Safety in At-Home challenges

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?

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  • Reducing contact with persons outside your household
  • Ensuring interactions are of a short duration
  • Maintaining physical distancing
  • Proper use of well-fitting masks
  • Proper hand hygiene
  • Increased ventilation

I know this wasn’t the intent of this thread, but I figured this was a good place to restate this critically important guidance.

  • Minimize the number of spectators, keep them as far away from the competition space as possible.
  • Mandate proper footwear for the student(s) who are interacting with the robot. Steel-toed boots and shin guards would be advisable.
  • Establish a “safe” perimeter around the robot, and instruct the HP(s) to only approach within that zone when the robot is stationary.
  • HPs approach the ROBOT, never the other way around!
  • Assign a trustworthy Safety Officer whose job is to hit the DISABLE button at the first sign of trouble.
  • Imagine the worst possible thing that could happen in any given situation, then make sure it doesn’t.

This will be the hardest to enforce when reloading the bot quickly may be the deciding factor in some groups

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