My comments on shooters

I personally dont like the idea of a launching robot and I think it is unsafe. There were some issues at some 2006 regionals where balls were shot at the tech guys knocking over things. This was with small nerf balls. 8lb balls hurled with enough force to conciderably clear the 78" overpass could do worse. Some rambunctious members of my school have clearly proved that a seemingly lightly thrown trackball could injure a person no problem. Even with the victim expecting the blow. My convern is that if this is proven to be a saftey concern does any regional inspection team have the cajones to start disabling the ten plus shooting robots that will attend each competition. I think teams might get by just based upon sheer numbers of people the inspectors would have to DQ to declare this stratagy unsafe. Thoughts? Comments? Maybe I’m way off and bing a total idiot :slight_smile:

In my opinion, the GDC deemed launching robots safe enough to allow for their constrcution, and to alleviate some concerns in this manner, even released an entire update dedicated to shooter safety. While of course, arms are safer, the fact there are no rules explicity prohibiting launching the balls make it clear that unless done extremley carelessly, the GDC believes that shooting robots can be safe. Add to that the wall around the playing field, and I don’t think it will be as dangerous are you describe it to be.

Disclaimer: I am not, and I have not spoken with any member of the GDC on this issue. I’m just providing my interpretation of the matter.

It’s a very valid point. However, rather than disable a very larger percentage of the playing field, it seems that FIRST would be more likely to put a very large penalty in place if a ball is fired out of the field.

FIRST doesn’t seem like the type of competition where they would willingly and knowingly screw over a large group of teams without a second thought.

There is definitely a safety issue, yes. Will the inspectors/refs DQ teams due to safety? Possibly. Remember, it’s not the inspector’s job to issue a DQ, it’s the ref’s. The inspector makes sure the robot is safe and legal, and can keep a robot from competing if there is a safety issue.

I think that, provided the launching only goes over the overpass, there should be no issue. If it starts going over field side “walls”, then there would be an big issue.

We’ll have to see how it turns out this year. But I definitely thought there were some speed issues for the launchers in 06. I also thought there was a little too much ramming that year too.

I predict that there will be trackball inflicted damages. Launching Bots will be a cause of this yes. However, not all teams with launchers are going to cause damage, so it is unfair to generalize that all of them are unsafe. I just hope that they don’t inflict to much damage…

This is exactly my point. Because so many teams went with this approach FIRST might sacrafice a decision they would make normally due to not wanting to DQ a lot of teams.

From the point made here, perhaps with all the prediction of penalties during week 1 regionals, an update will come out with some concerns and possible game rule changes to address potential unsafe and ungracious play that the original rules have not addressed.
For example, in 2006, shooter speeds had a maximum “speed limit” placed. Maybe they may have teams adjust shooter speed mechanisms that are potentially dangerous. The difference being in 2006, the rule came out before regional action, while rule(s) changes may occur after week 1 regionals are played out.
Personally, I hope nothing bad really happens, very few penalties occur, and no one gets frustrated and has a grand old time!

Personally, I think some shooting robots will have an advantage. I have no idea what inspectors have in their mind as a “safe shooter,” but I guess we will find that out as the regionals roll by. As said above, a whole update was released on just shooters; I am sure FIRST/GDC has thought this out throughly before permitting shooting robots. The only thing you need to worry about is your robot and how it is going to react when there is a 8 lbs 40" in diameter ball flying at your machine.

It’s obvious that the GDC has considered this-see the Team Update with the lengthy list of considerations on how to treat launchers like loaded cannons with lit fuses. I think that that update provides a perfect justification for them to impose a penalty on any safety violations and DQ after warnings, and I doubt they’ll do anything else. However, I think that if all those rules are followed, there is nothing that makes all “shooters” inherently unsafe.

The perception of danger can be a uniquely personal thing. I don’t mean to dispute your perception of a flying trackball as being something that presents a potential hazard, and hope that your team members who were injured by the flying trackball have since recovered with no permanent harm. I must, however, suggest that in relation to the myriad other hazards present at an FRC event, that the injury potential of robot-launched trackballs pales in comparison.

Consider the hazards involved in:

Driving to the event (likely the most dangerous part of the event, although hardly perceived as such)
Using cutting and boring tools such as knives, drills and saws.
Slipping on a wet floor, or falling down the stairs of the stadium.
Lifting and carrying heavy objects, some possibly with unintentionally sharp edges.
150lb high velocity metal machines that can clean you out at the ankle if you get in their way
Eating at a variety of cheap restaurants (I suspect food poisoning will send more FRC competitors to hospital than trackballs will this year)
Competitors rolling, bouncing, sitting and surfing on trackballs
etc. etc.

The point is not to suggest that lauchers do not present some additional risk, but rather that the risk can be mitigated to a point where it is managable. Life is not about avoiding risk, but managing it.


You show a good point. I dont mean to suggest that everything should be bubble wrapped, I am more worried about the annoyances and game delays of having the Dj station getting bombarded by trackballs for example then the very off chance any1 actually gets injured by a ball. I just think its out of character for FIRST to allow this stratagy even to endorse it.

My dad can vouch for the cheap restaurants, he got food poisoning for about two weeks at Silicon Valley.

As for the trackballs, Woody brings up a good point that they can be dangerous, but I dont see many trackballs clearing the driver’s station wall, due to a combination of physical limitations and driver sensibility. No one wants to be known as the team that took out the opposing drive team with a trackball.

Lately I’ve been giving this a lot of thought… we have a simple arm bot with a forklift that without a traffic jam, can hurdle about 3 times a match. But another useful (maybe not wise) strategy is to park our robot with it’s forklift up in front of the opponent’s overpass. As long as we don’t impede a robot - it seems perfectly legal to block a “shooter’s” ball launch. The down side is the force with which the ball may hit our robot may not be healthy for our robot. But let’s just say we try this, maybe in the elim’s and the opponents ball hits our forklift section and pops (this happen just this way at a scrimmage already). Now the opponent is left with just one ball. Is the ball popping intentional? It’s not like we built daggers on our forklift, but the force the ball hits with makes it very vunerable to an exposed screw or bolt (which is how a ball popped on us at the scrimmage).

In a thread a few weeks back, Dave Lavery acknowledged that it’s pretty likely that the scoring table will be wiped out by a trackball at least once this season, and if I know anything about Dave, I’d say he’s secretly looking forward to it. FIRST has known about this from day one, which is why the guardrails are higher than in years past. There are some inherent hazards, but like you said, you can’t bubble-wrap everything. It’s gonna be a fun season… I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of very creative bots (and maybe a few panicking FTAs).

I doubt it. Though not everyone likes their decisions, or games, the GDC is a smart group of people. They knew in advance when they made this game that people would shoot/launch the ball if they didn’t put in a rule preventing it, and they didn’t put in such a rule. This tells us that if they didn’t outright want teams to shoot the ball, they at least weren’t opposed to the idea.

If teams have unsafe robots of any kind–shooter, arm bots, herders, etc, I’m sure they will be handled as best as possible during inspection for things like pinch points, unsafe release of energy, etc, and through penalties/yellow/red cards by referees during gameplay.

My comment/question is how many ‘shooter’ robots will fail inspection because they do not indicate they are ‘loaded’ like it said in the team update. The team update stated that teams need to have a visible warning as to when the device to launch a trackball was ready. It could be a flag or a light, just something to warn people. Some very interesting solutions will be thought up on Thursday’s at regionals as I believe teams have overlooked this update.

I started a poll about launcher ‘armed’ indicators:

Everything is relative. A 145lb robot traveling at 18fps can do far more damage than any trackball that has been launched. 2007’s arms coming up in the wrong place (you know what I mean) could easily cause intense pain. Airborn flags from years past became projectiles. Arms getting tubes over the alliance station walls aways got a little bit too close to players heads for my comfort level. My point is that you can always find something that is dangerous. It is how you deal with that danger that is important.

Most shooters will not find it necessary to arm themselves except while on the playing field or when testing with whatever necessary precautions are needed (i.e. not in the pits). All the kids on my team are well aware of the dangers when their robot is armed (we did several dry launches). What concerns me is what will happen when the match is over. While we plan to release any stored energy before the end of the match, I am sure that there will be times when we or other teams will not release. That means that people will be scrambling to get their robots off the field with an armed launcher waiting to attack. We drove the robot around knocking ito things, bumped the launcher itself etc etc. while it was loaded to make sure that it only fires when commanded and we were never successful in getting it to accidentally launch. While the kids on my team are trained in what to do/what not to do when the robot is armed, no one else is. The first thing we will do when approaching the robot is insert a foot long pin that prevents the robot from firing or if the conditions allow, manually release the energy.

To me, the most dangerous time is when people unfamiliar with our robot are going near it to get their own robot or resetting the field. Perhaps they should take ten seconds after a match is complete to get a thumbs up/thumbs down signal from the launchers on the field that either their robot is safe (thumbs up), go ahead and clear the field or they need to lock out the launcher (thumbs down). Or have a simple, do not go within five feet of a launcher after a match until the team is there and gives their OK.

Arms are not inherently safer than launchers. In Triple Play, a human player was hit in the head by another robot’s arm while she was loading the robot. I don’t recall whether the other team got a penalty or not. Sarah was on the ground, the match was continuing, and she had to scramble back to her touch-pad so the robot would run again.

There are only 4 balls in play. I would imagine that the refs(or spotters), probably 2 per side, could easily keep track of and stop or deflect the out of bounds balls.