WARNING All teams should read this

During our last regional in Pittsburgh we were teamed with an illegal robot. I am in no way complaining to that team and I dont want them to feel bad about what happened. As a matter of fact, I gave them a way to contact me and I would like to help them.

For you other teams and electrical people, I would like to share my experience with what happened so that you do not have the same problem:

Some how team XXX made it past inspection with small “blade” type auto fuses rated at 40 A for their drive train CIM motors. These are one time use fuses and will blow frequently during a rough match. They used these in the small breaker block. Those blocks are not designed for 40 A of current and could easily melt if under full load.

Needless to say, we were in an alliance with a team that could only drive at its slowest speed for fear of being completely disabled. I am not sure if this happened because of a problem with the rules (I think it is cover in rules: R88 and R44) or if the inspectors missed it.

Make sure you check potential alliance robots for illegal setups. You dont want the same thing to happen to you. I know the inspectors cant catch everything, but your team should double check everything when it gets to alliance selection.

Good luck everyone in Cheasapeake (spelled something like that) and Atlanta. And good luck to team XXX.

I wondered why there was a frantic call for these during the elimination matches. We were approached a couple of times for 40 amp fuses, quickly offered the MTX (I think that’s right) type 40 amp fuses, only to be given a dull stare, and then have them frantically run over to the next pit. It’s too bad really- by that time there was no way to change it.

I would venture a guess the robot was inspected with the KOP 30A breakers in the fuse box, the team convinced the inspector that was all their robot needed, and later they ran into trouble and improvised (40A fuses).

There is a fine point between seeing a problem on another teams robot, helping them to fix it, or reporting them to the inspectors. If someone really wants to cheat all they have to do is move the wires to bypass the breaker box completely, and I doubt anyone would notice

except maybe for the pillar of smoke billowing from their bot.

I never “reported them to the inspectors” and I wouldn’t do that to any team. Inspections are difficult to get through, but they are very important for FIRST to run smoothly.

I only posted this for other teams to learn from our experience. Thats why I never posted the # of the team with the problem.

Good luck guys!

Why? Did you at least let the team know that it was potentially illegal? All I’m saying is that it could of been a simple mistake, or mix up and could of been remedied by you if you let them know.

If you did tell them, but they shrugged it off, and never went back to look that they did in fact error, then I would speak with the inspectors.

If teams can tell refs to take a look at a robot they think is shooting to fast, why can’t you speak to a ref about a robot you think is illegal?

Inspections are there for a reason. Not just so that we all don’t try to cheat the system, and make $100,000 robots, or use illegal materials, but they are in place for safety reasons as well.

I think you should of spoke with the team at least and let them know.

That robot as you described it should not have passed inspection. The rules only allow the Snap-Action breakers as given in the kit (and it says so on the inspection checklist)–the only fuses anywhere on the robot are found on the Spike relays, which even a hurried inspector should be able to catch when it’s connected to a CIM motor. If you spot such a thing again, please do flag down an inspector. Surely some team somewhere had another breaker block available for such an emergency.

I did talk to the team.

They weren’t a rookie team but they only had one mentor there and most of the students didn’t seem to be veterans. I explained the danger to them and I worked with them to try and fix it. However, I dont feel that it is my place to complain to an inspector and have a team’s robot removed from semifinals that they tried so hard to get into. Last night I realized that I could have rigged up a breaker mount that would have stopped their robot from blowing fuses, but it still would not have been legal. And I went to spare parts twice to ask teams for spare 40 A style blocks but to my knowledge no one came forward (there were only 25 teams at the Pitts regional).

I gave them my contact information if they wanted some more help with their electrical setup and programming.

The whole point of me creating this thread was to warn teams of illegal robots that they may be considering for alliance partners. I have been with FIRST for 3 years and I have never had this problem before but it seems that there are gaps in the system. So everyone needs to take things into their own hands.

Come to think of it our breakers were never checked, nor any terminals, or even our wiring. If you can explain it the inspectors seem satisfied. I’m kinda bothered by some of the robots that passed inspections. :frowning: Is their any testing to determine an inspectors familiarity with safety and the rules?

I noticed this last year at SBPLI… Though at the championships, the inspectors seemed a lot more rigorous with making 100% sure the robot was legal.

You may never be in this hypothetical situation, but just as a thinking exercise, please consider the following:

Suppose you’ve taken a science test and not done so well. You are not happy with the resulting grade, and you understand (after seeing the teacher’s marks on your test paper) why you got some incorrect answers and how you could avoid making the same mistakes again. A couple of days later you get to take the same test again. Will you do better the second time?

Will a FIRST inspector who has volunteered at one regional do a better job when she (or he) gets the chance to inspect robots at the Championship?

Dude,
I understand your concern but please in the future, convince the team to go seek help from the lead inspector. We are there to help you run safely and under the rules. It is difficult for even experienced inspectors to catch everything just as it is for a team to read the entire manual. (Yes, strange as it seems, it does happen!) The inspection team can help asses the problem, and will know what other teams that are present may be able to help. The first thing I would have been concerned about was the wire guage. If it was safe for 30 amp (#14 or larger) than why not just insert a 30 amp breaker? If the team would like additional help, please have them contact me via PM so I can give them my email address. If they are coming to Midwest or Milwaukee have them come and see me at the inspection table.

You know, the inspectors never checked ours either. Now for us that was a good thing, because although our wiring was perfectly legal, (I am sure of this, I read the entire manual, posts on Q&A, and did all the wiring) our setup was so inaccessible that we would have to have removed our hopper, ball pickup device, shooter, and disconnect all the victors from the motors to check the wire to victors, then have them watch as we reconnect. If I was an inspector I wouldn’t want to have to go through this, so I can understand why they don’t. I guess this is more of another honor system thing that requires you to read the manual thing then don’t break the rules.

I’m not sure about an honor system for inspections. Even if everybody tried to follow the rules, the inspectors can find mistakes and point them out to the team. Isn’t there a rule about accesibility? (Please dont flame me about the rules, there are alot of them this year).

And I would have pointed it out to the inspectors, however the Pitts regional was quite rushed and I believe at that time, the inspectors were dealing with speed trials (our team was asked to retry 3 times after we passed the first one, come on people, GP).

And let me say again that the whole point of bringing this up was for teams to learn from the experience. I’m not challenging the system. I don’t want to change the rules. It’s just a story worth listening to.

I guess this applies to both inspectors and teams, rushed or not it’s a matter of safety. Check, double check, and heck why not give it a third one just in case. If something goes wrong with electrical it can destroy a robot, or a person, quite easily. I remember talking to a material supplier while looking for impact resistant materials, when I told him the draw of our motors he didn’t believe me. One of my big concerns, is huge amount of unsecured wires I see on robots. Heck I donated zip ties to a team for the cause. :smiley: Even if it takes a few extra minutes waiting for a chance to have my bot inspected I would rather wait with the knowledge that if I overlooked something it’ll get caught then to end up with a robot empty of magical noise (It’s a pain to get that stuff back in the robot). And yeah I know if inspectors took the extra time to inspect it means less competition time, I’m still trying to figure that one out. The rules, and zip ties, are your friends.

^^ What he said.

While its been about a year since I saw an inspection sheet, I seem to remmeber one of the items on the inspection list (Al, please correct me if I’m wrong) it said “XX AWG wire loads are protected with a XX Amp Snap Action breaker” and listed the wire sizes and breakers respectively. On a side note (from my understanding of the rules) that there was nothing wrong with putting a CIM (big or small) on a 30A breaker, as long as it had the proper wire gauge, which would be an easy swap to fix.

With that said, I’d much rather go out into a match with 30A breakers compared to 40A fuses. For any team that gets tangled up in this mess, and has a dead partner on the field … I’ll offer this advice - Push them up to the top of the ramp and leave them there 5 or more points. Better than nothing :cool:

In the inspection sheet, updated Tuesday, R54 and R80-85 (wiring rules) will be checked for compliance. All teams be aware that new documents have been updated this week and require your attention.