Pre-Season CAD

Did FIRST remove the rule where if you released CAD prior to kickoff you could use the CAD models during the season? I just checked back through last years game manual and if you read one of the blue boxes it basically says you can’t do this.

You were referring to this example from the blue box in R18:

Example: The same team realizes that the transmission designed and built in the fall perfectly fits their need for a transmission to drive the Robot arm. They build an exact copy of the transmission from the original design plans, and bolt it to the Robot. This would be prohibited, as the transmission – although fabricated during the competition season – was built from detailed designs developed prior to Kick-off.

However, I think this example (from further down in the blue box) would be more applicable:

Example: A different team develops a similar solution during the fall, and plans to use the developed software on their competition Robot. After completing the software, they post it in a generally accessible public forum and make the code available to all teams. Because they have made their software generally available (per the definition of COTS, it is considered COTS software and they can use it on their Robot).

See R22, from the 2012 rulebook, for the definition of COTS. So, I would release your CAD here on CD now, to be on the safe side. That way you can fall into the last example, instead of the first!

Also, please keep in mind that we can only use these rules as a guideline… anything could change when the new rules are released! Make sure to read them carefully when they come out, and if you have any questions use the Q&A to ask the GDC!

I must have missed that last one! Thanks for finding it. I knew I remembered seeing it.

The last 4 years I have worked with this team, I always referenced this rule and just thought it was time to re-read it to make sure I had the right interpretation. At least until they release the game this year!

Software may be used if it’s been made publicly available, but I’m not convinced that the manual supports the idea of “COTS CAD”.

Whether or not CAD counts as “COTs,” keep in mind that the CADs being posted around are more for practice than to get ahead. Teams may generate ideas in the offseason and do proof-of-concept, but changes, ranging from minor to ground-breaking, will be made once the game is unveiled.

Personally, I think of software as being more like a final, constructed product - similar to building a gear box in the off-season and then using it during the season. The difference is that software can be easily and quickly shared and used by many people, where building a second, third, etc gear box takes additional time and effort.

From that point of view, CAD can be quickly and easily shared and used by many people. The CAD for a gearbox relates much more closely to software than the actual physical gearbox. The key difference, I think, is that having CAD publicly shared puts all teams on an even footing when it comes to the build season - anyone can download and build the product to use on their robot, which does not give the team that generated it an unfair advantage (ignoring the experience and knowledge gained through generating it, which they would have anyways for pursuing an off-season design project).

Now, let me throw out a hypothetical for discussion. AndyMark provides CAD drawings of many items. If I were to download the CAD for their ToughBox and then build my own during the season, would that be legal? The CAD was generated prior to the start of the season, and I make no modifications for it. Note: I’m not encouraging teams to do this… please support AndyMark, as they do a lot to support FIRST!

This is a rule that could use a change.

With respect to the drive train and chassis in particular, I think it should be legal for a team to develop a drive in the preseason (or previous seasons), including detailed CAD models, and then fabricate that exact drive from the drawings after the start of the build season.

The motivation for doing that wouldn’t be to avoid innovating and designing. It would be to spend more time designing and innovating and iterating on your manipulators.

Going by 2009-2012 rules, a team can use their previous year’s CAD drawings to fabricate their drive as long as they make at least one very small change to the design. The difference between that and allowing the team to simply use the drive with no restrictions is negligible.

I would suggest getting rid of the language about CAD drawings in this rule. Simply make it legal to use CAD work from the past as long as nothing is physically fabricated before the start of the build season. Put something else in the blue box - for example, explain that if you’re drawing from a previous design resource, it would be wise to review it to figure out how it can be improved and optimized for the new game.

It’s been 5 years since the manual explicitly talked about COTS Drawings.

Example 3: a team obtains openly available design drawings from a professional publication
during the pre-season, and uses them to fabricate a gearbox for their ROBOT during the build
period following kick-off. The design drawings would be considered a COTS item, and may be
used as “raw material” to fabricate the gearbox. The finished gearbox itself would be a
FABRICATED ITEM, and not a COTS item.