We just completed the SBPLI Regional and it was great. Had it not been for one disturbing event, it would have been awesome. Very briefly, here’s what occurred.
On Thursday during pit day we were besieged with inspectors (at least 5) wanting to see our mouse’s tether. They said that other teams were complaining that it was an entangling threat. I thought that to be ironic since the mouse itself could easily drive over it with no problem. We took it in stride and were granted permission to proceed.
It is a 6 lb, 6 ft./sec. agile mouse with a 42’ tether. During 9 of the 10 matches we used it and kept it out of all other robots’ way. We went end zone to end zone several times. In our last qualifying round however, we accidentally released it too early and couldn’t rehouse it. To keep it out of the way we ran it into our opponent’s end zone and rested it against their wall. Soon after, one of their teams drove a goal out of scoring position and ran it into the mouse, crushing it. Had it been to merely move the goal out of scoring position I could have accepted the consequences. But the team kept pushing the 180 lb. goal against the 6 lb. mouse to ensure its demise. After the round the refs. refused to DQ the intentional action even after a crewmember said that he clearly heard the operators laughing that they finally “Crushed that little thing”. He said that he couldn’t know their what their intention was and that they might not have been able to see what was happening. They kept pushing the robot into the wall, AND it was against the wall right in front of them!!! Not to mention on the big screen at the time for all to see (across the field from them so they could see it).
Okay, I’ll accept that, after all we have to make it robust enough (I defy someone to crush the one we’ll have in the Nats.) What is really disturbing though is the very ambiguous message FIRST is sending this year.
At the close of rounds on Fri. we were seeded 5th and received the Xerox Award for “Thinking outside the box” with the design of our mouse and heads up LED goggles. The four students who designed and built the mouse, including the programming, were very excited and proud of their achievement.
At the end of the competition on Sat., however, they were ready to give the award back because it meant very little to them. You see, the team who crushed the mouse was given The Best Defensive Play Award for crushing the mouse in a “Mouse Trap”. Now, explain how, on one hand it was completely unintentional that they damaged the mouse and were merely trying to move the goal into the non-scoring zone yet at the same time you REWARD them for damaging the mouse by intentionally stopping it. I would be like giving out a award last year to a team who snapped off a arm off a big ball getter and were not punished right off for it. Whats the diffrence between a mouse and say bashing off a goal grabber on another robot while having you wheels spinning, just because you could. Professional graciousness?
Yes, I know that the Best Defensive Play is voted on by other teams- then shame on them. This only shows that FIRST is missing the mark and fomenting a Battlebot mentality when some teams praise others who damage robots. I found it odd that teams who allied with us and won, loved the little guy and even respected it when they later opposed it. Yet teams who only faced us as an opponent were stymied, frustrated even angry because they couldn’t stop it.
To add insult to injury the judges themselves nest awarded the same team another award in which they remarked about the stopping of the mouse. FIRST needs to stop worrying about exciting the spectators and keep worrying about exciting the students; ours walked out of the competition after those awards were given.
Is this sour grapes? No, we went and rebuilt the mouse and competed in the next round as a non-scoring partner (To round out match numbers) and won because of the mouse.
Another team’s advisor compared the stopping of the mouse to the breaking of a star quarterbacks legs to get him off the field.
Sorry for venting here, but I truly pity the other mouse teams who have yet to compete for the first time this year; Good Luck