No Sparks in the Pit?

At the Greater DC event, we were Dremeling some bolts on our robot when a safety advisor came up and said that we were not allowed to make any kind of sparks in our pit. This was repeated at the safety captains’ meeting. However, I don’t ever remember this being a rule in the past. Is this new?

It’s been a rule for as long as I can recall.

This year it is rule E50, found here.

It is rule E50 this year and was in the admin manual last year(4.7.9)

yeah, I saw that happen. Some safety person or inspector ran up yelling “NO SPARKS IN THE PITS!” I didn’t know this was a rule either.

No sparks and no machine shop… Didn’t leave a whole lot of options for steel.

A hacksaw and files work quit well in our pit on steel.

The machine shop operates under different rules than the pit. Many have welders, bench grinders, floor standing machine…

Dremels are legal. throwing sparks is not. But then running across the pits yelling stop that is against the no running in the pits rule.

I object to this rule on the grounds that it makes the sparks from a Dremel appear to be dangerous, more so than (to pick a random example) spinning a drum designed to hook things at rates fast enough lift a 150lbs robot 3 ft in air in a few seconds <- because that is totally legal in the pits.

This rule is not only a silly and arbitrary but it misleads people about relative dangers.

Just to be clear. I hate this rule.

Dr. Joe J.

Could you be a little clearer? I think you said you didn’t like this rule? :] Safety is a lot more about mindset than minutia.

I love this rule. I have stuff that throw serious sparks in my shop at home, and I really do not want to run that equipment in a robotics pit environment. At all.

We also have a hack saw and files, and used them to modify a steel part in our pit, probably much more quickly than the Dremel was doing.

I also have a Dremel in my shop at home, I think I used it once in the past 25 years. Real grinding tools are so much more effective! (14" abrasive chop saw, 4" and 7" angle grinders, bench grinders, pneumatic die grinder, etc)

Which is more dangerous… a drum rotating within a robot, within a pit where everyone was informed ahead of time that it’s going to be rotating, or sparks being thrown into a neighboring pit with no warning, possibly hitting people or flammable materials?

I have seen teams throw big mean sparks all over a wood floor. dremel sparks are considerably worse, but i would use a lot of different things before i would use a dremel abrasive wheel, those things break all the time anyways.

For bolts I ALWAYS have my students use a hacksaw. put the nut on past the point you want to cut, put the nut in a vise with the amount you want to cut hanging out past the end. cut the bolt and unthread the nut, doing this cleans the threads when the nut is removed.

It’s a pretty dumb rule. I wouldn’t be thrilled about a team hauling away with an angle grinder spewing grit everywhere, but sparks coming off a dremel cutoff wheel aren’t going to set the building on fire.

A lot of Safety advisers give out really really awful advice. It seems like at least once a season they try to tell my students to wear gloves while using a drill ::ouch:: . At this point I just consider them part of the game challenge.

For bolts, I always write the size of bolt we really need on the back of my hand with a Sharpie, then when I next visit the hardware store, I buy that correct size bolt.

Yes, I have donated a lot of hardware to the N.E.R.D.S.!

REV Robotics makes Sparks.

Checkmate FIRST.

At the Iowa Regional, we can’t make sparks in the machine shop. The machine shop is located in a hallway near the loading docks and there is a risk of setting off the sprinkler system. We make our sparks outside, on the loading dock.

As always it depends. Grinding with a dremel into a five gallon bucket is a lot safer than running a pointy intake in a over crowed pit. Or running your shooter wheel at 5000+ rpm.

Rather than sparks, the debris thrown off grinder operation is the big concern. Anybody that ever have tried to start a fire with a flint and steel knows how difficult it really is.

I get it. A lot of folks hate grinding in general and Dremels in particular. But there is a long way from “grinding is infra dig” to “the particular sort of grinding that happens to make sparkles is so inherently dangerous that it must be explicitly banned from the pits.”

Is shooting debris from grinding into your pit-neighbor’s space dangerous and ill advised? Yes of course. It is significantly more dangerous and ill advised if the debris is hot steel & stone bits rather than hot aluminum & stone bits or hot plastic & stone bits? I really don’t see it.

And if you are talking about open cans of paint thinner in your neighbor’s pit that might be set ablaze, I am going to have to ask you why you think it is okay for a team to have unsupervised open vats of flammable liquids* in the pits?

I am not objecting to being safe. Nor am I advocating that we hose down passing strangers with VOCs as they pass our pit.

I am saying:
A) not all grinding is bad or unsafe
B) grinding can be done safely in the pits, even grinding that makes sparks
C) on a rank-ordered list of dangerous activities done in pits, grinding that makes sparks is essentially in the same position as grinding that doesn’t make sparks and both are WAY below common activities that are much more dangerous but almost no one advocates should be explicitly banned from the pits.

/end sermon

Dr. Joe J.

*most probably “known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”](!!!

Powering the robot in the pits probably leads to more danger than running a grinder…

but the danger is probably easier to limit to being in that one pit.

I love grinding, in another environment.

For some clarification for the excessively righteous members of the boards, the promise of a machine shop got pulled out from under teams within a few days of the event.

I know we had to make some changes based off of that news and I would assume our neighbors in 449 would have also appreciated the opportunity to use one.

I think in the future, the lack of a machine shop need not preclude work that the UL Red Menace doesn’t approve of in the pits. Setting aside an outside space for spark making, etc sounds like something to add to the list for next time! Meanwhile, time to research a how-to on mobile machine shops.

I think it would be reasonable to replace this rule with a “don’t throw sparks into another pit” rule, requiring the use of some shielding to prevent this.

That said, it’s not like these sparks routinely start fires when they hit plywood or cloth. Maybe if they hit a flammable gas or something.

I agree with Wil that events without machine shops should at least have designated places for teams to do repairs that aren’t allowed in the pits with equipment they are willing to share with all teams (welders, dremels, etc)