Please read R17

I know there are many teams out there who may have broken this rule without knowing. Hence, why I’m drawing it to everyone’s attention. By violating this rule, you’re punishing all the teams who are staying within the rules. For seemingly unenforcable rules to work, it depends on the honesty of all teams out there. Since Friday at 5:00pm has passed, I urge all teams to put their tools down until the opening of the next Fix-It-Window. We need to work together to uphold the honour code. I can’t tell anyone to obey the rules, all I can do is ask.

I know the teams of NiagaraFIRST have put all our tools down, and will spend the next week working on drive team practice, and strategy. There may also be some time spent on poker. :slight_smile:

Also, when it comes to the restrictions outside of the Fix-It-Windows on mechanical and software development, please read these Q&A’s

http://forums.usfirst.org/showthread.php?t=680

http://forums.usfirst.org/showthread.php?t=647

At least we can’t be prevented from pondering! And I’m thinking that two five hour periods within three days during spring break after six weeks of work so we can hurry up and rest is unreasonable. We plan to follow the rule, but don’t give a hoot what others decide, or accidentally end up doing.

Why is it that FIRST wants to see a bunch of malfunctioning robots? It’s only the powerhouse teams that benefit from such dogma.

Flame-on, but I have a right to my opinion. I’m not alone. Many other die-hard FIRSTaholics are considering FA as well.

As far as I can tell, the Fix-it Windows are designed with teams attending the later regionals in mind. Without any restrictions on robot development after the shipping deadline, teams attending week 1 regionals would be at a distinct disadvantage to teams attending week 3 or 4 regionals. The later regionals have the benefit of seeing how the earlier regionals play out in terms of strategy, design, etc. and would have the ability to fabricate “spare” or replacement parts based on what they see as working vs. not working. Essentially, the fix-it window caps what would otherwise be a practical extension of the build deadline from the shipping date, to the date of a team’s first regional. Granted, there are rules about upgrade parts and identical replacements already in place, but without the specific guidlines of the fix-it window, teams could continue coding and fabricating competition parts up to 4 weeks after the robot shipped.

Of course, there is no real way to enforce that other than the team’s honor, but I’d like to think the majority of teams can see past the need to bend the rules in their favor, and take a written rule at face value. Afterall, a deadline is a deadline is a deadline. In the real world, if a deadline comes up and a product isn’t ready to roll out, there are consequences. Can’t always bend the rules in the real world, and that’s exactly what FIRST is supposed to expose students to- how the real world operates.

Indeed. Some parts of the Fix-It Window rules as they were written this season are odd to me (see also: painting the control board only happening within the window), but them’s the rules. We all knew there’d be some unusual ones when we signed up for this.

I’ll be drilling the rules into 1293’s collective heads. I hope that the other teams at Palmetto will do the same, then implement them and we can all have a good time.

(And remember, if you’re throwing darts at a printed copy of the manual because of R17, there’s always the Game Design threads here on Delphi and the team forums after the season. Input is a wonderful thing in my experience.)

The amount of sense this rule makes is irrelevant. It is still the rule, and breaking this rule violates something that i’m sure all of you have heard of. Does gracious professionalism ring a bell?

Breaking this rule gives teams an unfair advantage over the teams that have a sense of honour and GP. I urge everyone to think about that. Even if “everyone else” is doing it, does that mean you should? Does that mean the rule doesnt matter? Would you jump off a bridge if everyone else did it?

FIRST is trying to change the culture, and when parts of the organisation dont follow it’s own rules, it undermines that culture change. It violates the FIRST credo of gracious professionalism, and if FIRST itself doesnt follow it, how can we expect the world to?

Not saying that everyone won’t follow the rules, just a friendly reminder.

First, I would like say team 217 will be strictly following the rules. Even if our practice robot breaks we will not fix it unless we are within the fix it windows(that’s basically what the rules say, right?).

With that said, what, exactly does this set of rules accomplish?

For those of you that say the playing field is level for week 1 teams, I ask you this:

Why does my team get 30 hours of fix-it before our 1st regional (week 3) and a week 1 team only gets 10?

The only thing this rule does is make the teams weaker at their first event. Many teams will not be scoring right away due to simple bugs that could have been fixed given the opportunity.

The big picture is this: WE want people not involved in FIRST to watch us. If our robots are not working correctly due to some obscure rules, then people not involved in FIRST will be uninterested.

You can put me on the side of “we think these rules help no one.”

-Paul

P.S. - I will have a lot to say about this after the season is over.

Is this true? If I attend week one and week two events, I can work on my robot Thursday, Friday, 8AM until 8PM and Saturday 8AM until 4PM. That is 32 hours plus 10 hours fix it window. That is 42 hours times two weekends, or 84 hours I have to work on our robot. That is almost three times as much as Paul who is competing in week three for the first time. If I have to go up against the ThunderChickens I think that is just about right. Good luck to all.

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Well, more accurately, if the spare/replacement (for the real robot) parts on the practice bot break, you may not repair them outside of the fix-it window, if you still want to use them as spares/replacements.

Actually, I’m in general agreement with Paul, Jack and others; I don’t really see the benefit derived from being so dogmatic about the post-competition fix-it windows. That said, we’ve got to try to make sense of it all, and to try to adhere to it.

On a related note, I’m not sure what to make of those two Q&As that Karthik listed. On one hand, the first one doesn’t even answer the question fully—are we to take that to mean that further development of prototypes is allowed, so long as they don’t become actual robot parts, or spares or replacements for actual parts. That’s seemingly what they’re saying (and I realize that I’m on the tenuous ground of interpreting their non-answers to mean that something is not forbidden—but precedent would seem to support this interpretation).

On the other hand, reading the second one alongside the first seems (at first glance) to imply a double standard for hardware and software, where non-competition code is likened to competition parts. This really doesn’t make any sense. Since <R17> doesn’t in any way limit non-competition robots (“their robot” must, by context, mean their competition robot), their analogy is broken. Since they (in the Q&A) refer to the “final product”—the competition robot—I can only assume that they are only restricting software development for competition code, and that development of practice code, so long as none of it is copied electronically to the competition code, is legal. It’s a little unclear as well, because the question referred to practice robots, while it seems (thanks to the reference to the “final product”) that the answer concerns competition robots.

OMG our mentors never mentioned this window and we MISSED it totally smacks head for not reading it myself and insisting we continue meeting

Though we, as we should, will be following the fix-it- window parameters, my feelings on it are mixed. From every angle, there is something right, and something wrong. If the window rule does not exist, teams with lots of resources can build many robots, creating backups out the wazzoo and perfecting the thing. However, who needs the time more than the rookies? They are the ones who need that extra week or two to complete proof of concept-to build past the six weeks, and not having a robot is a minor obstacle. Then again, the game consists of a 6 WEEK build period, not an 8 or 10 week build.

What gets me alot is the fact that you are permitted to buy as much stuff as you want, no ban on manufactured parts that I can see, so, in effect, money can win the day. Example: I can buy a chain tensioner($50) and put it on my robot at the competition, and I can buy an idler sprocket($6), but I can’t make any kind of holder for it out of the fix-it-window.

I have no defined complaints, and I have no solution. I simply have mixed feelings.
**[left]<R18> **Prior to the competitions: After the close of the “FIX-IT WINDOWS” and prior to the competition, the team must put down their tools, cease fabrication of robot parts, and cease all software development. Take this opportunity to rest, recover from the build season, and relax. Teams may scout other teams, gather and exchange information, develop game-playing strategies, collect raw materials, prepare tool kits, plan how to make repairs, etc. in preparation for the upcoming competitions. But no construction or fabrication of any hardware, or development of any software, is allowed.
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Let me say that I have spoken to no one about this, I am just a disinterested 3rd party on this.

My thought is that they are trying to level the playing field on several fronts.

First, they are trying to allow teams that go to one regional and it happens to be a regional later in the season some of the advantages of teams that go multiple regionals. They get the benefit of seeing how the game is played and some opportunity to do something about it before they compete for the first time.

Second, they are trying to keep us from killing ourselves on the programming front. FIRST programmers have a lousy job. They are the last ones to get access to the robot but the robot doesn’t work without them. More and more teams were making the choice to build 2 robots and to develop the code after the ship date on the second robot. FIRST (correctly in my opinion) viewed this situation with dismay. I think the rules are an attempt to try to put some limits on that process.

Are these rules perfect? No I don’t thinks so. They are going to unfairly harm some teams and help others. But, I generally agree with the reasons (at least the reasons I have inferred) for them.

Are there improvements we can suggest for next year? Yes, I think so. I am especially encouraged by the fact that we have ended the debate about “if you can enforce it you can’t have a rule.” The FIX-IT rules are totally on your honor rules. Given that this is acceptable, it opens up other creative methods to the issues (we could for example have a period just before ship date call “Programming & Practice” days where teams cannot improve their robots, only drive and program with some rules about fixing broken parts).

The important thing is that the rules are the rules and we all agree to follow them. We can address next year after the season is over.

Joe J.

Yes Joe, the rules are the rules, but if the rules get so ridiculous some of us may choose not to play anymore and that is the bigger shame.

I am extremely fed up with rules that WILL HURT ROBOT performance for many teams and the robots will not be attractive for people outside of FIRST. This is the last front that we, the FIRST community, are failing at … miserably. We must do things to make the robots perform great right out of the shoot. A little bit of debug time not restricted by two five hour windows (why can’t it be five 2 hour windows?) will not hurt anyone or anything.

Two five hour windows that have to be fit in before Friday is ridiculous for a team with mentors who work until 5 or 6 every night.

I have to tell you I will be very vocal about these arbitrary rules after the season is over.

-Paul

Paul,

I agree with you on many things.

I especially agree that Spectator Friendliness has been a significant weaknesse of past FIRST competitions and that Spectator Friendliness is one of the main keys to FIRST accomplishing its goals.

In some respects, I believe FIRST has given up this idea.

I think at one time, the vision was that we only needed FIRST teams to survive on their own for a few more years because eventually the NCRA (National Competitive Robotics Association) would fund March Madness out of the TV proceeds much like NCAA Basketball teams live off TV funding.

But… …for good or ill, FIRST has decided that it is in it for the long haul.

To that end, they are trying to listen to sponsors and participants that tell them that they are being killed by escallating costs due to the expanding season, duplicate robots, rules that turn the 6 week build time into 4 months and so on.

The rules are trying to address that. We can talk about what it means to teams and to the game play etc. but I think they are trying to address an important issue.

We all have ideas as to how to improve the system. I think that FIRST has shown itself to be a responsive organization (responsive does not mean perfect).

In the mean time, I am hopeful for an exciting, spectator friendly game this year.

Joe J.

P.S. I am not an insider with respect to FIRST. I have had no conversations about this topic with official or semi-official FIRST folk. I am just using my eyes and ears and brain to form opinions. The above message assigns motiviations to FIRST as though I was a fly on the wall at meetings where this topic was discussed. This is certainly not the case. JJ

you know I really dont see why they are so . . glah about this. . . well on the programing front any way. if youve shipped your bot youve shipped your control board and any code you do generate is untested and therefore worthless.

but I do see the reason for the 10 hour thing when it comes to mechanical parts(teams in the latter regionals could completely redesign their robots in 4 weeks).

ohh well the rules cant be perfect, and its the only real way to deal with the fact of staggered regionals with out staggered kickoffs.

an on the subject of spectator friendliness, the real trick to this is game design . . . having a robot play basketball is very spectator friendly(better than picking out cans by a human controlled see saw). while yes many of the teams will not be as good as others there will always be enough to make a spectator who knows nothing about robotics go “OMG thats cool what those high schoolers can do.”

Paul is correct, and I find it ironic that if FIRST were that concerned about everyone putting down their tools and relaxing after 6 weeks of intensive designing, building, programming, testing, altering, modifying, practicing, and shipping - that they would have allowed the teams to decide when they could best fit the total of 10 hours of fix it time into their schedules.
This way is gonna be way more of a burden than if they had simple said “you get 10 hours total, between this time on this day and this time on that day - now go divide it up the best way it fits your teams use of the time”.
After all, it is truly up to the honesty of each team to abide - and we will abide, but this doesn’t help a thing as far as I can see.

What next? No prototyping ideas in the off season? everyone put down your tools after the main event in Atlanta? The real giant leaps occur when teams are allowed to continue making robots that work - and when teams are gracious enough to share the concepts/designs and even more improvement is made.

Robot games with robots that don’t work - just aren’t appealing to most people. If this is to level the playing field it will NEVER be a reality.

Just my 2 cents for what its worth

As is having to ship the RC, when we can legally buy another one and program on that.

Or change out a few libraries and just program on the older (minus the PBASICs) controllers.

So now my views on R17, from a programmers perspective. With all due respect, I don’t think that the people (person?) who wrote R17 have ever had to program during the six weeks. I know the FIRST standard for programmers is that a couple days is lucky. This year I was given about two full days and a couple hours worth of “Hey, mechanical team has to change this piece. You can have twenty minutes with the bot.” This is definetly not enough time to program anything more than a medium complexity robot.

I will bet money that if you ask the majority of programmers what they want during the six weeks, the answer will not be a new compiler. Nor will it be a new language, or a different IDE or a faster processor. It will be either more time with the bot or a second bot for testing. The former is not feasible on most teams (six weeks is already a strain) and the latter is not feasible due to financial complications. The only options that a programmer has is write all his code during the first five and a half weeks and testing at the last couple of days. This leads into my next thought…

Programming is not merely writing code. To successfully program a FRC bot, you need to design the code framework, read up on the datasheets of the sensors you are using, write the actual code, debug the actual code (syntax and whatnot), load the program and finally… TEST. Testing is by far the most time consuming thing out of the entire process. Lets take a PID loop, for example. Someone who is familiar with PID can write the actual code in under half an hour. However, after it has been loaded onto the robot it will most certainly take them at least half an hour of tuning. Testing is not possible after the six weeks (lack of a robot, unless you can afford to build a second) so I don’t think writing raw code should count towards “software development.” If a programmer knows how to write a certain function, they should not have to take time out of their testing time at competitions to write it.

So if you’ve been following all that, congratulations. It’s probably a tad hard to understand, I tend to jump from topic to topic. What I’ve said basically amounts to…

  • I don’t believe that R17 should apply to programming. There simply is not enough time given to programmers.
  • The most beneficial thing to a programmer would be more time with the robot or a second robot purely for programming. The first option is hard due to time constraints, and the second due to financial constraints.
  • Writing raw code is only a part of the software development process. Testing code is much harder on the complex systems that most programmers wish to design.
  • Programmers shouldn’t need to take precious testing time to write code.

Do in part to my stupidity we also missed the window. I had miss read and thought that we had 10 hours after ship, before the next regional. We decided to take a break till Monday and then start our fix it window. I am in agreement with the 10 hour window. I would also like to see the teams manage that time in the way that it best suits the team and it would have to end Wednesday 12 PM before the first regional. This would be fair to all teams, easier on mentors and students and probably followed by most teams.

Whether or not a rule makes sense does matter. A rule with a high likelihood of being broken needs to be examined from a few perspectives:

  1. What was the intent of the rule
  2. Does it achieve its intended purpose
  3. Might there be a better way to accomplish the same goal

Intent of the rule
With respect to the fix it window rule, I can only surmise the intent was to:

  1. Create a finite period of work for teams and corporate mentors
  2. Put teams “with” and “without” abundant resources on equal footing
  3. Not give teams playing their first competition later in the season a longer time to get ready

Does the rule achieve this?

Creating a finite period of commitment
As FIRST is a mentoring program, FIRST anticipated they would have to have to ask corporations to lend their engineers/technicians to teams. They also anticipated having to answer the question “How much time are you asking for?” In an effort to entice rather than scare away potential mentors, FIRST believed by imposing a ship date and then limiting work time beyond the ship date, it increased the chance of finding and keeping mentors to work with teams. Did it work?

I think the answer is no. It did limit the time they can work, but not without putting an undue burden on the mentors who must now eat, sleep and breathe FIRST during this finite period to get the robot done. It is not uncommon for team members, mentors included, to literally give up their families, friends and school during the 6 week build period. If we are honest with those we solicit for help, it certainly doesn’t make selling participation any easier. And if we are not honest about the sacrifice they must make, we set the teams up for hardship when the mentors seldom come. The finite period also creates a situation where time is so short, mentors must hijack the project to finish on time, leaving everyone else to watch. This problem is magnified when you consider the mentor feels a responsibility to the corporate sponsor to produce a robot the company will be proud of.

Another point to consider is whether we have undermined our efforts for longevity of teams by putting too much pressure on them to finish within a finite period. The mentor (and even the student) who has sacrificed everything during the FIRST season, may not have the support of his family, friends and school administration next year or two years down the road when he/she chooses to participate again.

Leveling the field based on differences in resources:
Does providing a fix-it window close the gap between the teams with and without abundant resources? It seems to me teams with the most resources (manpower, money and access to machines and engineers) have a far better chance of finishing their robot during the six weeks and accomplishing what is needed during the fix-it window. Therefore the rule actually increases the disparity between the teams with and without abundant resources.

If it takes some teams longer than others to produce a great result, why should FIRST or any other team care? Think of it this way: If it takes one person 20 hours of studying to get an A, but it takes another only 5, should everyone have to stop at 5? Don’t we want to teach that you have to work hard to compensate for your weaknesses, not give in to them? The time is there, why not let teams decide how they want to use it? The benefit to FIRST is that the competitions should be more exciting and inspirational when all the robots function better.

Leveling the field based on when you play first event
This argument can cut either way. There are many factors teams consider in choosing which event to play in. Travel budget is one. Level of competition is another. The fix-it window cannot compensate for all of these factors. For instance, everyone knows competition on the field is the lowest at the beginning of the season. You could argue teams playing early that have mega resources which allow them to finish in plenty of time to test, are at a distinct advantage and have a far greater chance of winning earlier. The fix-it window actually helps them by limiting how ready their opponents will be. Similarly, those playing later for the first time will be up against repeat players who have already had the chance to learn what needs to be fixed, what strategies work better, etc… Either way, teams have to weigh the advantages of playing early or late and decide this for themselves. The fix-it window won’t eliminate these factors

Additional factors
Not only does FIRST dictate how many hours you can spend, but also when those hours may occur. Teams are tired after ship date, and equally tired after competitions. Often students and mentors have let other things in their lives slide and need to concentrate on getting those things back on track. Students need to catch up on missed school work, mentors need to catch up on work. Additionally, after a competition, it is often the case that parts need to be ordered and received before a replacement, spare or improvement can be fabricated. Telling us when we can work just doesn’t make sense

A Better Way
FIRST should continue to level the playing field by limiting parts, motors, weight, size and overall costs allowed on the robot, but not on how hard teams can work. Let teams decide this for themselves.

I am a proponent of allowing teams to work as many hours as they choose, on whatever days they choose, to accomplish whatever they as a team choose to accomplish. I love to see robots evolve over the course of the season, even if that evolution is the result of imitating a concept from another team. This is how it is in the real world. This is what sharing info is all about. This should be what FIRST is about.

I completely agree. Isn’t the point that we work hard? Woodie Flowers mentioned at kickoff that he gave us a time frame too small, team too big, etc. Time frame too small is right. My team just barely finished our robot. We didn’t have time to create spare parts. I agree that we shouldn’t be able to create new parts, or completely redesign the robot, but, especially with this year, there will be A LOT of colliding, and new parts will be needed. Ten hours isn’t very much time, especially for temas with limited machine shops.

I know at the NY regional, one team has their machine shop two blocks from the competition area, but what about teams from CT and the surrounding area? How can they get replacement parts?