[Split Thread] R904 - Operator Console Dimensions

That’s the only thing that worries me about the Pelican case by @Melchior_Vester above. While I really like the design, the case is exactly 14 inches deep (which exactly matches the allowed depth in the rules). With it being hinged in the back, I suspect it is actually greater than 14 inches deep (due to the lid) when open, and so there’s a chance an inspector may rule it not legal.

For those curious, the relevant rule is R904:

R904 *OPERATOR CONSOLE physical requirements. The OPERATOR CONSOLE must not
A. be longer than 5 ft. (~152 cm),
B. be deeper than 1 ft. 2 in. (~35 cm) (excluding any items that are held or worn by the DRIVERS during the MATCH),
C. extend more than 6 ft. 6 in. (~198 cm) above the floor, or
D. attach to the FIELD (except as permitted by G301).

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At an event I was an RI for, we had one or two teams that exceeded the maximum depth. The ruling from the LRI at the time was, in a nutshell, “You can use it but it’s deeper than the shelf is designed for, so you’re accepting any risk that it falls [/breaks/loses you the match/whatever]”.

YMMV; other LRIs might rule differently.

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Obviously (IME, YMMV) the inspection team is going to try their best to find a way to get you onto the field, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to rely on such discretion, especially where the violation is clear-cut with no element of subjective judgement.

I’m going off-topic here, but inspection is primarily driven by a checklist that is published alongside the game manual. Driver console dimensions are listed there as something to check. You should have someone review that checklist before you leave your workshop.

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We were aware of this rule before moving forward with this case and have not been questioned about the size from LRI or RI thankfully. I do know there are a handful of teams (8+) that do use this exact case and spoke to them about their experiences with the size ruling. Only one team has been questioned in the past, but the LRI / RI said it was fine. YMMV.

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So I’ve got to ask, whats the point of having a rule stating the max dimensions of a driver station, if by the sounds of it, a large number of RI’s and LRI’s tell teams in violation of it, to just ignore the rule?

From the RI discussion when we ran into it, the rule was based on the dimensions of the shelf built into the driver stations. If your driver console hangs way over the edge there is greater risk of it falling or being knocked off. So teams that violate the rule do so “at their own risk”.

As several of us said above, there is always the chance that an LRI could rule an oversized console not usable. But the goal is to get everyone competing, so I’d expect this is most likely only if it is demonstrably unstable/unsafe/gratuitously oversized.

From our team’s experience, very LONG driver stations - at the 5’ end of the spectrum - are annoying to transport, as they don’t fit crosswise in most vehicles. It’s not so bad for competitions when there’s a trailer, but when you’re hauling gear to an outreach event or traveling light to an offseason, it’s suboptimal.

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That sounds an awful lot like trying to discern the intent of the rule opposed to what the written rule actually says.

R904 very clearly lists a max size the operator console can be, and nowhere does it state what the intent of this rule is, or that it is a suggestion.

It’s one thing for an inexperienced team to show up at an event with an oversized operator console and have made an honest mistake/not known. The posts above though are saying that teams are aware their operator console violates the rules, but because there is no penalty (or very little chance of being penalized), they are choosing to not follow the rules.

I’ll also say that while it’s awesome that most volunteers have an ultimate goal of making sure all teams can compete, the teams I’ve worked with have been hurt multiple times from inspectors ignoring/not enforcing rule violations at our events (and not informing us they were doing so). I’d much rather be told that there is an issue with us passing inspection at our first event, than being told everything is good to go, and then showing up at our next event only to be told there is some issue with our robot making us not pass inspection (that we easily could have taken the time to fix between events). And despite having raised multiple concerns about this to LRI’s and RI’s in the past, it’s still a regular issue I encounter.


I realize the operator console being too big is a rather minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it presses on the larger issue I have of rules being enforced differently from event to event (and certainly region to region).

True on all points. But, playing devil’s advocate for a moment, even then there’s potential gray areas. Take the current discussion: if it meets spec when closed but exceeds depth when the top is open, is that an issue? What if only the laptop screen, when up, exceeds the bounds? What if the console itself is 14" deep but there’s a carry strap or handle on one side - does that count? (My only point here is that unless the rules are written like legalese, there’s going to be some judgement involved. And I don’t really want to see legalese rules.)

I agree. To be clear, my experience was a sample size of 1 and I’ve been careful to say YMMV, others might rule differently. I do not recommend going in with a known rules violation.

In fairness, it does sound like the Pelican case in question does, at least in one interpretation, comply with the rules, since they do not specify the configuration in which the dimensions are taken.

This is unfortunate. Would you be willing to provide an example? If it’s something that results in a competitive advantage/disadvantage due to uneven enforcement (or even the perception of that) then this seems like it’s something worth further discussion. Though honestly this thread might not be the optimal place for it, either.

I agree, but RIs are human too. We follow the checklist and try to be simultaneously efficient and thorough in looking at your robot, but it is always possible one inspector misses a detail that another later catches. Not saying it should commonly happen, but it can happen.

This is also true. I struggle to see how an extra inch or two of console depth confers any advantage. I do see the disadvantage of it perhaps being more prone to a sudden gravitationally-assisted departure when a robot hits the wall, though. (Those shelves aren’t quite as deep as they perhaps ought to be, IMHO.)

By contrast, I believe the maximum height is there to prevent “sky pole” cameras or similar, which might confer an advantage. And the maximum length is because that’s what physically fits on the shelf.

Nothing about this rule is clear, the rules are always subject to the interpretation of the reader. I will just focus on 904 (b) as this seems to be the contentious point in relation to the Pelican case.

The OPERATOR CONSOLE must NOT be:
B: “deeper than 1 ft. 2 in. (~35 cm) (excluding any items that are held or worn by the
DRIVERS during the MATCH)”

(1) As mentioned in the previous reply, is this to be measured under carrying conditions, playing conditions, etc.

(2) What is an item? Is an item a component, a mechanism, or an assembly of mechanisms?

(3) What is the definition of held? If a controller is mechanically linked to the Pelican case either directly or transitively, does holding the controller count as holding the case? Based on some interpretations of a similar term “supported”, it could be hard to argue with this logic, especially since the term “item” is not defined in the manual. It seems a valid argument that the entire assembly is the Operator Consoles equivalent to a “major mechanism” on the robot.

(4) How long does one have to hold the “item” to be exempt? Is it enough for the robot operator to simply pick up the handle of the Pelican case for a second during the match?

(5) What is the definition of worn? When chained wallets were popular and they were affixed to the owner was that person wearing the wallet?

Obviously I am being slightly facetious here, but if you want me as a RI to enforce the rules as written I would have a very hard time telling the above teams that they are not in compliance with these rules (as written - no intent of the rule mentioned).

From my point of view, this case appears to provide no competitive advantage (other than ensuring protection of DS components over a long period of time), it still allows for a solid connection to the drivers station Velcro, and from the Team RUSH example it does not look likely to fall upon hard impacts with the driver station wall.

Lastly, the only reason I replied to this thread was because the impression I got from reading your post was “I have had bad experiences with RIs and I want to ensure that the RI experience is consistent across the regions.” Obviously, I would assume that you would want to improve the RI experience across FRC, but you discuss how RIs should follow the rules directly as written (not based on intent), cite this drivers station depth requirement, and call out the above teams for intentionally violating the rules that in your mind are “very clear”.

FRC is possibly the high school sport with the worst $/playing time ratio. RIs should do their best to make sure that a robot is safe and ready to take the field for their first match, not nit pick drivers console dimensions.

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I actually agree with basically all points above, which is why I said above:

My initial question of why do we have this rule, would still seem to apply though based on points above. Why do we have a rule that RI’s aren’t comfortable enforcing because said rule is so vaguely defined and hard to enforce? Why not remove the part stating a maximum length and width (height, as was mentioned, was due to massive camera poles becoming a thing a few years back, and would likely stay) and keep point D and its associated blue box? The dimensions of the physical driver station shelf is still called out in section 5.6.1 for teams to reference.

You could also change it to say something along the lines of “operator consoles must be designed to fit safely on the driverstation shelf (as defined in section 5.6.1)”. This would clearly show that operator console is subject to the RI and LRI’s educated opinion on what is deemed safe. There is already precedence for the RI’s (and other event staff) to use their judgement when inspecting thanks to G101, and even the last part of the blue box for R904 calls for the RI’s opinion.

Agreed that this thread probably isn’t the right place. To try and keep it short, the worst experience I had regarding this involved not being required at our district qualifying events to present/weigh our spare parts (circa 2019, the last year of the bag), showing up to DCMP thinking we still didn’t because of our past events (most recent event being 3 days prior to DCMP), and being told by the LRI at DCMP that we couldn’t use any of the spare parts we brought to that event. I even had someone that was an RI at the event 3 days prior attest to the fact that none of the RI’s (or LRI) enforced that rule. It was crushing having to walk back to the pits and explain to my students that even though it was allowed at all out other events that season, we couldn’t use any of the spare parts we brought to DCMP to fix our now fairly heavily damaged robot.


As the topic of operator console dimensions has clearly gone off topic from the OP, would it be possible for a mod to separate these last posts to another thread?

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This competition… I swear… somedays…

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As we talk about rules, remember many have history behind them…

In this case, anyone remember the “camera poles” people were telescoping into the rafters in Stronghold?

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Across 2016 and 2017, I recall catching 2 bumper issues and 1 Starting Configuration issue, and of those three, two sported inspection stickers already (the third was trying to get theirs after an inspector caught an issue and the fix made it far worse). Having to tell a team that their passed inspection robot wasn’t legal despite the sticker because their game piece handling device couldn’t retract inside their Frame Perimeter wasn’t fun. (The worst part? I was in stripes at the time.)

And anybody who’s inspected for a while can tell you the fun of “but it passed at [previous event, including pre-season events]!”

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My students keep asking if they can use DDR mats to control the robot and I keep bringing up this rule as a reason why not (exceeds maximum dimensions), but this thread gives me a glimmer of hope that it can be done, particularly if the rule isn’t enforced or if we can find a way to claim the mats are being “held” by virtue of them somehow being permanently connect to the operator (say by wrist strap)

It’s not unheard-of for there to be a floor-based part of the console.

Sounds like a great question for Q&A!

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