Pool Noodles, the 2023 edition

I thought it would be best to split this into a new thread so as not to get buried in the other thread with all the mixed discussion. Per this post: [FRC Blog] 2023 Approved Devices, Rules Preview, and Vision Target Update - #91 by ChuckDickerson I purchased two of the apparently more popular “pool noodles” from Amazon. Both advertised as 2.5” pool noodles. These have been delivered and measured.

As per other posts, these “Big Joe” pool noodles: https://www.amazon.com/SwimWays-Standard-Swim-Noodles-Pack/dp/B01BY1S2US don’t measure up. I measured each of the 35 in the box and they ranged from 2” to 2-1/8”. None would be within the new 2023 noodle diameter range of 2.5 in. +/- 0.25” (2.25” – 2.75”). If you have these noodles double check your measurements and plan to source some more. I would not recommend teams purchase these for use in their bumpers next year as they do not appear to live up to their advertised diameter based on the 35 samples I received and reports from others here on CD.

The second set I purchased were these: https://www.amazon.com/Oodles-Noodles-Deluxe-Foam-Pool/dp/B01L094C62 “Ooodles of Noodles” brand. There were 6 noodles in this pack and all measured between 2-3/8” and 2-9/16”. All would be well within the new 2023 noodle diameter range of 2.5 in. +/- 0.25” (2.25” – 2.75”). If you have these noodles double check your measurements and hopefully you will be good to go. My belief is that the “Oodles of Noodles” brand of 2.5” pool noodles are measuring up to the FRC legal 2.5” +/-0.25” requirements.

Further this weekend I spent a good bit of time looking for pool noodles in local stores and given they are a “seasonal item” and, well, this isn’t exactly “pool season”, I had a good bit of trouble finding them. I was successful in locating them in stock at a local Lowes. Specifically these: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Inno-Wave-Assorted-Pool-Noodle/50376902 I measured them and they were all 2-1/4” to 2-5/16” so they would be legal. So if you are looking for pool noodles and have a Lowes nearby these may be a good option. Even if they don’t have them in stock you should be able to order them and typically you can “ship to store” for free. Edited: Apparently maybe not per topgun below.

I have also ordered some of these: Assorted Colors Pool Noodles | Honor Trading Company FoamNoodles.com has free shipping. They state they are “Oodles of Noodles” brand so I expect them to be the same as the one I purchased from Amazon. I will report back once they are delivered.

Again, it might be nice if folks posted in this thread where they are sourcing their legal (2.5 in. +/- 0.25”) pool noodles and where they have found pool noodles that don’t measure up so other folks can benefit from your experience.


Discounters Pool and Spa was recommended to me on the Ontario Slack channel when I asked for a good source in Ontario.

They’re solid noodles, and I’m told they are indeed 2.625" in diameter (as advertised).

The Lowe’s link isn’t exactly a viable option for most teams. Looks like you can only order what is currently in stock in the stores. The online ordering won’t allow me to order any noodles if it isn’t in stock already. So 22 are available for the Twin Cities Metro Area.


Thanks for the update. Since the 2” noodles sold as 2.5” noodles previously were allowed via the “nominal 2.5” rule, and from the other thread they appear very common… and lot’s of teams must have used them… would there be any harm adjusting the allowed range to “2 to 2.75”? If you did, there would be no worries all around IMO & no needing to measure noodles already in team inventory only to have to get rid of them because they’re 1/4” too small in diameter.


Dollar Tree pool noodles from NH. Most in the box were 2.25” but a few come out to 2.125”

I still don’t understand why the rule isn’t “advertised as 2.5 inch pool noodles or measuring between 2.25-2.75 inches”. It seems like a no brainer to allow noodles that were previously legal to stay legal, given the rules explicitly allow reuse of bumpers…

Though IMO i’d also be fine with 2-2.75


I checked my local Lowe’s and there was about 70-80 of the inno-wave noodles in stock. I measured a handful and they were all within 2.25-2.375.

I will say having used these for a couple years they don’t stand up to a season with heavy defense. By dcmp they’re basically flattened and sagging. Last year we moved to a more dense noodle with much better durability.

Oodles of Noodles is fun to say and they measure up to the right size. We got the solid variety this year.


@ChuckDickerson can you please explain what the pressing problem is that this new rule solves?

I’m not usually one to complain publicly, but I am really frustrated that with all of the things on our minds pre-season, including some very serious topics under discussion in recent threads as well as very real supply-chain concerns for critical items, we’re being tasked with solving the pressing issue of finding pool noodles that are 3/16" wider in diameter because of a new arbitrary cutoff. And this when, as far as anyone here has said, there is no known history of issues with the ones many teams have been using season after season. Help us understand the rationale of how this makes the program better, and how it squares with the goal of making good bumpers “easier”, since we just had that discussion.

I’m also going to point out that cost got left out of the discussion above. In addition to the inconvenience of having to scrounge and hopefully find leftover local store stock instead of using the $2-per-noodle stock that many of us have sitting in our shops ready to go, your recommended orderable alternatives cost up to 3x as much per unit (4x if the Oodles ones didn’t happen to be on sale right now). No, it’s not a large amount relative to many other robot parts, but all these cost increases add up, and when it’s for no discernible benefit, that just adds to the frustration.

I think most of us are quite accepting of rule changes when we understand there’s a good reason for it, but to be honest this one feels extremely arbitrary so far.


If FIRST is worried about them being two small maybe as a compromise they could allow noodles that are 2in in diameter if they are solid core.

I will attempt to provide some answers and hopefully clarity here. The previous (2022) rule (R408-C) stated:

“use a stacked pair of approximately 2½ in. (nominal, ~63mm) round, petal, or hex “pool noodles” (solid or hollow) as the BUMPER cushion material (see Figure 9-7). All pool noodles used in a BUMPER set (e.g. red set of BUMPERS) may not be modified (with the exception of cutting to length or cutting to facilitate mating pool noodles at the corners as required by R409) or deformed and must be the same diameter, cross section, and density (e.g. all round hollow or all hex solid). Cushion material may extend up to 2½ in. (~63 mm) beyond the end of the plywood (see Figure 9-8). To assist in applying the fabric covering, soft fasteners may be used to attach the pool noodles to the wood backing, so long as the cross section in Figure 9-7 is not significantly altered (e.g. tape compressing the pool noodles).”

The addition of the +/-0.25” “tolerance” in 2023 is to place bounds on “approximately”. It has been observed that, over time, the manufacturing of 2-1/2” pool noodles have strayed beyond what was intended as “approximately” or “nominally”. In essence, pool noodle manufacturers are now frequently “cheating” by advertising pool noodles as 2.5” or 2-1/2” when they are not even “close”. A 2” pool noodle (20% off the advertised 2.5”) was not originally intended to be “approximately” 2.5”. It was not that the pool noodles that teams used in the past that were 2” or 2.1” or 2.125” were “legal”. It was that there was no bounds placed on “approximately” or “nominally” so that distinction was open to interpretation from event to event, RI to RI, LRI to LRI. By now placing the +/-0.25” tolerance, there is an objective criteria in the rule that can be met without subjectivity. The FRC community requested that the robot rules be examined and edited such that there was as little subjectivity as possible. Responding to that, this is one of the areas that was clarified. Further, LRIs are trained, like I stated in this post that RIs shouldn’t be having teams tear apart their BUMPERs to measure the diameter of the pool noodle inside. If teams now know that they need to use pool noodles that are 2.5” +/-0.25” (between 2.25” and 2.75”) then they know what is expected of them. Previously a team’s and RI’s only measure of expectation was “approximately” 2.5”. If a team is super concerned they could keep a scrap piece of the pool noodles they used in their pit to show an RI and for easy measurement so no BUMPER disassembly should ever be needed unless an actual issue is discovered and needs to be corrected.

As to why the cutoff is specifically at 0.25”, first consider that the primary intent of the pool noodles in the BUMPERS is to provide protection. For this to happen a few things need to be regulated. First, the pool noodles must be of enough cross-section to adequately cushion the impacts. Second, the pool noodles must align for noodle to noodle contact. The intent of the BUMPER ZONE is to define that noodle to noodle contact zone on all ROBOTS. The BUMPER ZONE has changed some over time:

Pre-2007 BUMPERS didn’t exist.

2007 – 2-1/2” to 8-1/2” (6” tall) (in 2007 BUMPERS were optional)

2008 – 2-1/2” to 8-1/2” (6” tall) (in 2008 BUMPERS first became required)

2009 – 1” – 7” (6” tall)

2010 – 10” and 16” (6” tall)

2011 – 1” – 7” (6” tall)

2012 – 2” – 10” (8” tall)

2013 – 2” – 10” (8” tall)

2014 – 2” – 10” (8” tall)

2015 – No BUMPERS

2016 – 4” – 12” (8” tall)

2017 – Floor (0”) – 7” (7” tall)

2018 – Floor (0”) – 7.5” (7.5” tall)

2019 – Floor (0”) – 7.5” (7.5” tall)

2020 – Floor (0”) – 7.5” (7.5” tall)

2021 – Floor (0”) – 7.5” (7.5” tall)

2022 – Floor (0”) – 7.5” (7.5” tall)

Note that the BUMPER ZONE has not always extended to the floor as it has in the most recent years. In years past, it was common for teams to get penalties for their BUMPERS being “too low” when their bumper covers or reversible bumper flaps became dislodged during the course of match play and were dragging around on the floor. Altering the BUMPER ZONE in 2017 mitigated that issue.

In all of the history of FRC BUMPERS, the rules always called for use of a stacked pair of 2-1/2 inch “pool noodles”. The word “approximately” was added in 2013. But always the height of the BUMPER ZONE was 6” to 8” tall. This BUMPER ZONE height is directly related to the diameter of the pool noodles as I will attempt to describe below.

Please note that the blue box under R408-C goes on to say:

“All pool noodles used on a ROBOT must be the same in order to maintain the desired interaction between ROBOTS in the cases of BUMPER-to-BUMPER contact. BUMPERS containing pool noodles of vastly different construction may cause a “ramp” effect when interacting with other BUMPERS. Minor noodle compression as a result of smoothing BUMPER fabric or rounding a FRAME PERIMETER corner is not considered deformed. Any compression beyond that, e.g. for the purposes of flattening the pool noodle, is deformation and a violation of C.”

Given the allowed variation in the height (most recently 7.5”) of the BUMPER ZONE, the concern is, as noted in the blue box, a “ramp effect” being created by allowing too small of pool noodles. If ROBOT A builds their BUMPERS with a pair of stacked 2” pool noodles and mounts them in their BUMPER ZONE from 0” to 4” from the floor and then collides with ROBOT B who builds their BUMPERS with a pair of stacked 2” pool noodles mounted to their FRAME PERIMETER at the top of their BUMPER ZONE such that they are now 3.5” to 7.5” from the floor how much noodle to noodle contact would there be? Effectively only about 0.5” along the length of the noodles in the “impact zone”. And those forces are likely to cause a “ramp effect” as the higher mounted BUMPERS “ride up” over the lower mounted BUMPERS. And given the minimal 6” BUMPER length, if two “corner BUMPERS” were to meet in such a way there would be practically no “cushion” effect. In practicality, no team mounts their BUMPERS directly touching the floor. It would cause other issues like traversing cable protectors or whatever. So if we adjusted the scenario above up by 1” for some ground clearance then the top of the top pool noodle on ROBOT A and the bottom of the lower pool noodle on ROBOT B now align with more like 1.5” instead of 0.5”. Adjust that now from 2.0” pool noodles to the minimum 2.25” pool noodles and you have 2” of “overlap” and nearly upper pool noodle directly impacting the lower pool noodle with far less “ramp effect”.

I certainly understand teams frustration with now being informed that they need to be prepared to source “legal” 2.5” +/-0.25” pool noodles. So much so, I am personally searching for “legal” pool noodles and ordering them and measuring them and publicly documenting my findings so others can be informed without having to incur expense just to learn from something I/we could mitigate with the sharing of some information in this thread. I also understand the frustration teams have when they show up to a competition having built their BUMPERS with “approximately” 2.5” pool noodles only to have a “negative” inspection experience by being told their definition of “approximately” didn’t match the RI/LRIs. I certainly also understand the frustration an RI or LRI has telling a team something like that when everyone only has a vague, less than objective measure of “approximately” to go on. Al and I can and certainly do train the LRIs to exercise good judgement as I described in this post. However, “good judgement” is apparently still subjective and is no substitute for a tape measure.

I continue to endeavor to advocate for teams in the robot rules when and where I can. I take full ownership of this change request and did so in light of the request for the robot rules to be objective not subjective. I mentor a team as well. We are all in the same boat. My team has to make sure our pool noodles are up to spec now as well rather than just hoping they are “approximately” ok. If this change turns out to cause more problems than it solved, I will be the first in line lobbying FIRST HQ next year to go back to the old subjective way of defining what a legal pool noodle is and what isn’t in 2024. I advocated for a bit wider tolerance but for this coming year, as Collin has already let everyone know, this is what the plan is.


We switched to 2.625" solid foam noodles this offseason (not from the link you provided though) and I can say for certain we will be using something similar from now on, having them solid all the way through made them hold up MUCH better than our old 2.3ish in hollow noodles and… bigger is better… maybe not always but?


Care to share your source?

Chuck thanks for doing research on this, also thank you for giving this feedback directly to the community, FIRST has been killing it lately with communication and trying to continue to improve the sport!

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I think they were off of eBay i will check and edit my comment here once I find out.

Ok I checked, they were indeed Oodles of Noodles, very-very impressed with the ones we used.

So is there any point to waiting till kickoff to order them, incase FIRST will modify their statement? It is really unfortunate for my team to just have just purchased a large box of pool noodles in 2020 and for most of them to go unused.

How should RIs deal with bumpers from previous years with an unknown size of noodle? You can’t really take a team’s bumper apart, and it’s hard to measure the difference between 2-1/8" and 2-1/4" from the outside.

I can see this being a headache.


My suggestion would be to nicely inform the team that their bumpers have passed inspection.

EDIT: Officially, my suggestion would be to nicely inform the LRI that you strongly suggest they tell the team their bumpers have passed inspection. Unofficially is a different story.

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Chuck, sincere appreciation for taking the time to provide these details. It does help to hear the reasoning.

That said, I still disagree with the decision. I could take issue with a number of assumptions made in the logic, but I’m not going to, as it’s clear it’s not changing anything.

I will say that as an RI, I anticipate a lot of pain from this change. Since the rules impose strict limits, anything suspected as <2.25" has to get elevated to the LRI. And I think we’re going to see that be the case on a lot of robots. I do not want to see teams forced to rebuild bumpers over a 1/8" or 3/16" difference in size but I can see it happening. And if we let it go, then, well, what was the point of changing the rule again? In short, I really see this as exactly the kind of rulemaking that makes teams perceive inspection negatively. Guess we will see how it plays out.


It also makes inspectors perceive inspection negatively. We don’t want to fail people for minor things.

The existence of an entire thread for the purpose of finding pool noodles that meet the tolerance spec shows that this already is a headache.

As a mentor, knowing that this thread needs to exist and I actually need to read it to help find noodles for my team that are in spec has given me a headache.

There are going to be teams that pull their noodles out of the same bucket every year, show up to comp, and some heavy handed LRI ruins their day by telling them they have 2.0625" noodles and need to redo their bumpers.

I hope someone makes a set of bumpers with some intentionally 2" (but 2.5" nominal) noodles just to prove a point. It won’t be me, but I’ll pitch in $20 for anyone that manages to get this escalated to HQ during an event. The $20 can go towards a properly specced spare set of bumpers that hide in your trailer until after the call to HQ.

Bonus points if you hand the LRI a section view CAD drawing of your bumpers that calls out the noodles as 2.5" nominal, but they’re clearly smaller than 2.5" relative to other dimensions in the drawing.

Is it harmless? Yes.
Is it goofy? Yes.
Is it annoying? Yes.
Sounds to me like the best kind of mild protest.

Make sure to provide the LRI with a candy bar and some Gatorade after they get off the call with HQ.

I understand the premise behind the justification, but we’ve been playing with 2.5" nominal noodles for a long time without issue. A lot more margin should be provided so that this (seemingly minor) change doesn’t cause problems for a bunch of teams that don’t understand (or know about) the ramifications. It’s silly that we need to have teams worry about this.