Let's build new timeout together

There’s a lot of talk about the dissatisfaction with the current timeout rules spread among many threads. But Frank has said they’re open to changing the rules if a better solution presents itself. So let’s do it. Let’s build better timeout rules. Not just saying what we dislike about the current rules, but what we want to see. Some key takeaways from the current discussions.

  • The punishment doesn’t fit the crime:
    Blocking teams out entirely for being late to a match is a disproportionate punishment
    Some proposed solutions:
    Making being late escalating fouls, removing game pieces from that alliance or adding some sort of increasing challenge
  • The experience needs to be more team centric:
    Remembering that these are high school students, who are paying a lot of money to be here and have worked very very hard to get to where they are, and that their experience should come above all else
    Proposed solutions:
    Increased training for Key Volunteers to ensure their rulings are more team centric, some sort of players counsel to ensure participants have a bigger say in this issue and other issues like it.
  • Time out rules are confusing and arbitrary:
    The time out rules and the time limits involved are confusing and arbitrary, causing headaches and crushed students
    Proposed solutions:
    Allow timeouts to stack, letting timeouts be called at any time before the start of the match, getting rid of the physical paper component

I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of the nuisances of the discussions and have not highlighted every possible solution, but I think it is important to not just say why the current rules are wrong, but what we want the new rules to be. If we are able to get a general consensus on some proposals, I’d be happy to draft a letter to HQ. But before we get to that stage, I think it’s really important to have solutions not just grievances, and really think long and hard about how the timeout rules can better fit our program ideals, and why at present they don’t.

I would appreciate this thread be more constructive rule changes than general complaints about the timeout rules. This Thread exists to complain about timeout rules, and believe me, I’m sure there’s plenty more people can add to that thread. But anyway we can make timeout rules better and ensure there is NEVER another 0v3 match, or even a 2v3 match for that matter would put a smile on my face.


Apply a tech foul for every minute any member of an alliance is late. Maximum of 5 tech fouls before a Yellow Card.


How would you rule this if a backup coupon was used and said backup is taking a bit (even though they are trying to get to the field as fast as they safely can)?

(I am assuming this is just a brainstorming session, just trying to think through stuff)

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It’s 2022, there’s got to be a better way to submit a timeout than a piece of paper.


Poll while I still have the chance, though I’m probably going to regret this. Do I make this a wiki to compile all the proposed solutions? Or just let people discuss in the comments?

Should this post be a wiki, or just a discussion?
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I concur. Though I do worry about technical solutions given both the lack of service and potential equity issue it could incur, depending on implementation. Would have to think more on that


I’d think submission for a backup robot would suspend any associated penalties/cards so long as it’s done within a reasonable and predefined window of time (before the penalties are applied for example).


I’m going to link to–and summarize–two of my posts in that linked thread.

Basically: 10 minute timeouts are pretty easily doable (first post), and the timeout system can be restructured a bit so there’s cushion (second post).

To elaborate a bit:
My proposal was to rename the team timeouts to “Extensions”, and give each team two, worth 5 minutes from the end of either a field timeout or from the time of turning in (whichever is greater–there are cases where you’d turn it in when a timeout isn’t running). Field timeouts are 10 minutes, see TU19 for timing.

If a team is late, their alliance is charged ONE extension, the timer starts again, and they have 5 more minutes. If they don’t have an extension available, then we start discussing penalties (bypass being the most powerful, should be the “you burned through the field timeout and both of your extensions and you’re not even trying to leave the pits yet” move if it’s used at all).

One thing I will say: I expect that there is “more to the story” yet to come. There’s guidance to the HRs that isn’t public–it’s known to exist but exact details are never shared.

One thing that I think could help the “coupon” issue: Just give the HR one sheet of paper. Team comes up and says “timeout”, HR marks it off. Ditto for backup, there’s room on that one sheet.


Whatever solutions are proposed I believe a timeouts should be independent from event overhead. (field timeout doesn’t start until all teams are clear of the field, travel time/ distances considered at each event, etc).


Actually that seems way simpler and less complicated. Also less likely to get lost. I learned from wristbands this year that teenagers can and will lose anything :joy:


While I don’t have many specific suggestions at this point, I am wary of the safety implications of any strict time-based enforcement, given some of the posts in this thread. I’d like to see somewhat more lenient enforcement, such as here:

Strictly-enforced time constraints (whether punished by penalties or being locked out) incentivize teams to run towards the field with their robot, which isn’t safe for anyone involved. I’ve seen drive teams trip when coming through the gates even when they aren’t in a hurry. There are often bottlenecks in the way (what do you do if two teams arrive at the gate with 1 second left in the timeout?), people in the way, etc.

For a start, I’d suggest that referees should look for teams “making progress towards the field” rather than “on the field” when determining whether to assess a penalty. Drawing the line consistently is a bit tricky - I wouldn’t consider 1ft/min “progress”, but I would be ok with a team slowing down or stopping briefly to, say, change a battery.


This moving rule definitely seems more reasonable, though it’d be interesting to see how large lead times can effect things. I don’t know about Houston, But I know Atlanta and St. Louis had quite large travel times between pits and the field, and even a team who was “on their way” could find themselves 15-20 minutes late. Though I believe champs mitigates this with super pits. Or is that only for Einstein? It’s been a while tbh. I’d be curious though what the farthest travel distance between the field and pits are in a “normal” event.

Champs does super pits for all elims not just Einstein in Houston

Source: Been in elims at every Houston Champs and made Einstein once.


This is a good point. If a team deliberately travelled 10 minutes away from the field, knowing that their turnaround time was less than 20 minutes, I think they do bear some responsibility if they are late, even if they are technically moving towards the field. Hopefully venues are accomodating and allow teams to set up basic necessities closer to the field. I’ve volunteered at a district where teams had to queue 4-5 matches in advance, which resulted in some staying at the field all day with just batteries/tools. There wasn’t enough space for a “super pit”-style setup, but the event was flexible in allowing teams in queue the people/tools/space they needed.

Some events I’ve worked at have stationed ref(s) along the path to the field to confirm that teams are “on their way” around the time a timeout expires, and to radio to the head ref to let them know. This might not be feasible in all venues, but I’ve generally seen it work in the teams’ favor.

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Not a solution, but I would love to see this overlap go away… just tack time on to the end of the 8 minutes of the field timeout for crying out loud. Confusing and annoying to teams and the audience alike. A team timeout is NOT 8 minutes… it is 2 when properly optimized.


This is an excellent start to less confusing rules.

Get rid of all this overlap. If you haven’t called your timeout or backup robot by t=0 of the field timeout, you lost the opportunity. The green bar implying a team timeout is 8 min run simultaneous with the field time out is ridiculous.


One thought (numbers are arbitrary):

Another thought:
Make a very clear visual indicator for the timeout window on the audience display. And while we’re at it, never remove the timeout from the audience display to show video of a kid dancing.

Another thought:
The timeout rules should be explainable on a half sheet of paper, and in a 30 second speech during the alliance captain meeting. Any rules that don’t pass this test are too complicated. It’s not that these kids aren’t smart and can’t understand. It’s that competition is already extremely stressful abd I don’t think it’s anyone’s intention to make navigating confusing timeout rules an element of the challenge.

Another thought:
Instead of giving every alliance eight minutes, give every team five and let them stack them so they can have a five, 10, or 15 minute timeout. Or three five minutes. Or a 10 and a 15. Have to think through the logistics of this and avoid adding too much time to the end of the event, but I think there’s potential to make this work. Teams sometimes want as much time as possible and sometimes just need a couple extra minutes…

Another thought:
Add. Timeouts. Between. Every. Match. And. Give. Awards.

Another thought:
Play a buzzer one minute before the timeout is over that is very clearly a one minute warning until gates close. Don’t rely on an MC deciding to make an announcement that folks may or may not hear.

And, finally, an unpopular thought:
I think the gates should be closed when the buzzer goes off. I concede that the buzzer goes off too early in many cases, and that it’s heartbreaking to see teams make an effort to head towards the field and be denied play. However, there are only two solutions to eliminate volunteer discretion in timeouts (discretion which can create unfair conditions): (1) allow unlimited time or (2) require everyone to be on the field at the same time. With the logistical impracticality of unlimited time, the only reasonable choice left is to close the gate at the same time. So, obviously, we need more time and clearer rules so teams don’t miss the deadline and volunteers aren’t forced between enforcing the rules and being whatever degree of lenient they so choose.


They do. 5.9, it’s a “Trumpet Fanfare”.

MC often announces at 2 minutes or following the fanfare.

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Shows how much of an impression it makes! I’ve been to so many events and didn’t realize that. I guess I probably knew in the back of my mind, but a loud buzzer and large clock seem more effective to me.

We sometimes hear random sounds during tiebreakers as the field is being tuned during the downtime, so something more authoritative seems better, idk.


Yeah, it caught me off-guard my first time. It’s also new for this year, IIRC.

Definitely agree on the clock–the buzzer is currently slotted as the end-of-timeout noise.