Some QA questions are better than others.
Here are some quick techniques to test whether you’ve crafted a QA question worth posing:
Does your question cover the basics, including a good title, rules references, good grammar and no mispellings?
Does your question leave room for the quickest and easiest non-answers? If these common responses can be legitimately applied to your question, then it will probably happen.
- We cannot rule absolutely on hypothetical ROBOT designs, and the final decision as to legality of a particular ROBOT lies with the Lead ROBOT Inspector (LRI) at each event.
- We believe Q# answers your question. If it does not, please rephrase your question and resubmit. Please use the Search Q&A button on the navigation bar before posing a new question.
- We cannot comment on part/design legality, previous calls of Head REFEREES or LRIs, or questions that are overly broad, vague, and/or include no rule references.
- Official Field Drawings can be found in the Playing Field Information link on the Game & Season Materials webpage.
- As per Miriam-Webster Dictionary, a [word] is [definition]…
Have you workshopped your question with other mentors?
Does your question carry the risk of making something illegal for all teams? This is especially important if calling a commonly-used part or a standard practice into question. It also depends whether your question is in regards to a prescriptive vs proscriptive part of the ruleset. Please move carefully here. You should first discuss the reason for your question with your local FTAs and LRIs who attend official FIRST-provided training for their roles.
The right way to design a question is to imagine the response you want, and design the question such that no other possible answers can be legitimately given. This requires putting yourself into the GDC’s shoes, adopting their logic. You’re not an FRC team-- you’re an organization responsible for developing guidelines for the safe and “fair” execution of hundreds of robot events across the world.
The ideal QA response is something like:
Working backwards from this perfect answer, a good question could have a structure like:
Is it correct that [doing action] is not a violation of G#?
Q148 and Q156 (which were answered at the same time) are examples of great questions of this form, because they adopt & leverage logic that’s already demonstrated in existing rules and prior QA responses.
It may be tempting to ask something like “Is there a rule to prevent [action]?” or “Is there a rule that makes [design] illegal?” I recommend avoiding this format, because it’s so likely that this will (1) solicit an easy, glib response (like “Yeah, there are a lot of rules, pal!”) or (2) unintentionally spur the creation of a new rule (or a new interpretation of an existing rule) that prevents the thing.
The question “Is there a rule that says we must [do action]?” is also problematic in the same way. If there was such a rule, we’d know about it already.
My advice is that your question should not attempt to cause a rule change, although this does happen frequently. If your intent is to cause a rule change, (1) your question should leave room for no acceptable answers under the existing ruleset, and (2) you should have a really good prior understanding of what the new rules will be after the change! This part may require being around FIRST for a long time.
OK, so let’s talk about some problematic questions.
Q27 and its followup Q57 both ask the responder to make a moral judgement about the fairness of a particular action not restricted by the rules, in an attempt to make it illegal. Q27 has the structure “Is there a rule stating we must [do action]?” and Q57 has the structure “Is there a rule preventing us from [doing action]?” Both of these structures can only serve to solicit either new rules or more restrictive interpretations of the existing rules; they’re not designed to bring about any loosening of restrictions.
Q149 has a couple of problems:
- It asks the responder to make a legality determination about a particular robot part, but the existing rule has already left this to the Robot Inspector to determine. This gives GDC no choice but to respond with “the final decision as to legality of a particular ROBOT lies with the Lead ROBOT Inspector (LRI) at each event.”
- The questioner gives their opinion (the LEDs on this particular robot part are “intense”, therefore its use during match play is subject to the safety-related restriction applied to all “intense” lighting) and then asks whether their interpretation is true. If they wanted to hear the unlikely response “No, the part is not subject to the use restriction,” they’ve set up an additional difficult barrier for themselves: GDC would have to say that they disagree with the team’s opinion.
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.