[Split Thread] Inspection Culture & Applied Rules

When you bring a child to the doctor to get a shot, do you spend the entire ride there telling the kid how much it’s going to hurt?

You say your goal is to prepare your students to self-advocate by warning them in advance that RIs can make their event hell. But in doing so, you are ramping up their anxiety about this interaction in advance, even though you admit that 95% of your inspections are trouble free. In that remaining 5% of “bad apple” interactions, aren’t you nearby anyway to protect your students and simply escalate the issue to the LRI or to HQ?

You are demanding that event volunteers change the way they do things while completely absolving yourself of any responsibility to try to set a more positive tone for the students on your team. Seems to me like you are really just guaranteeing that 100% of your students’ inspection experiences will be negative.

I’m not sure you even read my post - the very reply where you asked me to explain what I’m doing to create a positive culture for new students.

I have never, ever said something like that to one of my students. The closest I’ve probably ever come to that was something like ‘You’re right, that experience you just had WAS inappropriate, let me help you fill out the form that can report that person to FIRST - I’ll be by your side the whole way.’ But that was after something negative had already happened, so it doesn’t apply to the words you’re attempting to put in my mouth here.

I’m a volunteer in addition to my role as a lead mentor. I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator as well, and actively encourage my alumni to volunteer in their new regions when they grow up and live their lives. Why on earth would I disparage volunteers as a whole? None of that is what I’m doing here - nor are others.

Please outline in this thread where I have made a single demand. I can’t speak for others, but I don’t believe I have, other than the general sentiment of ‘something’s gotta change’. I suggest a much closer read of the folks who have been making earnest efforts at open conversations with LRIs and Chief Volunteers.

Why is it that you’re so dedicated to outlining that there isn’t a problem, when you have dozens of posts in a thread saying they’ve experienced problems firsthand?


She graciously offered to share her presentation, maybe you could actually look at before feeling qualified to characterize it like that?


I feel the need to testify as both a mentor and volunteer at her previous events that Libby is indeed a wonderful KV/VC herself. You’re really seriously misinterpreting her here.


I mean, well, assuming they’re humans, some volunteers absolutely have bad intent as their nature, and assuming you’ve ever met or interacted with humans, you already know that. I don’t think it’s even close to a plurality much less a majority, and most volunteers have only good intent, but some people take any iota of power and use it as a cudgel, for whatever reason that blackens their tiny little heart–and while it would be wonderful if FIRST as an organization was an exception, that pretty much can’t be the case, and the place where that kind of behavior has the most direct impact on teams is when that petty tyrant is a Robot Inspector.

This discussion was unintentionally started by a well-intentioned and passionate RI announcing publicly (and apparently without any indication of how what he was saying would sit with a whole honkin’ lot of people) how he will be out to get a team in regards to a particular unwise but easily-made-legal robot design, and the conversation was continued by a bunch of people who have had negative experiences with the robot inspection process, and with Robot Inspectors either having bad intent or acting in a manner indistinguishable from having bad intent.

The distinction between those things might matter to some people, but it’s utterly irrelevant to me, and it’s utterly irrelevant to teams impacted by it. I don’t care one whit whether or not any given RI thinks they’re the hero of their own story, or if they’re going out of their way to make high school kids feel bad and quit FIRST, or if they’re just generally clueless as to how their behavior is negatively impacting people, or anything in-between or outside those parameters. What’s going on inside their heads is no more relevant than it is knowable–which is to say, not at all.

That dude who got banned from FIRST for repeatedly sabotaging Einstein ostensibly did so because people wouldn’t listen to him about a security flaw in the FMS and he wanted to show them unequivocally how right he was–that’s his story, anyway. And, well, even if that’s true, that guy was an [insert words that will get automatically converted to asterisks here] who deserved to get banned from FIRST even if to this day he genuinely believes that he was the hero of the story who was only trying to change things for the better. And likewise, any KV who acts as a petty tyrant should be shunted out of their volunteer role for the good of the program, regardless of whether or not they think they have justification for acting like a petty tyrant.

…and in the meantime, well-intentioned KVs who, regardless of motive or intent, aren’t being petty tyrants but regardless act in a manner that has an undue negative impact on teams should be made aware of and then explicitly trained out of those behaviors, and removed from their positions if they refuse to adapt to the needs of the kids whose lives FIRST serves. FIRST as an organization should be consistently and constantly adapting and evolving to make sure that their volunteers are 100% focused on maximizing participant experience. With the time and money and time and passion and time and dedication and time that kids put into this program, they deserve the best experience possible when they go to compete. How anyone feels about themselves as they negatively impact that experience is just about the last consideration anyone seeking reform should pay the vaguest attention to.

So while it’s an unjustified ad hominem to accuse Libby or anyone else of stating or implying that any given RI (or RIs in general, or a small subset of RIs, or some KVs, or all KVs) have bad intent, even if you’re right (and you’re not), the KV’s intent is moot. Bad outcomes from good intent is just as bad as bad outcomes from bad intent, and we owe it to kids to minimize or eliminate those bad outcomes. What’s in the heart of people causing undue bad outcomes for teams is utterly irrelevant when it comes to addressing the problems with the process causing those undue bad outcomes.

So let’s not muddy those waters.


Hey gang. It’s almost midnight, I’m tired. We’re quickly getting to the point of ad-homenim even with a slow mode. While this thread may be long, it’s important to assume the best, trust but verify, and be kind.

I don’t expect anyone here wants RIs/LRIs to be jerks, and trying to strive for perfection is how we get on the road to improvement. We’ve already seen Chuck post in another thread the letter he drafted with Al to all RIs/LRIs. I suggest you give it a read if you want something more constructive. :slight_smile:

This topic was automatically opened after 8 hours.

One of the first interactions at an event is “get your robot inspected” If you know your robot has problemsor unfamiliar with the First Ethos, it is going to be stressful. No matter how the RI acts. This points out the importance of having well trained KVs in this position. The training needs to go deeper than technical competence. The training goes deeper than what you can do in a weekend. The importance of finding the right person to be the LRI is clear. Especially since for some of the RIs it is the first time they of seen an FRC event. As a VC you know the problem with finding volunteer bodies better than me.

Please keep doing this. It is absolutely a skill set they need in life. Especially if you can teach how to advocate without being adversarial .

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I am disappointed in your non-answer of my question, and more so in the false choice you offered.

I want more inspectors, and I am pretty sure everyone else does too. If every team had one mentor volunteer to be an inspector everyone could be inspected with zero wait. I would still want those inspectors to be sensitive about how they interreacted with teams and focus on every team passing inspection as their number one priority.

If there was truly a mission-critical flaw they could make a note of it and follow up with that team later. Or some other method that doesn’t push the inspector-student power imbalance, such as pointing them to a team who can help and has already passed inspection. We (95) do this all the time when one of our mentors is an RI.


This is weird dude. Like really weird. You are acting like you know how Libby conducts herself with her students. Surely, surely, you can see how you don’t actually have knowledge of that.

The discussion going on here in this thread is not the same discussion that we mentors have with our students. I know you can understand that.


Great idea!

We only have three mentors on 1551, and I’ll bet at least one of us would be happy to be trained as a robot inspector with a practice day commitment to inspect one (or perhaps two) other teams’ robots–that and a half a day or so of training is a way smaller commitment than being an RI for the entire event, for sure. A team inspector (or better yet, a pair of team inspectors, each one from a different team) could inspect and clear every legal robot in the first hour after the pits open, while flagging the potentially-noncompliant for the “real” RIs to come in and help get them compliant. That way, everyone gets inspected faster, and the hatted RIs not only have more time to focus on the teams that really need it, they have a mostly completed inspection checklist with only the noncompliant items left to address.

[If anyone is concerned about cheating, make the pairing and assignments random (or at least unknown to the inspectors).]




I actually suggested something like this back up the thread a bit, asking if it was practical to allow all teams to have one or more mentors take RI training. IIRC it was specifically for official pre-inspections, but could definitely be used to surge the inspector ranks at an event for a short burst.

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Inspection flash mob.


I think this is possible in a post COVID world. We’re still not sure how many mentors/students can show up to the event that’s coming up soon.

But honestly, this feels like too much. I would do it. We have other mentors that would too. But it’s just something else on top of all of the other stuff we do. Honestly, when I first started reading your post, I thought you were being incredibly sarcastic about the whole thing! I’m impressed you’re on board with only three mentors.

We’re part of the small group of people that volunteer for things. I’m not a good soccer coach, but I volunteered once and now I’m stuck because no one else wants to do it. That’s partly how you get bad RIs, no one else will do it. Requiring teams provide an RI doesn’t seem to solve that particular part of it. Sure there are more RIs, but they’re mandated, so will we just see more of the problems that have already been in this thread?

Maybe I’m being too pessimistic about it. But I do think I would be bummed if I had to commit to doing an inspection, especially considering the hostility expressed in this thread towards an RI who wastes any time. Am I going to flag anything “potentially” noncompliant and call in a real RI, thereby prolonging the inspection process? I would be hesitant based on some responses in this thread.

I, as well, tried desperately to make and impassioned plea for this way back in post 252. The vibe I got back then was this wasn’t of interest to many. I wasn’t intending this to be mandatory and I certainly don’t think it should be.


I have already made my apologies via PM.

I never realized before how much animosity there is among teams toward RIs. Some of the raw opinions expressed in this thread have convinced me that I would never trade one minute of time spent with my own team at an event in order to serve as a volunteer on the receiving end of some of those attitudes. So the good news is that none of you ever have to worry about seeing me in a yellow hat.

If this is your attitude, I don’t think they’re missing much.


Tell me how

I think the important difference is that you were talking about being an RI for the event, and I took @JamesCH95 as saying that it would just be for a very limited amount of time (like maybe an hour) first thing on Thursday. An Inspection Flash Mob, as it were…

If you limited the scope of the IFM to clearing compliant things and identifying potentially non-compliant things, and then turning that information over to the RIs, it could be a very small ask, indeed.