Some thoughts on rules, refs, and ranking

Hey guys,

After finishing up the New York City regional, I lost a lot of the respect that I had for FIRST. I don’t mean for this to be a rant or anything, I just want to hear the community’s opinion on a number of things that I noticed over the course of this and previous regionals.

Firstly, the ranking system. This year’s seemed to particularly wonky. At a regional as large as NYC, eight matches per team simply don’t cut it. How can a robot’s abilities be assessed fairly in comparison with the rest when it mathematically does not have the chance to play with/against every other team. A lot of luck seemed to be involved. The large amount of penalties (I saw 120+ points scored on just penalties) also seemed to skew the rankings, especially when fouls were counted as goal/climb points. Let’s face it, not everyone reads the rules. Why punish teams that do by dragging them down? Why not find a better way to rank based on individual performance. I’m not arguing that great teams gravitate towards the top, but shouldn’t the best team deserve first place, the second best second, and so on?

Secondly, rules. In general, I liked the rules a lot. The ones that bothered me were those regarding penalties (this is going to be a common theme in this post). “Obstructing the flow of the game.” What’s that all about? It just sounds like defense to me, not to mention that it’s extremely subjective. When does a good defense begin to obstruct the game? Instead of creating rules like this, why not just create a game in which this is not possible? Instead of placing two obnoxiously large pyramids in the middle of the field, with either side being easily blocked, why not create a climbing wall and leave a wide open field? Maybe place a different, smaller element there instead.

Which brings me to my final complaint. This exact bias in ruling occurred during the elimination matches of the NYC regional this year. ( Not only do I find this unfair, but it all of the refs seemed to disagree on what the large penalty was for. It took us about 10 minutes to find out that it was because of “obstructing the flow of the game.” Well, great. Ten minutes after our match we get the official ruling and just because one of the refs that was friendly and put in extra time to find out for us. I personally ran to the head ref and asked to dispute the penalty. He stated that the decision was final and could not be challenged since they “already moved on.” I asked him to consider watching videos of previous matches in which I would gladly point out more extreme scenarios only a few matches prior which were not penalized. He refused and told me to relax, because “it’s just a game” and the refs are “just volunteers.” Well, needless to say, the majority of us are just volunteers. I personally spent two weeks of my college vacation helping my team and countless hours on the bus to see the regional. He told me that we still accomplished the mission of FIRST, since we learned a lot. He then walked away.

I am completely disappointed with this attitude. It is unprofessional. It is disrespectful to everyone doing FIRST and their efforts. I’m still pondering what the lesson learned was for my team. That life isn’t fair? Is that such a great message? I personally don’t care about winning. I’m done with FIRST. I just want others to get the experience that I got without having such great hopes shattered.

It would be great if FIRST could refine this system by introducing a more refined method of disputing claims via video. I know the volunteers work hard, but everyone gets it wrong once in a while. The true value of FIRST lies in exposing youth to fields that are slowly fading from our schools. If we truly decide to celebrate mediocrity and losses like this, what are we really teaching our youth?

I would like to see a lot more prizes celebrating engineering, programming, and business achievements. What do you guys think? Are we lacking in those?

Looking back, this is a bit of a rant and I apologize, but a large number of people on my team, alliance, and in the NYC regional feel this way. I wanted to see everyone’s opinion.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to your responses.

The link is broken.

when did that penalty happen? I don’t see it.
(I do see some “dumb” defense)

EDIT:Next time avoid the opponent’s pyramid at all costs

That’s what we were trying to figure out.

Responding purely to the penalty, I disagree with it’s issuance. I noticed nothing more than strategic defense throughout the match.

After looking at the scoring I understand why you would feel this way. Team 3862 lost two qualifying matches last year due to volunteer error(which equated to about 1500 dollars worth of matches). I understand that every match cannot be replayed due to the time constraint in which that would put on a regional. I also understand that the refs are volunteers and they also are human. These guys get nothing from volunteering except for the fact that they know their extreme efforts are leading to great achievement and growth in the world’s youth.
I propose a simple solution that I believe would leave everyone happy and situations like these from occurring. Give the alliance captain one red challenge flag that would allow them to use video evidence to dispute a match. This would provide an avenue that would allow a lot of certain close calls to be reviewed in eliminations in which many people walk away unhappy without slowing down the regional too much(teams usually get five minuets to change bumpers and batteries anyway).

One thing that bothered me was that camera usage was disabled due to field issues. This prevented 1635 from being able to do anything during tele op. I’m sure that they weren’t the only ones affected. We too were affected by this since we rely on the camera for full court shooting. As far how the judging was handles, yes it would be nice to be able to remove subject bias but I understand that its not really possible to do that since being too specific can compromise the ability for teams to use creativity. At the same time NY had about 65 teams. The only way to get more matches in is to either start during the first day(less practice) or to expand to 4 days which isn’t easy to secure with the vendor. I was upset with the way some things were handled but that is also part of the experience. Not everything goes according to plan. I just hope that next time we can avoid some of these mistakes.

It happened at the 10 second mark when the two red robots were playing “defense” on the one blue.

In the qualification matches it was seen where 2 robots played defense against one and no penalties were issued.

There is no rule prohibiting 2v1 defense, or 3v1 defense for that matter. The only rules which must be observed are pinning and contact within frame perimeter.

ROBOTS on the same ALLIANCE may not blockade the FIELD in an attempt to stop the flow of the MATCH. This rule has no effect on individual ROBOT-ROBOT interaction.

EDIT:Our team avoids all 2v1 defense at all costs because it is such a big penalty.

I guess it comes down to one’s definition of “blockade”. I don’t view 2v1 defensive hits as blockading the field. Apparently, this ref did.

Yes, I think this is such a subjective rule, but it has to be there to eliminate the choke-hold strategies.

Not quite. The “Blockade” rule specifies that two or more robots cannot work together to affect the flow of the game, which flow affectation is apparently left to the proverbial reasonably astute observer to determine. (G25, in case you’re wondering.)

So, if a 2v1 or 3v1 is found to stop the flow of the match, it is a Technical Foul.

(I make no judgement as to whether the call in question would be correct given the situation. I’m not a ref.)

We (DiscoBots 2587) had similar issues at Lone Star with our head ref. A lot of fouls weren’t being called that we thought should have been. A lot of teams were frustrated with our head ref but the good thing was the refs were very consistent through out the regional and when the call was needed to be made they called it. I do agree that the refs shouldn’t have an attitude (granted that you don’t approach them in an inappropriate manner) with any mentors or students when they are questioning a call, but at the same time, you have to move on and focus on the next match. What I told our students was it’s ok to be frustrated and upset but you have to learn from it and get better for the next match. Just like with any professional sports league, there are going to be calls that a team doesn’t like or agree with but they still have to play on and overcome it. Unfortunately for you, it looks like it ended your regional and I know that’s a tough way to end the day. I believe FIRST will address these issues if it turns out to cause more problems and I hope they have it in order by Championships. It’s still early and refs are still learning the game as well. It’s one of the cons of playing in early events in the season. :confused:

It looked to me that that call was due to pinning and the technical foul was called when the red alliance hit a blue alliance robot that was defending a red alliance bot touching their pyramid. This is one where I believe an update needs to happen regarding that situation.

Unfortunately, all of this points back to the fact that some people interpret the same things differently than others.

My suggestion as a team doing defense for 8-10 years, avoid the pyramid, loading zone, and multi-robot “pinning”. Play “smart” defense! Look at Team 16 in the finals at st. louis. They played “smart” defense.

I would actually suggest that its less wonky this year than several in recent memory.

Just how would you propose they do it differently? NYC was running on a 7 minute match turnaround. The field crew needs 5-6 minutes to reset the field for the next match, and if you get a 30 pt climber which needs a belay, the time is even longer. With 65 teams, there just isn’t room for more matches.

I agree not everyone reads the rules nearly as well as they should, but all of the fouls were laid out in the manual, for everyone to see, and learn how to play by them. They SHOULD skew the rankings, not playing by the rules is tantamount to cheating.

What? I don’t understand. This isn’t punishing teams that DO read the rules, its punishing the teams that choose to not abide by the rules.

In an ideal world, yes, but with a limited amount of time to run the tournament, you have to make compromises. We obviously don’t have time to play the game with every permutation of 6 teams at a regional. There are ~82.6 million ways to choose 6 teams for a match from 65.

Looking at the video: looks like a techfoul on 1635 for pinning to me. Or possibly climb interference on 375.

An iffy call maybe.

Refs can’t be expected to look at video every time someone feels slighted, see the “not enough time” argument I made above.

You should relax, and it is just a game.

That said, I agree with you that the mentors are volunteers too, and referees and other event staff should be expected to uphold the rules as written in a consistent manner. Anything less is unacceptable, and unprofessional in my mind.

This is correct.

There are several awards that exist for this purpose. See: Engineering Inspiration, Regional Chairman’s, Engineering Excellence, Quality, Entrepreneurship, Rookie All-Star, Rookie Inspiration, Gracious Professionalism, Innovation in Control, Industrial Design, and Imagery. More awards would simply dilute the prestige that winning awards carries.