As we posted yesterday in the Alamo thread, the GDC made a decision regarding our bridge balancing mechanism. We wanted to provide a little more of the details that were provided to us. A picture of us using this mechanism to balance the co-op bridge with 488 was posted in the Alamo thread. This was a very exciting moment and the Robonauts are proud of achieving this on Thursday of our first regional.
The head ref at Alamo approached our team prior to opening ceremonies on Friday. He told us that a telecon was held last night amongst the GDC and they determined our robot’s mechanism fell under their definition of the word “grapple” when interacting with the bridge. It would therefore be a violation of [G10] when used, and be penalized accordingly. We were told it was not the GDC’s intention that teams utilize the features at the edge of the bridge to hang or lift off of during a balance.
During a break in matches at the beginning of the day, the head ref explained this ruling to the crowd. During this he read the following definition for Grapple: “The use of a tool to catch, hold, or rake to gain a physical/mechanical advantage”.
In our conversations with the head ref he expanded on this definition, talking about devices which react against multiple surfaces to create a moment or torque.
We understand that we took a risk in this design. Nonetheless, we are disappointed in the ruling the GDC has made. Even more, we are disappointed that the risk we took was created only because FIRST refused to answer direct Q&A questions related to it. Answering the following question could have clarified this situation very simply and early in the build season. At the time, it was our honest belief that if FIRST intended for this to be illegal, they would have stated so here.
Q. Would a passive device applying force to multiple sides of the 2x2 angle on the bridge to partially/fully support robot weight violate [G10] if it didn’t actively clamp/grasp/attach to the angle, so that at match end the robot can be lifted off the bridge w/out actuating/releasing any mechanism(s)?
A. The purpose of this forum is to answer questions about rules, not to perform design reviews for legality.
Furthermore, giving their definition for the word “Grapple” seems like a fair thing to do when they were asked, especially when that definition differs from the one in a common dictionary as well as the definition they used in the 2011 game Q&A. (http://forums.usfirst.org/showthread.php?t=16727&highlight=grapple). Instead they stated that “there is no formal definition…”
We’re all competing in a competition in which we’re encouraged to think outside of the box to solve difficult problems. A set of rules must be in place to create some boundaries for those solutions. The Robonauts have no desire to step outside of those boundaries. We do, however, feel that FIRST allowed these boundaries to be unclear, seemingly on purpose. Not until Friday of the first week of competition was this issue clarified. These actions are not indicative of the Gracious Professionalism we would expect from this organization. It’s our hope they use this situation as an example for better managing the rules and Q&A system in the future.
The head ref at San Antonio was extremely polite, gracious, and friendly in explaining this decision to us. He listened to our arguments and passed them along to New Hampshire. We believe there are likely other teams who were planning on using a strategy similar to ours. We’re sorry that they may not have the opportunity to state their case and we hope the GDC will reconsider this ruling for future weeks.
We don’t intend for this post to start another discussion on the specific rule, we simply wanted to explain the events that took place and our thoughts about them.