The Timeout Rules Stink

This thing right here - stinks, especially in finals:

Never have I ever felt like there was enough time between finals matches to fix the robot from finals 1 and perform all needed systems checks and review match strategy to make needed strategic adjustments.

The 2 minute window required to tack just an additional 2 minutes onto the end of a field timeout is ridiculous and frustrating. Why is it so short when you have to wait those 6 minutes anyway?

I’m very appreciative of the leniency that is typically given to teams in the finals that when the buzzer sounds at the end of the timeout, seldom are teams forced to stay off the field if they’re not quite there yet, although I know this isn’t the case everywhere. This leniency has caused opponents to succeed as well, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I think these rules need to be entirely re-written:

  • To allow for a field and team timeout to happen consecutively (for a 12 minute super-timeout!)
  • The 2 minute window to submit your timeout coupon should be extended to 4 or 5 minutes, especially for the consecutive field timeout-team timeout that typically happens in finals (but also semis tiebreaker matches)

If you allow for the longer 12 minute super-timeout, I can see getting rid of that leniency (or cutting back on it) that has often been afforded to teams urgently trying to finish fixing their robot between finals matches.

42 Likes

Couldn’t agree more! The current timeout rules lead to finals matches like this, and that isn’t the capstone spectacle that the event has been building up to. It’s not what the people who are watching the event deserve.

For context, 4607 broke some things in the last Semi Final match before Finals, and we were the last ones to get back to the pit area (based on the order that we were able to take things off the field due to climb location). By the time we were back to the pit, and identified that we had issues to fix, we were already outside the window where we could’ve used our timeout coupon to extend by 2 minutes.

We had a really bad experience at our only event in 2020 in a similar situation, where we were prevented from entering the field for being 12 seconds late following the expiration of the timeout clock. So as such, we sent the robot to the field without making half the fixes we needed to (which resulted in us going into the match without air needed to climb and intake).

Logistically, it probably takes around 90 seconds to get a robot to the pit, assess if there are any issues, locate the alliance captain and timeout coupon, and run over to the head ref to submit the coupon. And that’s only if you know how the entire process works and everything goes perfectly! Getting told not to run, getting slowed down by well-meaning volunteers, and just the general chaos of the event make this a challenging task. In the future I’m going to default to submitting the timeout coupon immediately following the semi-finals match whether we need it or not.

I want to be clear that the volunteers at our event handled everything correctly and by the book. They even let us on the field about 5 seconds after the timeout clock had expired. The rules themselves are the area of concern.

Another issue is that there is a massive loophole that teams who know can exploit. They won’t let you on the field after the timer expires, but they’ll generally let you stay on the field to fix your robot for 5+ minutes if you’re already there. In other words, it’s a lot harder to remove a team from the field than it is to lock them out of it. This practice actually extends the duration of the finals significantly more than if teams could utilize their optimized pit areas to get their robots ready, rather than having to figure it out on the field. This is what we did on 4607 for Finals match 1, but we didn’t have the equipment available on the field to finish getting the robot ready. We delayed the start of the match around 5 minutes by my guess, whereas it probably would’ve been completely solved if we had another 3 minutes in the pit.

My proposal would be to rearrange things a bit when it comes to finals. Do the traditional introduction of the finalist alliances, and finals matchup “handshake” before the robots are loaded onto the field. This gives finalist teams an additional 3-5 minutes in the pit area without adding any additional time to the event. This will result in a better on field display for sponsors and spectators without sacrificing schedule.

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I agree, those are bad. This makes it less of a competition of robots and more of a competition of technicality and luck.

I want to win because the robot is better, not because someone couldn’t fix something in time

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Not just a single loophole out there…
But broadly I agree, there needs to be a general overhaul of the system and not more patch-work on the existing one.

I agree that the timeout rules are confusing, difficult to put into place, and do weird things.

A proposed solution:
The timeout should automatically be applied at the END of the regular FIELD Timeout window. it should extend the time by some reasonable duration.
How this should work: 15 seconds before the end of the FIED Timeout window a REF asks an alliance captain if they either wish to:

  1. Power up all present robots and vacate the field
  2. Remove unpowered robots and vacate the field
  3. Use the timeout if they have one (this option is enacted if (1 or 2) is not met.

If they don’t have a timeout coupon, then only options (1) or (2) are available. Failure to comply: 1 penalty at the start of the upcoming match for each TBD* seconds in which they have not complied + yellow card if more than TBD** seconds.

*10?
**90?

If both alliances are ok (1 or 2), the match may begin early.

Another thought: Timeout chicken occurs when there is a broken robot on both sides of the field. your alliance has the advantage if their alliance uses the coupon so you have it for later if you need it. This could be addressed by requiring (1) or (2) to be in place for each alliance independently, thus both alliance coupons are used if there are two broken robots.

12 Likes

100% agree, in the same semi finals that you mentioned, both of our alliance partners had major damage to their robots. First 167’s entire climbing mechanism broke, there is no way you fix that in 5 minutes, and 5348’s drivetrain had major issues prior to the tiebreaker match.

It is nearly impossible to do the following in two minutes:

Remove your robot from the field. *
Get your pit crew to the robot.
Find damage on your robot.
Identify if the fix will take longer than the time out window.
Communicate your issue to your alliance captain that you need the timeout called.
Find your alliance rep/coupon and get them to the Question Box.

*Add time if it’s on the Mid, High, or Traversal bar as the field crew makes you wait last. This alone can take the entire 2 minutes.

32 Likes

In the nfl, you have up to the time where the other team hikes the ball to call a timeout.

This time window needs to be expanded.

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To play Devil’s Advocate, reliability is a major component of engineering design and should be rewarded. A robot that doesn’t need repairs between final matches is arguably better than one that does. The real world values this too, time pressure is there on pretty much every project I’ve ever been on.

As for getting off the Transversal Bar, that’s another tradeoff. You get more match points but it takes longer to get off the field. I was the supervisor at the Red Hanger at Northern Lights, and I never held back a robot. I did enforce safe removal, which per my instructions from FIRST typically meant removing the other bots first. Most delays from getting higher robots down was their alliance partners not promptly removing theirs. The playoff alliances were generally much better at coordinating this among themselves.

I agree the coupon windows should be looked at, but understand there are more things going on behind the scenes that complicate it. By changing timing you’re also affecting the other alliance who deserves timely notification.

6 Likes

I think we should have timeout chickens! :rofl:


I agree the timeouts are confusing. Especially for a team that has never made it to finals (or even playoffs) before. It might be nice it they do some of the closing ceremony between back to back matches to extend the time without extending the event. (I think they did that at worlds one year)

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There is no such thing. Every robot requires a once-over before getting sent back to the field. Every robot requires a new battery. Every team’s pit crew needs time to reset mechanisms, charge air, get things inside frame perimeter, etc.

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I’d much rather win an event against 3 working robots then with any of the opponent robots broken.
Ask me how I know.
If it takes another 10 minutes to make sure that the opponent robots are ready for the match, then that is fine by me.

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In my mind, the clock shouldn’t even start until every bot is off the field.

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That’s reset, not repair. Between practice filler line and unlucky timing of replayed matches I’ve seen plenty of teams play back to back without timeouts or even leaving the field. I know you’ve had some bad experiences, but the rules were applied as written from kickoff. BTW, I have a lot of respect for your program and you’ve done some really great things.

To all, being a devil’s advocate means seeing things from another point of view, not necessarily your own. I just want to say it’s more complicated than simply giving a team a few extra minutes.

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No stake in the game here but they’d have to implement a similar rule to the NFL like injuries during the 2 minute warning. Teams might move a little slow off the field to give an injured partner more time.

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I personally don’t like the idea of penalizing teams for not getting off the field.

This is exactly why people on this thread are advocating for a change in the rules right?

I see your point, but I don’t think (maybe you disagree) the intent of field reset and match scheduling is to make it a part of the game by “penalizing” those that go traversal rung.

I appreciate the “advocating for the devil” but I do think looking at the intent of the rule would allow us to improve the experience as a whole. The benefits of rehashing the rules for timeout (either this year or the following) would allow teams to apply the “intent” of the timeout which is probably to allow alliances to: deal with “injuries”, rehash strategy, or “ice” the opponent.

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Maybe even the ability to have a 4th robot you can sub in for just 1 match. (I play in districts so I don’t know if that’s allowed at regional’s, but here once you’re subbed in you can’t play again) that would allow extra time to fix the robot. It might not be ideal for your alliance, but if it means you would be up to speed again for the next match, some might take the chance.

Oh no doubt! We’ve definitely done back to back practice matches many times with nothing but a battery swap.

Finals are a bit different due to the higher stakes. While I’m not too upset if we blow a practice match on a low battery, or forgetting to raise the intake inside the frame perimeter… it’s a totally different ballgame in the Finals!

I can appreciate this! It’s definitely important to consider different perspectives.

Just run a 3rd/4th place match. The time it takes for field setup, to run the match, and to get teams off the field is longer than the current 6 minute window - and you can give the top alliances full value for timeouts.

Plus it’s better for the kids and the viewers.

Not sure why this is still an oversight by FIRST

29 Likes