Musings from a FIRST Inspector for 2009

Now that we are done with the bulild season I would like to put forth some information about when you get to your regional(s) and need your robot inspected.

  1. Have your BOM (Bill of Material) ready in a hard copy format. There is no guarantee that someone will be able to print one for you from your jump drive.

  2. Leave the bumpers off when you get your robot sized. It’s a real mess when you have a team removing their bumpers, in the inspection area, and other teams are trying to get their robot inspected. Some regionals don’t have allot of room for this (ie BMR)

  3. Please have only two students interact with the inspectors. It’s alright if the team wants to watch, but please do it from a short distance away. It’s hard for an inspector to ask questions, about the robot, and four people answer.

  4. Make sure there are NO sharp corners, protruding screws etc on your robot. I don’t like to see blood, especially my own :ahh:

  5. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your robot inspected.

The inspectors are here to help you enjoy your FIRST experience and we are not out to pick on you.

If any other inspectors would like to add to this list. Feel free to comment.


Your BMR Inspector

ps I can’t be bought, but I can be rented

A sidenote to #2 above, please also remove the trailer hitch, you won’t fit in the box with it on the robot.

Pre-inspect your machine:

Do a dry run while waiting for the real inspection.

Great tips. I thought I’d add a few:

  1. Please run through the wiring diagram and make sure all your wire sizes are right.

  2. Make sure that your gaming adapter is running to the right location on your power distribution block and not through a WAGO.

  3. Make sure your wire connections are taped up such that there are no stray wires visible.

  4. Make sure you are following the team number/lettering rules. They are always overlooked.

  5. Everyone out of the pit. This is kind of a re-emphasis of #3. I hate having an entire team standing around in a 10’x10’ pit while I try to look at their robot. Please designate 2 students and 1 mentor for inspection. It makes things so much easier.

  6. Please bring documentation for any parts you are unsure about having (or that you think the inspectors will ask about). For instance, any servo motors that are not Hitec will require documentation with performance specs. As will any pneumatic cylinders that are not Bimba.

  7. Make sure your cRIO and camera are isolated from your chassis. The camera will be the cause for the smoke on the field. The cRIO will be the cause of the tears in the pits.

  8. Bring along a copy of the updated game manual (at least parts 3,4,6,7,8,9). Also make sure to bring copies of the team updates. If you have a Q&A answer as support for the legality of a robot component, PRINT IT OUT.

Especially the part about contrasting color. Note: black on clear is a very good way to hide your numbers. Scouts have a hard time seeing that combination; judges, refs, and field crew are closer, but don’t like having to work on something that they shouldn’t have to.

4 things that I always tell my students to have with them before they inspect.

  1. Bill of materials
  2. Drivers station
  3. A File
  4. A since of houmor

(14) Documentation for any compliance testing you did such as coefficient of friction for a sensor wheel or safety testing on a propeller system. Remember, it is your responsibility to prove to the inspector that everything is OK.

(15) A laptop loaded with your development system and your robot’s software. If you must run the diagnostic window software to prove the version of software loaded on your robot, you may need to reload your application software.

(16) A multimeter to demonstrate that your frame is not grounded.

(17) A really big smile.


I’m going to repost what I said last year on this topic:

To give some advice from the team/student’s perspective:

  1. Relax. Inspections are only stressful if you let them be. Remember, both you and your inspector are trying to enjoy the competition, not stress each other out. Tell an amusing anecdote or two if it helps (just don’t start on some bad “a blonde walks into a bar… ouch” type of jokes and stories).

  2. The scale is usually open for use for a lot of the day. So, the first thing you should do after uncrating your robot is to go weigh it. It makes for an unpleasant surprise if you discover at 5pm that you are over the weight limit. It doesn’t have to be part of an inspection or any sort of official weigh-in, just get an idea of where you stand.

  3. Partial inspections are your friend. Since there is only one sizing box, in my experience, a lot of time is wasted waiting to use it. Get weight/sizing done early and the rest should be a breeze. If you know your electronics won’t pass at the moment for some reason, go ahead and do the rest while you wait for the parts to fix the electricals. The same goes for just about anything. (Just don’t try to get a partial inspection when the incomplete subsystem poses a hazard to the inspector)

  4. Know the rules well and keep copies of relevant Q&A responses and the rulebook at hand. Everyone fears getting an incompetent (or just inexperienced, which can have the same result) inspector, and it does happen (usually pretty rarely though). Knowing the rules like the back of your hand is the most effective way to get through such an inspection.

For this year, I want to add extra emphasis on #4. In previous years, (disclaimer: this is based on my personal experience from 4 yrs of being a student going through the robot with the inspector, YMMV) inspectors are a mixed bag. Inspectors are intelligent and helpful, but knowledge of the rules is highly varied. On occasion, you’ll get an inspector like Al who can detect electrical problems from 20 paces with his back turned, and on other occasions you’ll get an inspector who barely understands the basics. I have seen teams passed with blatant rule violations and seen changes required to perfectly legal robots. With the difficulty interpreting stuff like the bumper requirements this year, you absolutely must know the rules well, and have a rulebook on hand, even if your robot does not have any unusual features. If something comes up, do not be afraid to disagree with your inspector, but be nice about it and support your argument with facts; otherwise, you are just whining.

I read that the camera case is grounded, so it has to be isolated. Does mounting it on the servo’s of the pan and tilt assembly take care of that? Or should the pan and tilt assembly be isolated from the chassis too?

The robot inspectors are here to help you. A lot of us are team engineers as well as inspectors so they know what you have gone through to get to the regional. You can ask them for advice on things as well, especially early on Thursday.

So if you’re over size or over weight they can show you how they solved those problems in the past.


There’s a decent chance that the pan/tilt assembly is electrically connected to the camera’s power return. Beep it out with an ohmmeter.


Just a few words of advice for all teams in which I have seen personally & cringed at.
They are not official rules (that I know of) but, rather more common sense things to be aware of.

~Do not fool around at any time over the course of the weekend with the sizing box, or the scale.
These are tools that *FIRST *uses to make sure you are in compliance & can compete fairly with everyone else.

~Do not do stupid things like stand on the scale to weigh yourself, or jump in the sizing box for a picture unless you ask someone in charge of that area. If they say it’s ok, at least you have deniability if something breaks.
The odds are though, that an inspector who does not want to have to deal with the hassle of a broken scale will NOT let you use it for yourself or let you play around in the sizing box.

I’ve seen regionals where the inspection process is in a back room or so far off to the side that these are usually non-issues.

I’ve also seen regionals where the scale was right next to a walk way & when that walkway was crowded many people just walked right over the scale. :frowning: :ahh:
That’s not cool.

Please do not do these things.
Treat these tools that FIRST uses as you would your own robot, or team tools, or better yet your own tools & be very respectful of them.


Addressing lukevanoort’s concern: this year’s robot inspectors are certified: they must pass an on-line test to become an official inspector. You should not encounter any “clueless” inspectors this year.

A big incentive for getting through inspection early on Thursday is the “fast lane” for practice matches. Robots that have completed inspection (i.e. passed and have the signed inspection sticker on the robot) may be allowed to fill in for no-show robots in practice matches. Robots that have not passed full inspection can participate in their scheduled practice matches after completing a brief safety inspection.

How long have inspector’s been certified? (i.e. in which year did this practice start?) Is it a new thing?

This may have been in place for lead inspector’s for some time (Al?). This year I was sent an e-mail notification from the FIRST Volunteer Resources Coordinator that I needed to complete a certification test. I assure you that robot inspectors will need to be quite familiar with Section 8 of the Game Manual to get a passing score.

iirc there was such a test last year, but it might have been only for the refs.

We started using an inspector quiz in 2007 but it hasn’t been enforced until this year. Referee cert started being enforced last year (if memory serves).

For anyone taking the inspector quiz - don’t fret. It’s an “open book exam” and you’ve got 2 minutes per question with 15 questions. The primary goal is to ensure that you’ve read Section 8. If you’ve done a pre-read and are familiar with the organization of Section 8, you should be able to easily pass.


Even if it passes while stationary, it may connect when the robot accelerates. Be careful.

For anyone taking the inspector quiz - don’t fret. It’s an “open book exam” and you’ve got 2 minutes per question with 15 questions. The primary goal is to ensure that you’ve read Section 8. If you’ve done a pre-read and are familiar with the organization of Section 8, you should be able to easily pass.

I am now certified, or is that certifiable? :ahh:
I aced the test so anyone should be able to pass it.