Inspection Stories

There was a 2012 thread for this, but I didn’t want to necro-post it.

As inspectors, our goal is to get all teams on the field with a legal robot that meets the rules. Sometimes, this requires herculean efforts by the inspection team and the valued and experienced mentors and students that will work with another team’s robot with no notice, to make sure everyone gets a chance to compete.

Inspectors, what are the crazy things you’ve dealt with at events? Please share your “war stories” below.

At one event I inspected a first or second year team. We were blowing through the inspection on a really nice 'bot till we came to a linear actuator mechanism they bought off the shelf. They had a catalog page showing it was available online and met all the accounting rules. Looked like this was no sweat. I asked to see which motor they had powering it.

Team member: Oh, one of those black ones.

Me: Oh, a CIM? can I see it?

TM: Uh, well, it’s all sealed up in the device and kind of hard to get to. It looks just like that motor from the kit, though.

Me: Does it look like the motor or is it the motor? Does it have any of these part numbers on it?

TM: It’s the one that came in the thing. Its from the same motor manufacture and looks like its the right size, so it’s close enough, right?

Me: …

What ensued was a long meeting with the LRI, me and the team. I don’t know what the final call was. we were behind on inspections so I went to look at other teams. They did eventually passed inspection, but I never figured out if they swapped in a legal motor, if the one in the device turned out to be genuinely legal or if the LRI just let it go. It did look legal…

Besides that, I think 98% of inspection issues have been about bumpers. No one likes hearing about bumpers not passing, so I’ll save those stories.

2013 our team used copper tube from the compressor to reduce the chance of heat affecting the vinyl tubing. After the first 6 inches or 1st fitting we used the vinyl. We passed inspection initially then our inspection was revoked. The head person of the event (not inspector) said it was illegal. Could not cite a section in the rule book as to why since it was the proper size and was not unsafe. They made us change it. We changed it and then saw two more robots with the same setup who also passe inspection. They made them change it after we mentioned the other teams. We felt bad pointing out the others but felt it was wrong that we had to change something that was perfectly safe and not illegal in the rules book.

My inspection war stories are coming from a team mentor’s perspective, wondering why the inspection takes over an hour when the robot is 100% legal, beautifully wired, and passed at its prior event. Some inspectors just want to chit chat, and others are not familiar with common FRC parts. And then there was the one that had an issue with our bumper pins not being robust enough. After my students refused to change it, and called over the head inspector, lifted the robot by its bumpers, then swiftly kicked it in the side, we were finally passed on it.

They really need to stop hassling 15+ year veteran teams who know what they are doing, and focus on the rookies who need the help.

Last year I had to inform a 2nd year team that they had to rewire all of their 40 amp circuits because they were all done with 14 AWG wire. It killed me to do it. Much of their wiring was inaccessible, but the kids took it in stride and had it done 5 minutes before pits closed that night.

As a long time firster, this frustrates me sometimes as well. I’ve trained a few inspectors on the job, which is not the right time to do it, but it’s better than not having them. One of the reasons I inspect is because I like having experienced inspectors, (the other main reason is that I like working with many teams all in one weekend, and the challenge of helping them solve issues on the spot).

However, veteran team status does not equal “always complies with all rules”. Team leadership changes, both on the student and mentor side. I’ve called teams with three digit numbers on (admittedly small, yet important nonetheless) items. I’ve had teams recently in the high 1000s with illegal motors or fans, and teams with low 4000s numbers with massive frame issues.

Lastly, passing at a prior event is not evidence of passing at this event. Lots of things can happen in the 6 hour rush of unbag time (for district events), and sometimes inspectors just miss things.

EDIT to say that all LRIs would be happy to welcome experienced mentors to help, even if it’s only for a few hours during unbag/initial inspection.

I’m reasonably certain that I inspected that same team at a later event. They had managed to pass at a previous event with a wacky linear actuator that had an integrated motor. It was not clear if they had disabled it at the previous event, but the team seemed to expect they could use it. I asked them to remove it entirely and find a different way to do the same job, but I think now it should have been ok to let them keep it as a structural member of the robot as long as the wires were never plugged in to anything (though i think an unplugged illegal motor still counts as a motor)

From a team’s perspective: My sophomore year of high school our robot was made out of steel. At CVR that year (the first year the event took place, 2012), we got 95% of the way through inspection until one of the inspectors noticed that our frame had current going through it. We looked through the entire robot’s electronics, and nothing was contacting the frame. Every piece was isolated. We took apart and rerouted all of our electronics, several inspectors had come by and tried their hand at it, even some of the control systems people from other teams tried their hand at it. It all looked perfectly okay, but the frame still had a charge. They eventually passed us telling us to keep an eye out and the robot worked normally the rest of the event.

A couple of years back I had to “hassle” Wildstang (a 25 year old team now!) because of their BOM. They had missed something, and when its cost was added they were over the limit. They had other stuff on the BOM that never actually made it onto the robot, so they were able to get it fixed fairly easily… but it was still something wrong that needed fixing.

15 year old teams aren’t immune to making mistakes, sorry to tell you. They also aren’t immune to turnover - losing one or two key people can send you from being division finalists at champs one year to ranking in the bottom half at both of your regionals the next, with a robot that barely works. I’ve seen it happen.

I understand both sides of this equation here as both an inspector and a dude on a team. I don’t think sanddrag is talking about legitimate mistakes or rules violations. He’s more referring to sometimes, some inspectors seem to give greater scrutiny to teams who look like they know what they are doing than other teams. Or the inspector seems to have this notion that the inspection should take a certain amount of time, so they look for things to prod at and question when there isn’t actually anything wrong. Both of these are rare occurrences for me and if they have ever happened were quickly fixed by asking the LRI for clarification, but I understand where he’s coming from here.

It’s all part of, as a volunteer, putting the team experience at events as the top priority, and treating teams fairly while assuming good faith. Just something we all have to keep in mind when inspecting (and I’m sure the vast majority of inspectors do!).

I should add… Almost every year since I’ve become an LRI I’ve made sure there was something I failed to tell me team they needed to fix before bagging the robot. Basically, I try leave something there for the inspector to find so my team gets that same experience as every other team. Nothing major, nothing that gives them a competitive advantage or is going to be too difficult to fix. One year it was the driver station version. Another it was a pressure gauge. Last year we forgot to put an MPX expansion board on the CAW. That last became absolutely hilarious when Al got to grill the only electrical member in the pit, a freshman who actually put together the CAW, on what that part was and if it was legal or not (the electrical lead, who wasn’t present at the time, could answer in a heartbeat, but she had no idea). Sure, he knew the answer right off the bat, but it was an invaluable experience for her, one that I still get blamed for from time to time :smiley:

I, too, like withholding valuable experience and knowledge from my students so that I can laugh when they make mistakes. /s/

Chris makes a good point though - one that I’ve seen happen often out in California. Some inspectors out here seem to like giving certain teams a hard time for no better reason other than the fact that they’re different from other teams. I was always confused as a student why my barely functioning team flew through inspection at most* events, and while the very well put together team in the pit right next to us (back when pits were in numerical order) was being harassed by an inspector.

*see above post of mine for exception

I’m sure there are bad eggs in every basket, but sometimes it’s also just diligence on the part of the inspector. Often those well put together teams can have a tendency to construct more complex robots that need further scrutiny. Also, as an inspector, I never trust a previous inspection. I’ve seen robots arrive at events with inspection passed stickers from prior events that had major problems coming in the door. Even lesser problems, like not having the pneumatic pressure relief valve hard plumbed to the compressor can occur on teams of any age.

Also, to jump the gun a bit here, I would say that diligence on the part of the inspector is a service to both the team and the event. For the event, it is making things safer and more consistent. For the team, it’s judging the robot’s compliance with the rules at a higher level of scrutiny. So long as the inspector isn’t inventing rules, I think we should all appreciate attention to detail.

This is way snarkier than the post deserved. Clearly his intention isn’t to laugh at students, but to allow the students to experience a small, but not crippling, failure and to learn how to deal with the situation. Allowing students to fail in a controlled way is one of many valid approaches to mentoring. It’s not like he’s erasing parts of the game manual so kids can’t read it or something, just not catching every single small mistake the kids make.

R78 E covered tubing

R78 E. Additional pneumatic tubing, with a maximum 0.160 in. inside diameter, functionally equivalent to that provided in the KOP,

ID would have to be less than .16" (standard 1/4 OD copper is .19). Up to interpretation rather or not copper is functionally equivalent to plastic. I agree that it is completely safe. Rule compliant is debatable. That is what LRIs are for. :]

As an inspector the weirdest thing was probably this
They tried to use it too adjust the height of a pneumatic cylinder. We couldn’t find anything illegal about it so they ended up being allowed to use it. They also wanted to mount a old school wireless security camera to the robot and carry a small CRT monitor on their driver station. Obviously we didn’t allow that.

Also I’d bet 95% of teams have a incorrectly filled out BOM (or whatever they changed the acronym to). No matter how old the team is or how many times they’ve been on Einstein I still see teams putting KOP items on the BOM and forgetting expensive items like sensors. I usually don’t make a fuss about it as it’s almost impossible to go over budget and more times than not the budget is lower than what was listed on the BOM. Same goes for the pressure relief valve, you don’t even know how many teams I inspected didn’t set it at all or didn’t even know how to set it.

As a student the worst experience I’ve had (and one of the reasons I like to inspect nowadays) was when a inspector spent literally an hour trying to figure out if the wire on our CIM motors from the KOP were too small because they did not list the gauge on the wire. We tried to explain that even if they were too small it would be illegal to modify them to no avail. I understand simple mistakes but this was just silly.

As a mentor:

  • 2011: I had started helping in the late fall. This was the last year of the former lead mentor. We got to the NYC Regional and we were pretty sure our robot was about half an inch too tall. The following conversation happened:
    “Your robot is too tall.”
    “How can you tell? It’s still in the bag.”
    "It’s not even close. It’s way too tall.
    Turns out our “rules guy” had interpreted 60 inches as 6 feet. I learned a lot from that year, including “everybody needs to know the rules” and “inspect the robot before the end of build season”. We never would have touched the field that year if it hadn’t been for 1626’s help.

  • 2014?: As you can probably guess based on 2011, we had been struggling. One of our goals this year was to not be getting inspected in a huge rush right before opening ceremonies. We had the robot ready to go, with just enough time to go get inspected and queue up for our last scheduled practice match. The inspection took nearly two hours (on an extremely simple robot), and the inspector never did find anything wrong. He was quizzing the students on just about every component of the robot. This experience was part of what motivated me to start volunteering to do inspections.

  • 2015: We got through inspection with no issues, but at our second competition our pit was next to a team we usually wouldn’t have been near, and they were having an even more challenging year than we did in 2011. All their components (except wiring) were legal, but they were going to fail inspection in a variety of ways, including size. We worked with them to get their robot legal (and after their first match, even to get it working). One of the inspectors stayed nearby and inspected as things got fixed, and one of the last problems we realized was that their frame didn’t fit the transport size requirements. The inspector and one of the other mentors were discussing with the other team ways of cutting and reassembling the frame, but we found a simpler method - we flipped it on its side. It fit, and the robot was already on its way to the field before the inspection paperwork was even signed.

As an inspector:

  • Teams that have no idea what the relevant rules for their robot are
  • Not really related to the robot itself, but amusing: after telling a mentor of another team that they needed to fix the way their bumpers were mounted (and helping them figure out how to do so), the mentor was grumbling to another mentor of my team that “your safety captain just failed our robot”. I was 31.
  • I convinced a team that was finishing their second district event that they needed to bag up their robot in case they got a slot at DCMP. They thought I was out of my mind, but did it anyway. Next weekend, I got to inspect them at DCMP. :slight_smile:

My favorite inspection story:

-Load into building as early as physically possible
-Get pit prepped and robot with no modifications necessary ready to be inspected
-Wait for event LRI to eventually communicate how to commence with inspections, with challenges that range from “stand in a long line” to “guess the neon hat with the proper form” to “just wait, we’ll be right there”.
-Keep waiting for an hour
-Inspector comes, gets through inspection except for something like the pressure release valve or a sharp corner
-Inspector disappears into the ether, never to be seen again until <15 minutes before the day is over
-I get really hungry and sad at some point

Repeat like, 4 or 5 times.

If the servo fully closed that valve, was the system plumbed such that all air could still be vented via the pressure relief valve? If not, you could have a problem.

Since you are an inspector, you already know this, but for others. An inspection check list is published towards the end of build season. You robot will be inspected to it. It covers 95% of the rules. Use the inspection check list before your robot goes in the bag.