Should FIRST address "ramp bots"?

Something has been bothering me since I spectated at GRL in the second week of regionals, but I wanted to wait until competition was over to bring it up. It seems like there is an alarmingly large number of teams this year who have started either making angles sides/front/backs on thier robots or have added flop down type ramps. I am sure that the intent of these teams was purely for defense so that their robots could not easily be pushed around. It is a very effective strategy and I am sure that I am not the only FIRSTer to have taken note of it. I think that our FIRST community is now faced with one of two choices;

A. Do nothing and expect that the majority of teams next year will have some sort of angled ramp sides, possibly resulting in a much higher incidence of tipped over robots.

B. Petition FIRST to make a rule for next year limiting the angle of any side of the robot.

Please let me know your thoughts on these choices or if I have missed an option.

Matt B.

I’m not convinced B is a viable option. We have enough rule bloat as it is without that rule. I can already see problems. What if the angled side of the robot has a legitimate function related to the game? How to you judge flop bots? What if it’s a curved surface? What if it doesn’t go all the way to the floor?

Ramp robots are just a reaction to brick bots. Teams know that flipping other robots is unacceptable, so ramp bot driver will be careful. Other robots defending them just need to take the ramps into account. Possibly there will be countermeasures developed to make it possible to push ramp bots anyways.

I think that this answer can be split into a few parts.

  1. Outriggings

You see them everywhere: material is used (within the “box” so to speak) that folds out once the match starts to allow the robot to maintain balance and defend itself from tipping. I feel that these are appropriate as engineering aspects of the robot and should stay. Also, it’s hard to decide how you’d regulate them.

  1. Sloped sides

Many of the effective bots I’ve seen this year had sloped sides that helped with both the balance, defense, and overall imagery of the bot. An excellent example is 67. I assume that is the type of the robot you mean, with a base geometrically designed for that kind of balance. I think these are appropriate provided they remain within the box, which 67 among others does uniquely. I know there were a few bots that didn’t pass inspection with their riggings and slopes. Since there are rules against ramming/spikes, it’d be good if you could explain the connection you have here. I think that’s the main concern, but I’m not sure.

  1. “Ram” sides
    Some sides are designed specifically perhaps to throw other robots off balance. It is an offensive tool. I don’t feel comfortable making judgement on a team for that strategy. As far as angle goes, what is appropriate, and what isn’t? I think you have a few good ideas here to keep things flowing well on the field, but at the same time it adds a whole new aspect of change. I think that in 2006 the game will be designed to address this structure interest, and robots will be built and geared to it. :slight_smile: Good luck with considering proposing this to FIRST rulemakers, if you choose to. These are just some thoughts on the subject.

I dont forsee ramp bots going away anytime soon. Its a good defense against brick bots that only serve the purpose of pushing because it makes it much harder for them to be able to push you. Teams have been using slopped sides to deter pushing for years.
Anyone else remember when 111 had a robot drive right up on top of them at MWR this year?

I’ve made my feelings on this clear before, and I’d like to point out an instance which I’ve cited several times.

Wildstang 2003, drives out in auto, 226 drives up their ramps, gets stuck. They could have easily tipped them, but backed off and allowed 226 to go on their merry way. Most teams who have ramps/sloped sides/wedges are using them like Wildstang did in 2003, to deflect pushing forces away from the robot, not to maliciously tip them. And it works. Who thinks Stang would have won nats in 2003 without their wedges?

It’s a very smart engineering fix to allow a robot without a powerful drivetrain to hold position over other robots, and should be commended rather than looked down upon.

I agree with Cory. Angled sides when used correctly should not be penalized. I also think that the rules would allow a ref to make a judgement call based on the intent of someone using a ramp to flip someone. The key is once someone drives up onto your ramp/angled sides not to push back quickly as that will definately result in a tip, just back off or don’t move.

Having ramped sides to a robot is a decisive DEFENSIVE advantage. The opposition takes a considerable risk of flipping themselves if they attempt to ram a robot with ramped sides. FIRST allows teams to push low on opposing robots. If you push (or pull) high on a robot and cause it to tip you are subject to disqualification (man, how I know that :frowning: !). If you position a ramped feature under an opposing robot then lift it causing the robot to flip, you can be disqualified: see rule <G25>.

I say let there be ramp bots and let the opposition learn how to deal with these robots. The ramps certainly are deterrents to high-speed ramming and ramming is a part of the game FIRST strongly wants to discourage.


I feel so lonely in my opinion.

I do realize what a powerful defensive strategy having ramp sides is. That is why I’m predicting that there will be so many of them next year. I have also seen enough Battlebots to know that a good drivetrain and a wedge shape can make a powerful offensive strategy as well.

Lets say you make a robot design to play next years game and you put sloped sides all around it to protect yourself from “brick bots”. For whatever reason your scoring concept does not work as well as the team had envisioned it to. It soon becomes clear that the best contribution that you can make to your alliance is to get in the other teams way and slow down their scoring to allow you partners to outscore them. You play several qualifying matches and this strategy is working very well, them you have the match-up against this year’s uber-scoring robot. You driver is trying to block them and is playing a very good game but the uber-bot is dancing circles around you with its awesome “hover drive”. Suddenly uber-bot is on its side. Did your driver press the sticks forward a little while they were mixing it up? Is it the uber-bot’s fault because they drove up on you? Do we ask the refs to make a judgment call? Weren’t the judgment calls by the refs a lot of the problems people had with this year’s game?

I’d like to avoid the whole scenario above.

i must say that i agree with the majority here that they are a viable defensive option. however i have seen a superb bumper design on another robot. Did anyone see the bumpers on694’s bot? They were designed so that when a bot hit them they would move back and reduce the force on them. I can’t see any photos though… i’ll have a look on my computer at home later

I will be the first to weigh in here but the design idea was Raul’s. When you can get up 14.5 ft you need to widen your base for stability. If we had a few more pounds to work with, you would have seen additional devices to prevent tipping I expect. Not every year would require outriggers but this year it did. (2003 was simply to protect the “ice” since we couldn’t anchor down on the HDPE) In addition, most robots need some protection from those teams who design a strictly defensive robot who can do nothing but push other robots around and we got pushed a lot. Thankfully many of those times were noticed by referees and called as needed.

good point
however keeping a low centre of mass is also a good way to keep yourself from tipping. We added stuff to keep us as near to the limit as possible and with the lowest centre of mass, however i still managed to flip the bot in practise rounds … it got jammed on a tetra and fell…

Carrying two 8.5 pound tetras at 14 feet is a big force to overcome.

One thing to consider is that outriggers don’t necessarily need to have sloped sides.

Maybe I’m looking at this too simplistically, but rather than limit engineering designs, I would prefer that FIRST instruct referees to penalize a team which, while in the process of pushing on another robot, causes it to fall over. This would apply to any shape of robot and would not penalize the “ramp bot” unless it was driving into the tippee. It would make it a penalty to push a robot up the side of a wedge (e.g. this year’s goals) until it tipped over. This would not penalize a robot if the two got tangled up and, while trying to get un-tangled, one of them tipped over, unless the tipper was pushing against the tippee. Also, it would not penalize a robot if the tippee was doing the pushing or ran into the side of the tipper accidentally.

Am I missing something?

The only thing that concerns me about that approach is that the ref needs to decide if a robot is pushing or not.

Why? Sloping the sides directs the down forces to a higher part of the robot and significantly reduces weight.

You bring up a good point…but sooner or later at some point in almost every match a ref will have to make a decision. This is almost inevitable.

Any robot in any configuration can be used in the “wrong” way. It’s a difficult thing to do, but you need to walk a mile in another team’s shoes before deciding a particular design is always bad. Teams like 111, who have proven track records, get a lot of “attention” from opposing robots on the field. Designing ways to deflect force away from the robot so it can still move around and perform tasks is smart in my estimation. This is vastly different than a robot designed only as a wedge (that can perform no other offensive task) or a team that uses sloped sides to “attack” another robot.

I’m not concerned with too many flipped robots at all. This is the third straight year I’ve seen a significant amount of bots with sloped sides and each year I’ve seen fewer flipped robots than the year before. In 2003, with that ramp on the field, seeing capsized robots (even in autonomous) was much more common than what I saw this year. I’ve also seen teams that have been able to use arms/appendages to get back up after falling over. Some of these occurances have been some of the most exciting matches I’ve seen.

I think that the ref’s at Nationals did an excellent job of addressing this whole issue at the driver’s meeting before the competition. They stressed that “ramp-bot” drivers need to be very careful because they would be scrutinizing very carefully the actions of any robot with sloped sides. Their basic opinion was that sloped sides are not (currently) against the rules, but intentionally tipping another robot was. Because of this, the seemingly innocent actions of a slope-sided robot could easily be interpreted along the same lines as ramming or pushing high on another robot.

There were several excellent robots with sloped sides in Archimedes (980 comes to mind), that never had any problems because of the skill and care of their drivers. In a nutshell, the ref’s defused the entire situation before it even started.

OK, now to answer the question: There should be no rules limiting the slope on the sides or robots (IMHO).

FIRST needs to look at it case by case, they should allow the wedge type robots, but when a team uses it with the intent to flip another robot, it needs to be fixed. During one of our Archimedes matches, we were playing defense on a team (they will remain nameless) who had a wedge type design, my driver knew he could flip himself and did everything not to. But when we were at the perfect angle with the wedge, the other teams driver pushed us into the loading zone,we drove in reverse to try and stop him, he then watched our robot tip up a little and then backed up a lfew feet, and drove straight into us and flipped us into thier loading zone. FIRST disqualifyed the team from that match, I feel it was the right call, but next year first needs to discover these designs in the regionals, and make sure teams know that they cannot use them to flip another bot.