Streamlining Inspection

FIRST is coming to the point where its impossible to thouroghly inspect each bot. Fursther during parts of the inspection there are rumors teams cheat by either weighing in with a dummy battery, removing pieces, or other things. What are some ideas people have had when it comes to streamlining this process?

My idea is simple(actually I stole it from the olympics). Initial inspection is basic, a quick weighin plus a check on size. Then teams are done with the initial inspection. Once qualifying rounds are complete the top seeded teams who choose aliiances are re-inspected. Immediately after there last match its reweighed and measured, plus inspectors go over the bot, and documentation(budget). The procees of reinpecting also happens right before the championship round.

The concept is simple. Rely on everyone obeying the rules(and in an environment like FIRST) there shouldn’t be anyone cheating. Just as the Olympics only drug tests those who won medals, FIRST would only inspect those who did very well. If its found a team has been cheating then they are DQed.

DQing may sound harsh but if a team questions whether something is legal or not they will more than enough time to ask.

I’d like to here other suggestions or at the very least have people tear my ideas to shreds.

I think that’s a very good idea. The problem is that teams would still be able to cheat by taking parts off or using dummy batteries. You could have random inpections, but then there’s no guarantee that the team will be ready for inpection (and not frantically working on the robot).

Inspection, in my view, is not mainly to catch the cheaters.

I have been an inspector many times over the past 3 years. I rarely remember occaisons where teams are caught “cheating”. Most of the times, teams have different interpretation of rules and they truly believe that what they are doing is right.

The main task of an inspector is to get a team ready for safe match play. Every team has sharp edges on metal, and almost every team has to package their wiring better so other robots don’t snag on their robot.

It is a rarity for a new FIRST team to have all of the electronics wired right with all of the correct gauge wire, and the inspectors are there to make sure it was done correctly (as best they can).

So, with this said, I am against the implentation of streamlining inspections in the manner sevisehda mentioned above. I like the suggestion of streamlining, but a full inspection still needs to be done before a robot sees the playing field. I suggest that veteran teams should do pre-ship inspections at local rookie build shops. For instance, a rookie team would have this pre-ship inspection worksheet filled out by their mentor veteran FIRST team. This sheet would be faxed in to FIRST and sent to the first regional the rookie is attending. This would greatly speed up inspections.

Andy B.

I take it you havn’t inspected. I inspected at LA and SVR this year.

Most of the things that we pointed out were sharp edges or things not wired correctly. It is more of a safety inspection then a are-they-cheating inspection. I know I saw some things that didn’t make sense, and had to rely on the team to explan what they built and to justify it.

I know we were running around pushing teams at LA, helping them fix things to get everyone pass inspection by their first match. Most teams show up not ready to pass inspection. Some need an hour to open the crate and bolt a few parts together, others still haven’t built their drivetrain.

Andy, I like the idea of preship inspections by veterans. Even if they are not sent to FIRST, they will take care of some things that won’t have to be addressed at the regional.

The regionals themselves are not getting larger, (Except for Canadia, but their weird :p) so inspections are not taking longer. And teams that are at a second regional take a lot less time to inspect.


Like Andy said, it’s mainly about finding safety issues. Additionally, though, on several of the machines I inspected this year I discovered a few problems that, while they were not necessarily safety or rules issues, were potential points of failure for the robot. By pointing those out to the teams, my hope is that they were able to be more reliable, and therefore more competitive, and therefore have more fun.

I think you’d see a lot more breakdowns during matches and a lot more disappointed teams if teams weren’t required to pass an inspection before competing.

I like the idea of a pre-match inspection on teams at finals. Not to supercede the safety inspection on practice day. But, as an additional verification that nothing got onto the robot after the initial inspection.

However, if such a thing were done, then it would have to be a very fundamental inspection. Ie. weight, size, no unexpected motors popping up.

It would be a crime to disqualify a finalist simply because different inspectors have different opinions about rule M4. Or somebody realizes that you sanded an edge on your joystick and DQs you for “modifying the kit joysticks.”

I like Andy’s pre-ship inspect for rookies. I remember being terrified of our first inspection. A preinspection would have removed one of our many concerns.

Also, teams that are really struggling 2 days before ship would have some really top notch people showing up to give them a boost with a couple of days to really fix things.

These teams would have been identified prior to regionals. And perhaps some help could be organized for practice day.

Every year, the weekend before Ship, Team 22 hosts a “scrimage” for all of the teams in Southern California. Before there were alot of other Arizona teams even Kingman used to show up. It’s only what a six hour drive?

As part of the scrimmage, all robots recieve a “courtesy inspection”. These are done by experienced members of older teams. Not “passing” does not prevent them from taking part in the competition. We recognized that the robots are very much works in progress at this point. It does highlight things that need to be fixed before competing.

We encourage all teams to come, even if they aren’t running yet. Partly because they can get help and Chatsworth has a shop where they can make parts if needed. Besides if you’re like the rookies we mentored last year, working a sidewalk in Chatsworth isn’t so much different from one in Cerritos. They weren’t allowed to work on their robot indoors at their school, so they just used the walkway outside. We can do that in Southern California (rain? what’s that?)

I also took part in some inspections this year and there are a few things I would like to add to the process. As an electrical guy, wiring is very important so my point of view is slanted in this respect.
Multiple inspection stations might be the way to go. Station 1 is electrical, then mechanical, with weigh in and size at the end. I would like to see one student and one mentor with the robot for each station to answer questions and get explanations of items that need to be checked. (Too many students can’t tell you where the “off” switch is located or what the battery is used for or where the tether port is located. If they don’t know, chances are they don’t use them.) Inspectors at each station would need to be well versed in the area they are judging which should make things go a little faster. I hate to keep pressing the point but there are potential wiring and mechanical systems that are dangerous to the crew working on the robot and to folks on the playing field. We have been lucky so far but safety is a high priority. We need to be a little more aware that the battery is capable of delivering enough current to cause burns and to drive a motor/ mechanical device to the point of severing a finger or inflicting bodily harm.