Non-sagging Bumpers Q&A Response

In previous years I have been on teams and seen teams that have secured their pool noodles to their bumper wood before wrapping them in the outside cover.

I have always thought that it was fine even though it was never mentioned in the rules. It makes construction much easier and it makes the bumpers look nicer.

However when I posted in the Q&A about it this year, the GDC came back with a simple answer, No it’s not legal.

Q. Is it legal for teams to use tape, shrink wrap, or other soft material to secure the pool noodles to the wood underneath the bumper fabric? In previous years teams have had issues with pool noodles that would sag below the wood.
2014-01-24 by FRC3847
A. No.

This practice has been pretty common on a lot of teams to avoid having sagging bumpers. Will this change how your team makes their bumpers?

The GDC is correct - Tape (most often of the duct variety), shrink wrap, etc are not part of the official cross-section for bumpers - wood, pool noodles, cloth covering, optional angle on the top and bottom, and mounting hardware. I wonder how the GDC would respond to the same question regarding gaffers tape, though? Gaffers tape is classified as cloth, and I know I’ve borrowed a little from the field in the past to help teams do quick bumper repairs when needed (since the field usually has some red and blue available).

But now that that question is out of the way, I’d like to see the GDC address sagging bumper covers and get consistent ruling on those on the field. It’s one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to robots.

Makes me glad we planned to have smaller bumper sections this year. Guess its time to shift them up in the bumper zone to account for sag.

I’ve already asked the follow up question about Gaffers Tape. If they say no to that too then I’ll be very confused. What about strips of fabric that are stapled on to the wood and around the noodles before the cover is placed on.

There should be some way to do this without requiring 6 students to try to tug on the fabric while a seventh staples it.

We’ve used two strips of tape for several years, and I’m pretty sure that’s how our bumpers have already been made. ::rtm::


I’ve never made a bumper without tape. Might have to disassemble ours tonight…

Goes to show: don’t ask the question if you’re unprepared for a disappointing answer.

The rigidity of the GDC really bothers me sometimes…

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen bumpers made without tape underneath…

Hopefully this answer was just an oversight/quick misinterpretation by the GDC and will be overturned soon…it arguably is a “pointless restriction”, ie. you really get no significant competitive advantage by taping down your pool noodles.

You can definitely get a competitive advantage if your bumpers are more rigid than others’.

You gain a higher ability to control movement while in pushing matches. If you were to fully laminate your pool noodles with tape or other binding (we’ve only ever used enough to hold the noodles up, per the spirit of FIRST), you would be able to interact with other bots on a whole new level. Similar, but reduced, results can be found when wrapping heavyweight cloth more tightly vs loose, light cloth.

We’ve taped out pool noodles to the wood for years now, and sagging has never been an issue. There’s no need to over-engineer bumpers :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, except the GDC has just ruled via Q&A that taping the bumpers to the wood is illegal.

You could also clamp the fabric with some angle or flatbar across the top to aid in keeping it tight.


One thing that 971 has been doing for the past few years to keep the fabric tight is using a custom clamp-compression tool:

The bumper fabric is stapled while the noodles are compressed, and everything tightens up when the noodles are allowed to expand again.

We used a loop of fabric this year and it works amazingly better than tape or zip ties ever did in the past. We used two four inch stops on the short side of our robot and three on the long side.

One method that I remember doing on 1519 one year was use string to hold the pool noodles to the plywood. After you staple on the fabric, pull out the string and voila! You get the non-sagging bumpers and you leave nothing past the plywood that is illegal.

I am completely shocked… Our team has been using tape ever since bumpers bumpers became mandatory without ever thinkig about it. Also, 2 years ago, we had to tape apart our bumpers because they were 1/4 inch short (another unfortunate, long story) and the inspector watched us cut the tape off as we remade the bumpers. I’m just surprised that he didn’t call us out on the tape after the barely too short bumpers.

What are they going to do to enforce this? Come cut open my bumpers? That’ll be the day I quit.

We need a “Don’t ask” culture for stuff like this an Q/A, just like when SlickDeals has this “Don’t Call” culture for their hot deals forum postings. It seems like something that nobody ever thought twice about before is suddenly ruled illegal as soon as someone asks.

As far as I know, no inspector has ever known this to be illegal or at least I have never spoken with any of them about it.

There are plenty of rules that are unenforceable. It’s enforced by the last line on the inspection sheet that requires a mentor and student to attest to compliance with all rules, including this one.

Would wood glue fall under the soft material of the question to the GDC? It isn’t in the same category as tape or shrink wrap.