[Opinion] Swerve Drive Specialities does NOT meet the rules' definition for a VENDOR, which seems to mean the MK4 and MK4i modules are not COTS items

To be a VENDOR under section 9 of the rules (pages 72-74 of the manual), a VENDOR must meet all the criteria listed in items A through E on page 73. It is my understanding that lead times for the Swerve Drive Specialties (“SDS”) MK4 and MK4i items is currently about eight weeks. SDS Product Lead-Times - Google Drive Therefore, SDS does not meet criteria D, which requires the vendor to “maintain sufficient stock or production capability to fill teams’ orders within a reasonable period during the season (less than 1 week).”

And for a component to be COTS, it “must be a standard…part commonly available from a VENDOR for all teams to purchase.” Manual page 72. I am unaware of other VENDORS who currently offer for sale the SDS swerve modules. Therefore, because these modules are not available from anyone qualified as a VENDOR, these are NOT COTS items.

I’d love to be wrong on this. I think SDS makes a great product that is in high demand. And I think its products should be usable. But the rules have problems with it and its primary products. I think that the problem is with the rules. But, we cannot disregard the rules simply because we don’t like them or the results from applying them.

I find the COTS rules generally unworkable. And I think that the rules prohibiting teams from working on components outside of the build season to be harmful to small, resources-limited, new, or unsophisticated teams and generally stifling to innovation for teams of any size or capacity–despite the impotent changes to R302. Though related, this is somewhat tangential to this post and perhaps I should make that case in a different post.

The rules do say that items that “are no longer commercially available but are functionally equivalent to the original condition as delivered from the VENDOR are considered COTS and may be used.” Manual page 72. Does that mean the previously purchased MK4 and MK4i modules are still COTS provided that at the time they were purchased SDS met the qualification to be a VENDOR? Probably, though how does one certify that? And what about modules purchased now, which come from someone not meeting the qualifications as a VENDOR? These are seemingly not COTS items.


e; delete


It’s almost like those two particular rules should be revised to be more clear in this specific situation as their interactions now leave several vendors and products in a seemingly grey area, as much as the community accepts them as legal.


I addressed this in my original post above. So, as long as a product was once available from a company that once, but no longer, meets the definition of a VENDOR, does that mean that the item forever remains a COTS item and a company may continue to sell it in perpetuity even if it no longer meets the definition of VENDOR? Could such a seller also violate the other criteria required by the rules of VENDORS, such as only making its products available to select teams?


Send it to Q&A

Not a lot we can do grasping around in the ether


you realize none of the major vendors meet criteria D currently right


Does AndyMark not sell SDS anymore?


Agreed, but the rest of your post is kind of invalidated by

this means that any new SDS modules that are functionally equivalent to the old ones from when they were in stock are legal.

This is a pretty pointless thread imo. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. I hope nobody comes out here and tries to return their SDS modules as a result.


The reason they take 8 weeks is because everyone ordered them today… be grateful SDS is still taking order and not just marking the modules as backordered or out of stock.


I recognize that there are many supply chain problems. And I believe FIRST knows this too. Yet, it still included the rule in this year’s game. It could have changed it. So, should we just ignore the rule? Can we disregard the notion of COTS all together?


For the 2023 build season, is there a functional difference between it being back ordered for 2023 and having it arrive 8+ weeks from now?



Very true

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The document I cited to has existed for some time and makes mention of orders placed BEFORE today. Perhaps, SDS will comply with the rules and in a few days be able to deliver new orders within a week and therefore be in compliance with the rules. Too bad for those that ordered yesterday and will wait for eight weeks.


i mean, ill take FIRST ignoring it over whatever theyre doing with FTC’s parts legality right now

What else are you going to do? Tell teams that their Falcons, their Neos, their SDS modules, their roborios, are now all illegal?


Why is anyone ordering swerve modules after the start of build season? While swerve isn’t as time-consuming as it once was, I can’t imagine it’s a better use of your time to build and debug a swerve drive in the middle of build season instead of accepting that swerve is happening next season and spending that time practicing with a tank drive.


I could see ordering extras or an extra drive-base worth. But that’s about it.


I’m am trying to show that the rules regarding COTS is unworkable.

I agree. But as a wrote above in reply to Lil_Lavery, what are the implications of this? Can a company comply with the rules for a VENDOR for one yea, and sell those products first sold during that time indefinitely even when it no longer complies with VENDOR rules? Could that company continue to sell that product only to teams that are part of their preferred list of teams, which would normally violate criteria E?

I too hope no one tries to return their modules. Or their Raspberry Pis. Or a long list of items currently unavailable. Yet, FIRST included this rule again.

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If a company was shown to be doing that they would likely get struck down pretty fast. Its very likely FIRST is giving vendors slack with criteria D given how everything is still a bit of a mess right now.


Maybe a team has limited funding and was waiting to see whether this year’s field would be amenable to swerve drive before purchasing because it cannot afford to buy multiple chassis options. Maybe they only have funding at the start of the season.

Whether it is wise for a team to only start to learn swerve during the season is a good point. But, it is also beside the main point of my post.


Simply put, there’s a decent chunk of teams that can’t afford to invest $1500 in a drive solution that they might not use if the game isn’t suitable.