Robots that Changed FRC

Here is a longer video with better audio from the year prior: The Top 20 Robots in FIRST Robotics Competition History - YouTube


Personally I’m in the camp that doesn’t think the design should have been ruled illegal based on the current rules, but would absolutely want the rules to be rewritten so that it would still be illegal.

Is creating a negative-pressure zone really “attaching” to something? Does a racecar “attach” to the road as it’s driving? Does a plane “attach” to the space above it as it flies? Of course not. But if the design were to end up being legal it would have been too OP and would have inevitably caused an arms race of copycat designs among the top teams.

Anyway sorry for that sidebar


Yeah, I picked the shorter talk, not realizing it was shorter because it was missing a large segment.

Thanks for the link.

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Truck Town Thunder Team 68 in 2003, in its first design iteration. This is why we have rules on how big the robot can expand and rules on blocking flow of the game. Anyone have a pic?

Wildstang’s 2001 robot was nuts and helped enact rules about total robot weight. 111 had multiple robot configurations that was over the weight limit but because robot weight was calculated based on what was on the field at any given time this was completely legal. This changed for the 2002 season.


Does anybody know which team (if any) caused the “no leaving robot pieces on the field” rule? I think I remember hearing about a team that left a part of their robot on the field that prevented the opposing alliance from scoring. I could be totally wrong so feel free to correct me.

I don’t think we can take credit for that but we are glad the bag is gone.


There you go. It’s still alive in the 68 shop nowadays as far as I know, although I never thought to take a picture of it on my years there.


Several teams made detachable goal toppers in 1997, including the champions 71. Detachable robot parts were illegal in 1998.


Team 121’s 1997 robot led to the no intentional tipping rule.


Didn’t that rule not exist until 2005/2006? I remember some defense in 2004 of just booping people off the step.

I think there were two stages of tipping being banned. In 98, they banned tipping as an explicit design strategy – 121’s robot straight-up had a battlebots-style flipper mechanism on it that served no function other than to take their opponent out of the action, and would chase their opponent down to do this first thing every match.

From the '98 rulebook:

Strategies aimed solely at the destruction, damage, tipping over, or entanglement of the opponents’ robot are not in the spirit of The Competition and will not be allowed. Accidental tipping over of an opponent’s robot is not considered damaging and will be allowed at the discretion of the referees. Intentional stabbing, cutting, etc., is illegal. If a breach of this rule occurs the contestant’s control system may be disabled by the referees.

Vigorous defensive play as part of gameplay which often resulted in tips, and games/rules which made it commonplace, still existed until the bumper era, and the rules took an “eh if it happens, it was probably accidental, what are you gonna do about it?” approach. Minus diabolical dynamics, every game from 1999 to 2005 all featured “king of the hill” style game design elements to varying degrees, which haven’t existed in any game since and encouraged this kind of interaction.

This clip from 1999, and particularly the vigorous cheering and fist-pumping at a robot being tipped through messy arm-to-arm contact, is my go-to reminder of how…violent, FRC used to be, and how much the culture has changed. The play itself would be massively controversial and frowned upon today, let alone the wholehearted celebration of the team’s robot being toppled.


You just brought back a very painful memory from 2004… and as it was pretty apparently a strategy, I’m still just a grain or two salty that the refs didn’t call anything at all. (Team A pushed Team B sideways off of the low step, effectively taking Team B completely out of the match.)

Continuing along the topic in general: I’ve got to poke 980’s 2005 robot (and a bunch of other wedge-shaped robots). In divisional semis that year, they managed–along with their opponents–to get a 0-0 tie by DQ, due to intentional tipping going both ways. (Not having seen the match, I can’t comment on the calls themselves.) I suspect that the GDC saw what was going to keep happening–O-bots going low to defend themselves, D-bots trying to go low to prevent the O-bots from being under them–and decided to pull the plug. Standard bumpers debuted in 2006 as “optional”–two years later they were mandatory.

Uh, while I’m on bumpers, I believe it was 1038 that made a red and a blue set and asked if they could use those as sets in 2009, to match the trailers. GDC said “no”. The next year, they said “And now you HAVE to.” We haven’t had to worry about flags or tiny dim blinking LEDs or rotary lights with suicidal covers since then, the bumpers have marked the alliances.


While there’s no arguing team 16 make some amazing swerves, people cite 2910’s 2018 robot because it was the one to popularize it. Now with COTS swerve and the (relatively) easy to implement design behind them the statement “anything that moves sideways is a waste of time” is actually very debatable, and neither of those things would’ve happened without 2910.

If you actually look at 16’s swerve designs i think they’re more like 971’s designs, they’re pretty complex and not as simple for most teams to implement (and also not as well documented).


I think swerve drives were quite well known as an option for teams before 2018. What defines popular?


Well known enough for us to use one in our rookie year (2012).

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Didn’t you also have Aren Hill mentoring the team?

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“Popular” amongst top-tier teams I assume. Prior to 2018, I don’t think many top-10 teams ran Swerve. This year, there were several top 10 teams to run Swerve, and even more built them in the off-season. If Swerve becomes the norm among the top-tier in 2022+, I think you can point at 2910 in 2018 as being the catalyst.

Edit: I somehow forgot 2767 ran swerve in 2017, so im a bit of an idiot. Still, i think the number of swerve teams amongst the highest tier have increased significantly as of recent, partly due to 2910/1323’s success with it.


I’m going to ignore your blatantly false and ignorant statement about pre 2018 top 10 teams not using swerve and say that if swerve is popular in 2022+ its going to be because there are 20 breaker slots in the new PDB from Rev…