Need Clarification from 2008 Rule <R27>

We are a rookie team and we need help understanding this rule. Here is our situation. We bought a 2-speed AndyMark transmission with the original intent to put it together and “play” with it and maybe use it for 2009 season. Then I read this rule. My interpretation is that it can only be assembled during the build season or fix-it windows. I also understand that you can use it in future years as long as there is no modification and can still be considered a COTS item. I have read that teams reuse parts.

So this is what I don’t understand. Does this mean that if a team buy something that is considered a COTS item during the off-season, assembled it and put it into their robot to learn how to do it, then they can not use this assembled COTS item on a competition robot? I thought we want to encourage students to learn.

Right now, our 2-speed AndyMark transmissions are sitting in a box not getting the attention they deserve. I guess I can not put it under the Christmas tree and open it to play with it until after Jan 3.


Prior to the Kick-off: Before the formal start of the Robot Build Season, teams are encouraged to think as much as they please about their ROBOTS. They may develop prototypes, create proof-of-concept models, and conduct design exercises. Teams may gather all the raw stock materials and COTS COMPONENTS they want. But absolutely no fabrication or assembly of any elements intended for the final ROBOT is permitted prior to the Kick-off presentation.

The way that I would interpret this is that the gearbox as a whole is a COT as it is sold as a single item, regardless of the fact that it comes disassembled.

The assembly note in R27 deals with the assembly of more then one cots, or the assembly of raw/fabricated materials and cots. So if you were to assemble your AM shifters and put them on a test robot you would be fine to use them on your competition robot as long as they are placed on a new chassis and are un-modified as they are a single COT.

This is correct, however in you statement you said that you wanted to ‘play’ with it and “maybe” use it on this year’s robot. If there is no intent on your part to have a completely fabricated model that will be definitely used on this years’ robot, ( I don’t know how this is even possible without knowing the games objective) then you may experiment with it.


The AM trannies are COTS MECHANISMS. From the 2008 manual, Section 8.3 Definitions:

COMPONENT – A ROBOT part in its most basic configuration, which can not be disassembled without damaging or destroying the part, or altering its fundamental function.[examples, including bolting a frame together]

MECHANISM – A COTS or custom assembly of COMPONENTS that provide specific functionality on the ROBOT. A MECHANISM can be disassembled (and then reassembled) into individual COMPONENTS without damage to the parts.

Unfortunately, your interpretation seems to be correct. (Note: If it isn’t the correct one for the 2009 rules, then we’ll both be highly annoyed.)

As for the reuse of parts: For certain parts, it is allowed under the 2008 rules (e.g. using the same two unmodified AM trannies would be legal, provided that they conform to all current rules). See 2008 <R26>.

I wouldn’t worry about it. You are a rookie team. Anything you assemble could probably be considered prototype parts. If it were me, i’d have already built the transmissions, and be working on a prototype base welded together, and then just grab the first wheels i could find. Maybe two crappy caster wheels, and two chain and sprocket drive wheels mounted to the transmissions.

That rule has always been a little weird. To be honest i really don’t know how a robot could be designed off season for the next competition. I suppose it could be done, but it would seem like a waste of time. Anything else built i consider prototype. That’s just me maybe.

here are some tips i will give you:

  1. don’t use aluminum axles.
  2. use some sort of cable ties to keep wiring organized (as best you can), and write down a “diagram” of where your wires go just in case.

3.Try to learn solidworks and draft almost every part of your robot before you build it. Just go thought the first 3 solidworks tutorials, and you will know the basics practically. as many rules as you can, and reread them later. sometimes you miss something, or understand it better later.

  1. start building a crate at least two weeks before the shipping deadline.
    6.make sure you have shipping info correct.
    7.always have fun, but try not to goof around. both can be done if you try.
    8.try to learn the areas you want to learn as best you can. read stuff that you think might not even be helpful, sometimes you find little tidbits that can really help.

The rule is there for a reason. The intent is that teams not work on their competition robots before the game. The GDC might decide, for no apparent reason, to ban pre-made shifting transmissions. Farfetched? Yes. Possible? Yes.

I believe that there were rumors at one point that teams were pre-building. The next time a new ruleset came out, there were significant changes that would ruin the prebuild.

You may be right about the prototype, but then you’d probably need to get another pair of transmissions to be sure you’re strictly legal.

Now, about those tips: 3) could really be ANY CAD program. Inventor is included with participation. It’s just about as easy as Solidworks.
2) any method of organizing wire. Wrapping it works, energy chain could be used. Just organize it and keep the runs as short as possible, especially if they’re heavy gauge.

  1. Aluminum axles can be used. However, you have to know what you are doing. There’s different types (alloys) of aluminum, and some are more suited for axles than others. If you want to do the analysis to get the aluminum axles, go right ahead. If not, steel works.

Thanks for the replies. I am getting conflicting opinions on this subject. I am sure this question was asked before. What was FIRST’s official position on this? If veterans team can reuse a 2-speed transmission assembled together in previous years which was not modified, why can’t a rookie team reuse a 2-speed transmission assembled together that was put into a prototype to learn how things work? The only difference is the time saved in assembly which is not much. But I can not afford to make them not legal and have to buy new ones. Does it mean if I disassemble them and put them back together after Jan 3 then it is okay? Very strange rules.


One possible solution - If you assemble the AndyMark shifters, play with them a bit, and after kickoff you alter them somehow (something as simple as drilling a hole somewhere), according to past years’ rules you’ve got yourself a newly fabricated mechanism, which historically has been legal to use.
To echo what has been said by Mr. Lavery dozens of times, rules from past years’ competitions do NOT necessarily carry over into future games.
Good luck with your rookie season - sounds like you’re already off to a great start.

The veterans did it during the build season (presumably) and it’s a COTS item, which could under the 2008 rules be used if in unmodified condition, despite being used before.

I did a bit of digging through the 2008 and 2007 Q&As (as these particular rules haven’t changed a whole lot since then). In 2007, the Q&A ruling was that COTS mechanisms are permitted, providing that they were unmodified. (Source:, page73, rulings on what was then <R17>)

You’re right, the rules in that section are strange. The timeline rules are perhaps the strangest, but the most necessary.

FYI: COTS stands for Commercial Off The Shelf, it is not plural and can’t be referred to as something.

Items available from commercial suppliers are COTS items.
An item available from a commercial supplier is a COTS item.

I appologize for being a stickler, but I give the folks I work with a hard time when they do this as well.

It’s a very ambiguous rule, which in my opinion can have multiple answers.

I say, go for it, but that’s just me. If it were me, I’d just do it because in my mind a COTS item like that cannot be prohibited.

What really defines a pre-made robot?

I know team 159 makes a chassis every year of the same default configuration based on a robot they designed 5 years ago. I don’t think this rule prevents them from doing that.

I really don’t know, like i said it’s very ambiguous.

Like all rules I think you have to look at the intent of the GDC.

The rule is intended to prevent pre-building not pre-season experimentation. If you would modify this trans then you would not be allowed to use it. You could not use any fabricated parts that you made during your experimentation to use with this trans.

Right but if they were just playing with it and it HAPPENED to end up on the robot, then they are good. The word INTENDED is the key word in this rule and intent is hard to prove, so you are fine…

I think you are reading too much into the rule.

I believe the reason behind the rule was to reduce recurring costs to teams by allowing reuse of items that could be re-purchased in the same configuration. (given the newfound availability of what were once “custom parts” from companies such as Andy Mark)

You were allowed to re-use transmissions from Andy Mark as long as they are not modified and still available commercially as of kickoff. (UNDER LAST YEAR’S RULES)

Assembled/not assembled . . doesn’t really matter(though I guess technically you would need to return them to their “out of the box configuration” then reassemble/recalibrate."
Customized/“non-standard” parts . . that does matter (they would have to be returned to their stock condition and remodified)

Commercial parts are commercial parts are commercial parts.
As long as they are still in their “off the shelf” configuration, you are fine.

Again, this is to last year’s rules, but I don’t really see them changing much regarding this issue.
Given that kickoff is as close as it is, you might as well keep them tucked away until you can install them on your kitbot for use on the actual robot.

Think about common sense for a sec. Then take a deep breath.

I would play with the transmission. You need to learn what kinks there are in it so you can plan to work them out. You can also play with what the current speeds of the transmission ‘feel’ like so the driver has a better feel for driving the bot. These are all allowed and intended to be allowed during the preseason. As you can see on the forums, many teams already have drivable robots with the new control system on it. Speaking of which, doing so also allows you to experiment with pneumatic and servo control in the new control system.

Then disassemble and reassemble it during the build season. While it’s apart, you’ll have ample time to figure out how to solve any problems you encountered during testing. Note that if you modify anything, Eric has already pointed out that you’ll have to get a new one of those things next year – not necessarily the whole transmission…common sense seems to dictate the intent of the rule here. As an example, this offseason we had to file down a roll pin on the dog gear because it was hitting an output stage gear. In the build season, should we choose to use the same transmissions, we will modify a 2007 KOP transmission roll pin in the same manner and reassemble the transmission it goes in. We already had the intent to rebuild the transmission Jan 3rd anyways so that we could replace bearings and properly lubricate the gears.

I’d also like to note that our AM super shifters came fully assembled last year; so I believe the whole argument for assembled vs dissembled COTS product usage has controvertible evidence either way.

In the end, it will be the 2009 rules that state whether or not we may be able to use previous years’ COTS components.