There seems to be a lack of information on how to manage safety this season when engaged in the At-Home challenges. Given that, I thought it might be a good idea if we could identify key risks and how to manage them, as I’m concerned that there is a high risk of student injury as teams try to find a balance between safety and performance.
My own thoughts mostly revolve around the AutoNav, Hyperdrive and Power Port challenges. I’m assuming that the driver station is set facing the goal, as that is likely to be the best location for the shooting challenges. Thus the bounce path and the Galactic Search challenges have the robot moving away from the driver station when stopping, which gives room to overshoot the challenge space and still not necessarily hit anyone. The Interstellar Accuracy challenge would be a risk, but the slow cycle time means that teams can set up safe procedures for reloading the robot, and there may be no need for robots to be in motion when a student is on the challenge space.
Two of the AutNav challenges and three of the Hyperdrive challenges have the robot potentially driving towards the driverstation at the end of the round. Given that there’s only 30 inches to stop the robot before it leaves the challenge space, my thought is that we should look to placing the driverstation back from the challenge space, require that students are standing when competing, and if possible place a solid physical barrier between the challenge space and the drivers. I guess teams could also look at moving the driverstation to the side of the field, although that’s not neccessarily completely safe, either.
The Power Port challenge worries me the most, because students are virtually required to enter the challenge space in order to collect balls while the robot is moving and enabled, and the robot will once again be driving towards the likely location of the driverstation. With potentially two students on the field, a field that is much smaller than normal, a frantic time-based challenge involving shooters, and balls being thrown around the field, it seems that there is a high risk of injury to students. As far as I can tell, building a barrier to protect the driverstation and building a device to assist with loading from outside of the challenge area will help, but ultimately teams need to decide between collecting the balls with the robot (or stopping the robot while fetching balls) and sacrifice points, or sending a student on to the field to collect missed balls while the robot is moving. I think in the end most teams will just allow a student to collect balls while the robot is returning to the loading zone, so hopefully drivers will be able to keep their robots away from the human players, and the loading mechanisms will be safe to use manually.
Is there anything else we should be doing to improve safety during challenges?