Look at the Big Picture

Over the course of the season I have seen a growing attitude and tones of many of the posts on these forums. Much of it is rooted in true sentiments and logic. But a large portion is naive and, frankly, immature.
I’m specifically talking about the complaints about the rules this year.

Am I a fan of all the rules? No. I have been quite outspoken about at least one of them, and am one of the offenders of this post myself.
Could the rules be better? Always.

But, as a whole, are the rules bad? Absolutely not.

If you read these forums, you wouldn’t get that impression though.
I don’t mean to pick on anyone in particular, but this post was what set me off specifically. That thread already had several comments that displeased me, but that one went further.

Many people on these forums have had experience with other robotics/design/engineering competitions. But a majority have not. Let me tell you, there are competitions with FAR worse rules than FRC.

I’ll enlighten you with an example out of my own experience.
Last year, I competed in an ASME student design competition. The basic premise was to create an automated window cleaning device.
Eleven schools registered for our particular event. Eight showed up with completed devices. Of those eight, only three passed the equivalent of “inspection.” Of those three, two were later (after they had competed), ruled illegal designs.
To reiterate, of the eleven teams, only one had a “legal” design.

And this was not because of the team’s failure to read, understand, and attempt to comply with the rules. The rules were poorly worded, the judges had a terrible understanding of them, and they were enforced differently at each event.
My team had based a design modification for our device on the team that had won a competition the weekend before. Our, however, was ruled illegal (only after we had competed, and registered the highest score).

If anyone thinks FIRST’s rules are that bad, they are mistaken. A vast majority of FIRST teams will be have passed inspection by the beginning of qualification rounds. Of the minority who don’t, I’m willing to bet almost 100% of them will make it onto the field by the end of Friday. And a majority of those violations will be things like weight and size infractions.

Is this a perfect scenario? No. But it is one of the best, easily.
Do we have a right to complain about rules we don’t like? Yes, of course.
But when those complaints get out of hand, sometimes becoming borderline personal attacks, you have to step back and look at the big picture.

That specific post was in very bad taste and it seemed a bit too harsh for the circumstance.

Rules are rules and complaints are complaints, if someone really does feel the need to complain about something, at least do it in a gracious manner (and no I’m not saying GP). Be kind and be conscientious of whom you are referring to in your post.

I’m not advocating that people should “complain” but if you do, have it be constructive criticism instead of just outright disrespectful criticism.

Thanks for voicing this Sean.

The more time I am involved in first, the more I realize this is a recurring trend. Every year around this time in the season, there are lots of overly harsh and whiny posts, and then someone makes a thread about it to remind people that FIRST is run by volunteers, and that Chief Delphi is normally a wonderful place because it’s users don’t act like this (and usually this helps keep people in check for a bit.) I think everyone’s tired after six plus weeks of hard work and crunch time, but this is no excuse. People should remember to think about what they’re saying an extra time before they hit post during this time of year. Also, we should all remember to thank everyone who has volunteered their time to make FIRST as awesome as it is.

As one of the first to complain about the battery rule, I find this to be an excellent post reminding us to keep everything in perspective.

In the grand scheme of things the GDC does a pretty good job of writing rules give how many scrutinizing eyes there are trying to pick them apart.

I agree that it is also very important to keep any complaints focused on the rules and not the writers. They are not writing these rules in an attempt to anger as many teams as possible. They are writing the rules as they believe they are necessary to see the game played as they intended. If there are ways you think they could improve their process (their is a pretty good post regarding intent in one of the battery threads) make sure to note it and express it at your Team Forum following the season.

Most people involved in something like robotics are logical people. Wen we have an issue, be it with a rule, person, action, etc. we tend to complain. This is normal with anyone. Lately we’ve all had issues with some of the rules. So we complain. Yes, some of the complaining lately has been a little… over the top, harsh and the like. However, it’s just words, just posts. We’re not firebombing the FIRST headquarters or anything like that. :rolleyes:

You’re right, some of the complaining has been out of line, however, the GDC needs to know that we’re unhappy with some of the rulings. Hopefully they’ll change they’re mind because they see how unhappy we are. If they don’t, then we’ll just deal with it.

It seems every year something FIRST does causes normally rational people to lose their mind and post things like “OMG FIRST HAS LOST THEIR MIND THEY ARE KILLING FUN!!!”. This will continue until the end of time or the end of Chief Delphi. I know I have gotten fired up about rules that i disagreed with in the past. Sometimes people need to think before they post. Every year FIRST comes up with a new game with rules that are completely different. They are continually trying to improve everyone’s experience. Look at some of the great changes this year, the withholding allowance, the Michigan district structure, and many more. Some times people need to step back and take a breath before pressing the submit reply button.

P.S. I bet we have a similar discussion next year

I find your original post to be very one sided and bias towards FIRST (which is expected here). I know it’s in your own opinion and I can respect that. I don’t quite understand why this thread needs to exist, we are all tired, irritated and not in the best of moods after the long build. Everyone needs to just chill out for a couple weeks. I do get the main meaning from the original post, but I know this will cause a big stir amongst the CD community.

This seems to me to be the attitude that often develops when one is sitting behind a computer, hundreds of miles away from the person we are addressing. Many people will type things online that they would never say directly to the same person face-to-face.

Words can hurt people, often times far worse than violence can. To say that “it’s just words, just posts” is a gross underestimation of the effect that words can have on people.

I agree that it is important that we express our dissatisfaction with rules that we feel need to be changed, but it is important to do it in the right way. If you really want a rule changed, the best way to go about it is to step back and attempt to review the situation from a third party perspective, then voice your complaints using specific reasoning that you dislike the rule and ways that it could be changed to resolve your issues.

Bringing personal attacks into the equation is not a good way to communicate your problem. Why would someone want to help resolve your issues if you’re attacking them?

I’m a little surprised by this post. I thought I justified my post pretty well, even with a specific reference to the issues that drove me to create it.

In case it wasn’t clear enough, I’ll try and say it in a different manner.

This is essentially a reminder that everyone in FIRST is human, and that they will react to what you write. Yes, sometimes you will disagree with what FIRST decides. But when you voice your disagreement, do so in a constructive and gracious manner. And keep in mind, it can be much worse.

As for my bias towards FIRST. Ask some of the people who talk to me outside of CD about any “bias towards FIRST” I may have. But in terms of rule writing, they do a much better job than most other competitions I have been involved with and seen. But as will all things, experiences may vary. Perhaps you have competitions that you are in that have outstanding rules, and if so, please share with the rest of us.

The written word can be a very powerful tool. The term, Gracious Professionalism, is used a lot in threads throughout the fora in ChiefDelphi during the year, from season to season. Those are just words. But they can become actions as discussed in posts written about how teams conduct themselves on the field, during competition, off the field, in the stands, as peers…

The thing about Gracious Professionalism is that it isn’t a couple of words we can pull out when things are going well, when we’ve had enough rest, when we aren’t concerned about the upcoming competitions, when everyone is just fine and dandy. Gracious Professionalism is a way of conducting oneself even when it’s the end of build, people are on edge, there is a discussion regarding one of the rules in the game manual, and the first regionals/competitions begin very soon. How we conduct ourselves in ChiefDelphi doesn’t come with an on and off switch, and Gracious Professionalism doesn’t come with an on and off switch, either. There are appropriate words, tones, and attitudes that can be used when voicing concerns or frustrations and many of the posts that have been written this season and the past few days are lacking in these areas. Teams have spent a lot of money to compete in the FRC competition. It is a tough time economically for many. There are a lot of new aspects to the 2009 game. All of this can mount up and build into edginess and concern. Understanding that is not hard to do. However, even under difficult circumstances, we can work to communicate effectively, professionally, and with civility.

Saying something is “just words” isn’t what I meant. Nothing is ever “just” anything. What I wanted to say was that it was words and debates, not irrational actions, that were going on.

We’ve all only just gotten out of build season, which as we all know, is highly stressful. We all need a bit of rest before we go onto competition. After that, maybe things will have blown over and settled down. I doubt anyone here will listen to that, as we’re all far to into this thing.

I am going to have to back you up on this one, Sean.

The battery fracas, and then shredding the posts of anyone
who tried to project some reason into the discussion, was
among the worst displays of posting behavior I have
seen on CD, notwithstanding some of the other fine examples
that I won’t point out for anyone to go read.

Lets get a grip guys and gals, but shred this if you will.

I still stand on my offer to carry the battery cables in for
any team that is over their 40 pound limit at San Jose.
If this is ruled illegal, drop by the Team 1280 pit and
we help you make replacement cables.

Lets stop the post shredding and go have some fun!


Sean, I know kind of what you’ve been through with ASME. I compete in the SAE Collegiate Design Series, specifically the Aero Design Competition.

There, the 60 pages or so of rules are pretty clear. (No comment on the number of questions that could be answered by simply reading the rules. Ratio is probably much higher than here.) However, this year, for the annual rule change, the rule changed was: No carbon fiber or fiberglass. Several teams went for basalt fiber as an alternative. After a few months, a team that was making sure that basalt was in fact legal managed to get clarification on what counted as fiberglass. Basalt counted. Teams had already made parts out of basalt and had to redesign.

Here, in FRC, the rulebook is what, twice that length? There are really only two–now three–rules that have people scratching their heads/annoyed. The bumper rule, <G14> (mainly for the reasoning behind that), and now the ruling that a battery with leads isn’t exempt from the withholding allowance are the rules that are most annoying/least clear.

Could FIRST have done better? Possibly. 8-10 people with inside knowledge of intent can’t fully anticipate 15,000+ people without that knowledge, though. No matter how hard they try, they can’t make the rules completely, 100% clear for the large group. That’s why Q&A exists. In effect, ALL of the FRC teams that post questions are GDC advisers. They tell the GDC, through questions, what isn’t clear. The GDC then has a chance to make their intent clear, and change/clarify the rules accordingly.

Will they learn from this? Probably. We can expect that they won’t make the same “mistakes”, if such the annoying rules are, again. They may even fix the one they can before competition. Remember, they’re human. Humans have a tendency to learn. In fact, it’s often the case that a “failure” is a bigger learning experience than a success.

Let’s all take the rest of the weekend off. Chill out. Come back Monday or Tuesday and talk a bit more.

(BTW, this post is written by someone who is under some minor stress due to having 4 R/C planes to complete in 11 days, plus making their payload plates and the molds for said plates. And no, the planes aren’t close to done. Maybe 50%.)

hehe…the mandatory batteries in the past being shipped in the crate is the least of our worries. Our crate, cart and robot weighs 360 pounds BEFORE packing tools, spare parts, and everything else.
This year we went light. A manini-sized 691 pounds total as opposed to 1000+ in the past.
Why so much?

For all of you that attend local events or drive to a nearby state, lucky that you can bring everthing else to the event separately.

Our Hawaii regional event would be an advantage for us, if we didnt attend a mainland regional first. :wink:

As I posted elsewhere, the GDC really does a pretty good job. Of the literally hundreds of rules and definitions, how many of them are we stressed about? A half dozen?

Just as your robot is never done because it’s not perfect, the rules are never perfect. That doesn’t mean the GDC shouldn’t strive for perfection. Part of moving toward that goal is valid constructive criticism. Things will get overlooked in the design process, whether robot or rules. Things will have to be corrected. Things will have to be pointed out when they are adversely affecting teams, especially late in the season.

Every year we have some sort of rules floo-fla. The most complaints come from flip-flops, when things that were ruled legal a week after kickoff were ruled illegal after ship, or when things that were illegal in W1 events were made legal for W3. This battery thing impresses most people as a flip-flop, because it goes against previous practice - even if the rules are the same as in previous years, they didn’t seem to be enforced or mentioned then.

I’ve worked on rules committees, and there are two extremes of going about it. You can make the rules general, and then have those enforcing the rules make all the interpretations needed. Or you can make the rules very specific and restrictive leaving no room for interpretation.

The first is good if everyone doing the official interpretation - referees, judges, inspectors, etc - are on the same wavelength. But we’ve seen cases in the past where an interpretation was made, misconstrued by people hearing that interpretation, and there was great debate and consternation. It can lead to inconsistancy. The OCCRA rules committee generally follows this path, but it works because the same group of people write the rules, interpret and answer questions on the rules, and enforce the rules as inspectors and referees.

The restrictive method is often used in government regulations, insurance, other highly-bureaucratic organizations. Rules can’t be fixed, even when the results of a rule are unfair.

FRC attempts to take a partial middle path, and sometimes veers too far to one side or the other for some people’s tastes. They attempt to allow some interpretation by giving guidance to those who will be making the interpretations - e.g. inspector and referee training, testing and conference calls. But there is also the place for the GDC to make definitive rulings, even if people don’t like those rulings.

We don’t excuse the GDC because “they’re doing the best they can.” But at the same time, we should not harshly criticise the GDC, because “they ***are ***doing the best they can.” I firmly believe that - those committee members I have met, even briefly, certainly have a passion for what they are doing and want to give teams and students the best possible experiences.

The big picture is that FIRST is a program to promote engineering and technology as career choices for high school students.

Think back to when you were starting out on a team. Remember the excitement you felt. Do you have that excitement on your team now? This is about getting students thinking and interested in career choices, about changing the way we collaborate with others.

Is this is going on now? Do you see that excitement?

Try running a team. You need to keep everyone happy. You need to attract talent onto the team and you need to keep your older students excited. Have an honest talk with your team leaders about what they have to do and why they do it. Ask them what their big picture is. Share with them what your big picture is. Is everyone on the same page?

Let’s get the excitement back. How do we do that?

There was a huge problem with those factors this year amongst a few teams here in Rochester. I heard from several teams that the kids were not as excited and willing as previous years. This is not from just one team with a lot of money, but form a team with little money, a team with a lot of mentors, and such. I can’t nail it to one specific reason why so many teams didn’t have the push like previous years, but it’s different. Maybe we need some changes next year?

I think Sean’s post was made at the perfect time.

I feel that this year has more complaining then any other that I can remember (G22 from '08 does not count ). I was surprised at all of the complaining about various rules this year. Of course every game is going to have the rule that every one hates (G22 from '08) but this year people complained about everything.

Yes, the bumper rules are strict - Yes, it’d be nice to be able to leave the starting envelope - Yes, it’d be nice to carry in our batteries and plug them in the instant we get in our pits, but so what? Rules are rules. There’s no point in complaining about things you can’t change, and if you feel like you can change them then complain to the right people.

Remember, CD is not an official source of Info from FIRST. Anything said here is not official and anything said here probably won’t reach the people it needs to reach. So if you want to change something talk to the people in power, don’t clutter up this site with pointless complaining.

And I think John and Alex are on to something. For some reason students just aren’t as excited about this year as they were before. I don’t know what it is but there just seems to be some underlying negativity in the air lately. I know on my team we have gone through a radical change in the last few months and that may be where some of it stems from but it seems to be FIRST wide…

(And I know I’m not perfect, I have been know to complain about a rule or three.)

I’ll throw in some change :slight_smile:

I’ve been involved in robot competitions for more than 15 years. ASME, ANS, AUVSI, FIRST, BattleBots, RobotWars, Robotica and my own production BotBash. Concerns about rules are always the same when you get a bunch of intelligent people who are so passionate about being involved.

FIRST FRC in particular has elevated blood pressure having to do with this because of the sheer quantity of people involved. Everyone has an opinion.

When I first saw the <G14> rule a few months back, I knew it would be the lightening rod this year and really didn’t have a high opinion of it, as I thought “why punish the teams who are “good””. But after I settled down about it, I just realized “ITS A GAME RULE”, it adds to the challenge. Game rules are usually derived from something that one person did that was of enough concern that it was felt a rule should be made for one reason or another, or it could be something someone responsible just wants to try to see if it reaches a desired effect. I mean just like building engineering prototypes, no one can guarantee new ideas will work unless something is tried. Rules that may seem like they make no sense, do have reason. It just might not be wise to disseminate the reason as with highly passionate people it might cause more grief then letting them wonder why. GDC isn’t dumb.

What the GDC has to do every year in this regard is an incredible feat, and to tell the truth, I think they do a very good job given the overall circumstances. Fact is you will NEVER make everyone happy, you just do the best you can and then paint the bulls-eye on your chest, it’ll always be the same because people don’t change.

I just wish they’d get rid of the “no celebration rule” in the NFL, I like the dances……

I personaly dont mind the rules that much, it just makes it more of a challenge for me :wink: