SBPLI Long Island Regional Disqualification

At our regional competition this year, something occurred with our team that bothered me. It wasn’t the event itself or even the outcome that bothered me though, it was the way in which it was carried out. I’ve always placed the FIRST community in high regard for its dedication to fairness and dedication to helping one another through potential rough spots, which meant that I was shaken even harder when this took place. For fear of running too long in the introduction (which I suppose I probably have already…) I guess I should just get into the problem.

During this year’s SBPLI Long Island Regional, my team (514) was disqualified at the start of the quarter finals for an illegal bumper shape. And we should have been. It was illegal. We had a V shape in the rear of our robot’s frame so that it could more easily align the robot with the tower for minibot deployment. This was due to our team’s incorrect interpretation of the bumper rules (I can get into this more later, but it’s not critical to my point). I, along with several other members of my team realize that it is nobody but our team’s fault that we showed up to the competition with this frame, so the fact that we were disqualified doesn’t bother us, but the fact that some teams waited until the second the quarterfinals were about to start to bring it to the judges attention does.

While two teams had approached us earlier in the competition to state that our frame was likely illegal, neither were readily willing to point out which rules were broken. In one particular case, the person who brought it to our attention stated that he only wished to see if we had a way around the rules so that if we were paired with his team later, we wouldn’t cause them any problems. What’s more, I know from a volunteer that several of the teams who noticed our problem didn’t wish to bring it to the judges attention until it was too late to be fixed. Once we made it to the quarterfinals, complaints came in to the judges in droves about our frame, stating there is no way we should be allowed to compete with such an obvious rule infraction. And I can see their point. It gave us a clear competitive advantage. My question is, why not bring this up earlier?

Given sufficient time, we could have fixed our frame and our bumpers. If this was clarified with the Judges on Thursday or even Friday, we could have fixed the problems in time to compete. The way the entire event went off left a bad taste in my mouth; is it really worth completely taking a team out of the running if you can maybe get ahead a match or two? If the answer to this question is yes, then maybe I’ve had the wrong opinion of FIRST the whole time. If not, I urge you to think of the experience of the new members on my team before failing to help out a team who might run into trouble. I have years of mixed success behind me, but the newer members of my team have been brought in to a year of disqualification and, to a degree, shame.

On a slightly different note, I have to include my team in the criticism for a slightly different issue. Upon being disqualified from the competition, several members of my team were visibly upset and wanted to know who to blame. Immediately they went after the first target available, and this person happened to be the volunteer who had the unfortunate task of explaining to us what had led to this point. Somewhat coincidentally, he had just been awarded Volunteer of the Year for his outstanding contribution to FIRST, but that was not the first thing on their minds. A hardworking man who has contributed so much was backed into a metaphorical corner in our pit by members who just wished to vent their anger. As a result of this experience I felt genuine shame in my team for the fist time. The judges had done nothing objectively wrong. Mistakes were made, but that is bound to happen. Several normally reasonable team members got genuinely angry with the event coordinators as a whole, which in turn made me angry at them. FIRST would not function without the volunteers we have, and I know that I will be grateful to them always. I once again plead to everyone and anyone who reads this post, remain calm and think before venting. Otherwise you’ll regret it later and make less people want to become part of this great organization.

I hate to be this long-winded, but I think I had to get some of this out. Also, if anyone involved would like to clarify something I got wrong I would be more than happy to correct it, as I am working mostly from secondhand accounts (volunteers and other members of my team filled me in on the parts I did not witness directly, though I was personally there for the majority of the events that took place).

As a final note…I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense. I’m…not the best at editing down my thoughts and I hope you can appreciate the sentiment even if the statements don’t seem to flow.

My question is how in th world did you pass inspection?

Someone is going to bring this up soon enough, so I might as well, and lets not say anything more about it:

Judges=/=Refs=/=Inspectors

That said, I feel that it is important to respect the rules, no matter how you feel about them. You blatantly (though mistakenly) broke them, and gained an advantage because of it. If you had won a match, then that wouldn’t have been fair. Why the inspectors didn’t notice in your inspection (which should have been before Friday) is beyond me. It isnt the job of other teams to notify you that you have broken a rule. Why you didn’t look in the manual after various teams told you that you broke a rule is also beyond me. You could have asked any of the teams around you in the pits, if you didn’t have a copy of the manual with you.

To end this, the fault was with the inspectors for not noticing, but also with you guys for breaking the rule.

I’m not entirely sure. That was the support our coach used repeatedly for why we couldn’t possibly have an illegal frame. I believe the person doing our inspection ran into the same problem we did, “FRAME PERIMETER” is defined in section one and used in the bumper rules in section five I believe. I believe we also had a new inspector who wasn’t experienced enough to know all the rules yet. The volunteer we spoke to did also say that they looked at the bot early on and the head judge at our competition believed it was legal, but they only clarified when the complaints came in in much greater numbers in the hour prior to the quarterfinals. I can’t say for sure how we passed, I sort of just chalked it up to yet another small mistake that should have been corrected earlier on.

I do feel for your story, and I appreciate the fact that you are taking the bulk of the responsibility.

Before I continue, I should point out that it wasn’t the Judges that disqualified you. They are just there in their blue shirts to decide the recipients of the awards.

That being said, there are several places where this fell through the cracks.

  1. the inspectors should have caught this when you went through inspections on Thursday, the fact that they didn’t catch it is a little suspect. Secondly, if you were selected to the eliminations, you should have had to be reinspected on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully this is where you learned of your infraction (and not as you were placing your bot on the field)

  2. the referees should have caught this as well. They should know the rule books and what is allowed (to a certain extent, we can’t have them inspecting every robot before every match)

  3. As soon as you learned of your infraction, you should have brought it to the attention of the inspectors and find out why they passed you with what appears to be an illegal design?

Like I said, it’s unfortunate that this incident happened to you, and I do applaud you for stepping up to the plate. However the question should really be, why did you have to get DQ’ed before the ELIMS and not in the two days leading up to this.

I realize that we broke a rule and I have no problem with the fact that we were disqualified. If my post makes it seem like I believe otherwise I apologize. My problem lies in the attitude teams used in approaching this problem. Like I said, I could be mistaken in my attitude towards the competition as a whole, but as a member of a team who just last year banded together with several other teams to fix someone’s entire drive train so that they could stand a chance at competing, I find issue with a team whose stance is “We’ll bring it up if it causes us any trouble, but keep hush until then, no reason to alert the judges for a ruling yet.” The judges (yes, judges. Not inspectors) had told us that it appeared to be legal, so we had no reason to question them at the time. They were under no obligation to, but we are under no obligation to help other teams whatsoever, yet we do. It’s the spirit of the thing more than the requirement.

Sudo,

I read your post. I sympathize with you being DSQ’d. It must feel horrible. However, I’ll point out that I don’t think this post should have ever been made.

First and most importantly, as you yourself admit, you are working on second stories. Those stories are likely third and forth hand in reality. Also, having never talked directly to the inspectors and the judges who made this call yourself, it’s probably fifth and sixth hand.

A much more likely story would be that an opposing team noticed your bumpers and pointed them out to the refs. The refs checked the rules, found your bumpers were wrong, then DSQ’d you.

This situation is infinitely more likely than teams purposefully withholding hurtful information until the last minute. I have never seen a FIRST team conduct themselves that way - and I hope I never do. Accusations without proof are very, very dangerous.

That said, you should not let a single unfortunate situation color your view of FIRST. I think you need to work past the idea that anyone did this on purpose. As you found out from your teammates, many people’s first reaction to catastrophe is to try to place blame rather than solve the problem. Start using your energy constructively and create a process on your team that will never allow this to happen again.

We were reinspected Saturday, the powers that be (I have to admit, I’m ignorant as to the terms I should be using, I’m simply reusing the terms we were told when the events that lead to the disqualification were described to us) found no problem with our robot. They passed it through both Thursday’s and Saturday’s inspection because whoever was heading inspections had read the rules the same way we had. We were informed literally AFTER the robot was put on the field for the quarterfinals, and that was what my primary problem was. Apparently the event that lead to the final check with New Hampshire was the onset of complaints they received once teams realized we were paired with the 8th seed and would therefore be placed in the elimination rounds.

As for the referees, I can’t speak for them. I would assume that since this requires a good amount of reading through the rules they were unaware of the rule.

Finally, when the infraction was brought to our attention we were told that the reason we were finally disqualified was that someone had called up to New Hampshire for an official clarification and that there was nothing anyone could do at that point to reverse their decision.

I apologize if I seem defensive, I merely mean to clarify with any and all information I have as questions arise.

Both you and Davidthefat went in much the same direction, and I must disagree heartily.

The job of the inspectors is, to the best of their ability, check to see that you follow the rules. It is not their responsibilty to make absolutely 100% sure you haven’t. They are human, and mistakes are made all the time.

The blame rests in only one place, and it is not on the inspectors who must inspect 60+ robots for thousands of possible instances where rules can be broken.

Before anyone says “but this is an obvious rule”, I’ll simply point out how many people obviously missed it before it was finally caught.

Again - it is the inspectors responsibility to do the best they can. Not to be perfect. In the end, much like any other sport, there is only one place the final blame lies if rules are broken.

I’d like to start this by saying a few words about the specific volunteer you mentioned. I had the honor of being a member of his inspection team this weekend, and he truly is a great guy and very knowledgeable member of the FIRST community.

First, towards team 514. It seems as though you came in to this either knowing that your bumper set up was illegal or at least questioning it. If you were doubting the legality, you should have brought it up either in the Q&A Forum or during inspection, so things could be clarified for you early in the game, saving you all this trouble. And I certainly hope that you weren’t intentionally hiding this in hopes that it would just slip through. I do appreciate the professional and calm matter in which you brought this up.

Second, I do not appreciate the negativity towards the inspectors. Its a stressful task, and it seems as though a few teams are out to intentionally make our job even more difficult. I won’t get into details, but there are many things going on behind the scenes that teams never even see/hear about. While I was not the inspector that handled your team, I’m pretty sure I have a very good idea who did. Things slip through and mistakes happen. We as inspectors were not trained to “pat down” every bumper, but you are also expected to know the rules, and follow them, and if you have a question, clarify with one of us. In fact the very first inspection I did on Thursday morning had a questionable bumper set up, consisting of a notch cut out of the bumper. Due to that, I made sure I took a good look at the rest of the bumpers I saw that day.

And finally, towards the 49 other teams at SBPLI. If they noticed something off, they should have notified 514 much earlier, or if they were afraid, at least notify an inspector/ref/judge, all of which would have no problem relaying the information. While you might have been mad at them for “outting” your strategy, it would have actually ended up saving you.

In the end, it can be agreed that no one is directly at fault. All three groups made mistakes, but its over now. Theres nothing left to do but move on and learn for next time.

I must disagree with several points here, though I get where you’re coming from. First off, I know I am working directly from secondhand accounts, as the majority of the information I have comes directly from one man who was intimately involved with the entire process. The remainder that I did not witness myself was relayed to me directly from a few team members I know very well and who I would trust to remain objective in their accounts as I know them outside of the team.

And my view of FIRST as an organization hasn’t changed, merely my impressions that almost the entire community shared my ideal view of it. I likely paint a slightly more sinister picture of the event that what actually occurred, but I know my information is accurate. Whether intentional or not, many teams waited until it was of immediate concern to them to voice a complaint. It isn’t the intent to cause harm but the complacency that allowed it to happen that I most wish to fight.

Well, we got DQed too in Semi Finals for a rule that they modified the next regional. So with the new rule, we would have made it into the Finals because the other team would have DQed. I am not complaining. The past is the past. There is always next year; it is not the end of the world.

I once again sincerely apologize if I made it sound like I felt the judging or inspection teams were at fault in this matter, that is why I in fact added the note about their excellent work. I personally approached the volunteer I mentioned afterwards to apologize for some of my team’s behavior and compliment the job he and other members of the staff had done. I have nothing but respect for people who are willing to give up their time to make this event function and realize that though mistakes were made, that is the nature of the event. I in no way find fault with the people who made this event possible or anyone else in particular; this was merely a series of unfortunate events as I had stated.

As for our team’s intentions in going to the event, we were in no way intending to make the inspectors jobs more difficult and we did not believe at the time that our bumpers were illegal. I am part of the programming subteam on our team, so I am not sure who made the call that our bumpers were legal, but I can assure you that knowing the mentors who make our team run, they would never do something they knew was illegal or questioned the legality of. It was a mistake, but I can assure you that it was not intentional. Further, my team’s coach did bring it up (though to the exact person I am unsure, it occurred before I got there on Thursday morning) very early and we were told that there was no issue by an inspector at the event.

And as a side note, there really isn’t a next year over here. Our funding was cut. We’re trying to gain it back, but I’m graduating and the odds are there isn’t going to be a team. I’m sorry if I’m a little emotionally tied to the final year that some members of our team might experience the organization that is such a great part of why I’m going to the college I am next year.

Because the bumper rules are some of the most technically specific rules in the game manual. There should really be specific visual examples in the manual that describe do’s and dont’s for bumpers.

I know FIRST doesn’t like to provide “design” examples in the manual but too many teams have been burned by the bumper rules to ignore this.

As I stated, I was sure that your team didn’t intentionally break the rules. You’re a low number team and have been around the FIRST community and have been around for quite a while. I also didn’t mean your team was trying to make our job difficult. That was in reference to the few teams who insisted on arguing rules. Don’t worry, no offense taken about the inspector comments. :slight_smile:

There has been a lot of hostility towards the SBPLI Regional these past two days. I think everyone need to just relax a little bit…this is about the fun and learning after all.

It is unfortunate that the error in your inspection wasn’t caught until the Quarterfinals but nonetheless your bumpers were illegal.
We had a similar incident in the Seattle Cascade regional when a team came to the weighing station with a concave bumper and the inspector didn’t know the rule. I was working the BOM entry table as an inspector and I asked the inspector to talk to the Head Inspector for Cascade.
Thus began an argument with one of the mentors on the team and several of us tried to show this mentor that his bumpers were illegal.
No matter what we said… he didn’t agree… we quoted from the rules… and then from Q and A… where the question was explicitly answered back in January

see http://forums.usfirst.org/showthread.php?t=16259

He claimed he didn’t have time to read Q and A …

The real point here is that a mistake could have been made which would have given a team a real illegal advantage on the field.
These types of inspection errors have to be addressed… lesser ones that really don’t give a distinct advantage are not as important but sometimes seem to slide.

I wish your inspectors had caught the problem but they didn’t (Judges NEVER get involved in inspections by the way… most of them don’t even know much about the game at all …let alone the robot rules.

In our situation we were lucky enough to catch it early and our team pitched in with materials to help them rebuild their robot to make it field eligible.

In the end I am afraid the fault must lie with your team. This particular rule was well questioned in Q and A and there was absolutely no question about its proper administration.

I know that in the heat of “battle” your team felt wronged. I am happy that you have apologized to the person you put on the firing line… he was only doing his job…

In cases like this… put yourself in the shoes of other teams…If you saw a team taking illegal advantage of a rule what would YOU do?
How would you feel if some team beat you with an arm that was way too long? Or a team that had extra motors that you could not use…??
Would you complain? Some teams would… some teams wouldn’t… I don’t think you can fault them either way.

I also don’t think you can really fault the timing.

The fault must lie with your team… I only hope that you can reconcile to that and not blame others for your mistake.

I am not trying to be hard on you… you may take this situation and use it and learn from it… or you may blame others and not learn from it… it is your choice…

I wish things had been different for you… but what happened to you is precisely why I, as an inspector, take my job very seriously.

Inspectors are not there to not allow you to play… they are there to help you play within the rules…

thanks for posting this…

I was wondering what had happened to you guys during the event.

It’s unfortunate this happened, and I’m glad you recognize that your team made some mistakes and can learn from them.

I think the inspectors should hold some of this bag too, yes their job is hard, no I haven’t done it (yet), but as pointed out by a few others, just being volunteers doesn’t excuse them from mistakes. This isn’t meant as a shot at the inspectors either, its more of a general concern for how we can deal with this in the future without it happening again.

First, I’d like to see some simplification of the bumper rules, also I’d like to see them more consistently located, perhaps with reference images as suggested earlier in this thread.

Second, there should be an official channel for handling these kind of things. Implicitly most people seem content to ask the lead inspector to maybe look over something, but to the best of my knowledge there is no official channel for (discreetly) requesting a team be looked at? I may be wrong on this one, someone please tell me if I am.

This situation is just plain lousy, so let’s round up some thoughts on how we can avoid it next time around?

Again, 514, I’m sorry this happened, but I’m glad you’re being mature about it.

Matt

I think Matt’s idea of addressing how to fix this in the future is a good one.

You can find on here (CD) that I am all for removing bumpers completely: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showpost.php?p=948670&postcount=30

That said, I don’t think it will come to fruition. For a large number of teams, the bumper rules could be quite simple (robots that maximize their footprint). However, the issue is each year a small number of teams have a unique design and the rules need to cover these robots as well (think 148’s robot in Overdrive). So, this introduces complexity (and also eliminates some of the potential designs) into the rules. Can it be improved? Probably, though in my initial read-through with an eye for it, it is not obvious. In fact, I would probably end up with it being longer and more complex.

First, I would really hope a different team would mention it to the team in question. After that, I would hope the team in question would ask about it (whether in inspections or to an inspector later).

If a team a different team is still concerned, I personally do not know of a method in particular for a team to ask for an inspector to take a look at another team. I would guess if you could talk to the Lead Robot Inspector and inform him/her of your concern, it would be looked at.

I do know that when I am reffing, if I see something of concern and the LRI is around I will ask him/her to take a look at it (often these are for things that are borderline, such as starting outside the frame perimeter). If the LRI is not around, I might ask someone to pass it along to the LRI.

Cory,
I know there is nothing I can say here that will help. Think of all that follows as advice to the teams attending events that remain this season.

  1. Any team must feel they can approach the LRI, FTA or Head Ref with a question about rules and know that their team will not be noted for asking the question. I would not tell you who approached me about your robot and your should know that I would not tell another team about your question.
  2. Myself and others work very hard to try and make inspections consistent across all events. Bumper rules are sometimes hard to inspect for inexperienced volunteers. Bumpers protect robots and those rules will not go away.
  3. Game rules this year put your entire alliance at risk for inspection issues. Every team you played with should have asked the question either of you or one of the Leads.
  4. On occasion, something will get by one person but the chance it will get by everyone who sees the robot in an entire weekend is slim. Unfortunately, in this case, it seemed everyone missed it.
  5. Once an infraction is found out, it is the responsibility of the Leads to discuss and come to a conclusion. i.e. Lead Robot Inspector, FTA, Head Ref, Regional Director, etc. In the absence of a clear course of action, any of those above have access to First personnel for a decision.

It is unfortunate that this took place on Saturday afternoon, for both you and your alliance partners. It is worse for the timing. I sincerely hope that this was not your only event this season.
Al

I have both done inspection and been a referee this year. I’m sorry but to say an inspector or ref shouldn’t be criticized is simply wrong.

This problem should have been caught by both of these sets of individuals. They didn’t catch it so they should share in the blame.

Ultimately it was the your teams fault especially when you stated that a couple of teams pointed it out that the frame was illegal. Those teams shouldn’t have to quote the specific rule to you, you chose not to investigate their advice.