that I actually had to apologize to Mr. Martus today because of this thread because people misconstrued what I was aiming to point out. I in no way meant any offense to him or any other inspectors and I did say that in my original post. I just wanted to point out the fact that the rules/updates system is difficult and minor technicalities are really getting to us.

Other examples of frustration from little things that happened this weekend at MSC:

  1. We were informed Friday (along with half a dozen other teams) that we are not allowed to use an off-board compressor when we have an on-board one because of power distribution rules that state our air needs to come from that battery. While this literally makes no difference other than the pain in the neck that is connecting with the robot. Our team has been doing this for 3 years and no one has ever said anything and that rule has apparently always been in place. We assumed we were fine because there is nothing in the pneumatics rules regarding this and we see other teams do it. We DO read all the rules, but we aren’t perfect we occasionally miss things. It isn’t that we’re an irresponsible team who isn’t paying attention. 397 has been around for 10 years. Why is something like this just now being pointed out to us.

  2. During QF 3 Match 1, Dave introduced 217,67, 2612 in his usual elaborate manner. We have a slight problem with losing pressure over time in our pneumatics and we NEED pressure to kick in auton. I asked during the introduction if we could just re-tether while he was introducing us and add more air so we wouldn’t have the problem and I was told no. The long introduction caused our auton to fail. 67 stole those two balls from us right away in tele-op. While yes this is a problem with OUR robot our solution was to just charge it right before the match but between wait time for teams to get off the field, and set up, and the 5 minute introduction it was just too much time wasted before the match. It wasn’t anyone’s fault it’s just another frustration.

  3. I am shocked at actions I’ve seen teams do and things I’ve heard teams say. I also am very frustrated with the way people have been treated lately in FIRST. 469 has been bashed to a point that sickens me, and the little Update #20 stunt was, in my opinion, offensive, but I will not go into that because there are other threads for it.

  4. My parents were sitting (taking up two seats) in the stands in a somewhat unoccupied area. An adult from another team approached them and told them “You have to move this is where our team is sitting, we’ve been here for the past two days.” My mom, in shock that someone just said that to her, stood her ground and stated the venue rule: you can’t save seats. If they has asked politely it wouldn’t have been a problem, but…REALLY? How would your grandma react to that. That team sat watched the quarterfinals and then half of them got up and left leaving a large amount of empty seats.

I understand not every team gets the GP concept and that no program is perfect but I would like to say that my experience this weekend was certainly less than ideal that has nothing to do with my teams performance, but it was just all the little things adding up.

I do understand some of the frustrations with the minor technecalities and acording to 8.3 ROBOT RULES “When reading these rules, please use technical common sense (engineering thinking) rather than “lawyering” the interpretation and splitting hairs over the precise wording in an attempt to find loopholes.” we should not “lawyer” the rules. It dose seem that a small number of inspectors are lawyering the rules against us (along with CD fans durring build). Regardles, no matter how diffacult it is we must follow the rules as close as we can and be ready for quick changes at the event. Sounds like a real life situation that happens to me every other day at work.

I seen some very weird/strange things happen this year with robots. One team never opened up their “kit” this year and tried to use last year’s robot. Now they are far from being rookies and should know better. They hadn’t read a single rule for the year either. The mentor went to the store and came back with black and green fabric for the bumpers. While their team sat in the stands watching the game, students from other teams built them a working robot. They of course were DQ’d from the event. BTW they did the same last year as well. :eek: I also seen a team using 6 CIM’s this year. I don’t understand why it seems this year teams aren’t following the rules. Though in 397’s defense this seems pretty minor, but rules are rules.

Mike is probably one of the best if not the best inspector out there. Having worked with him for a couple years now in the pits, he is such a fair and hard working man.

The rule is this…

<R75> Compressed air for the pneumatic system on the ROBOT must be provided by one and only one compressor.

Sorry if you were mislead. In one form or another this rule has been present for many years. One and only one compressor.

Actually this is an <S03> violation and your partner, per the rule, could have received a RED CARD for using the E-stop for a non-safety reason. So they got off easy. This is in Team Update 5, btw.

He can count to 19, you know…

Safety can involve various things. In this case it was a combination of not causing damage to their robot and the field. When a 150lb machine is balanced on top of a soccer ball bad things can happen. I have seen teams try to get off balls and fall and damage themselves. It is also possible that they could have destroyed the ball in their efforts to get off. In the past there have also been teams that have, in their attempts to get off field elements, fallen and had appendages break the field boundary. The team decided it was unsafe to continue playing.