What are the rules about stuff you can do before Kickoff starts?

I am wondering what can you legally use for the 2020 season. My team already made a CAD of a drivetrain, but I don’t know if it is legal to have something not public this late into the year.

IIRC, as long as it is public before kickoff, you can construct it after kickoff.
Same goes for reusing code.

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From the 2019 rules:
R15 and R16

R15. Physical ROBOT elements created before Kickoff are not permitted. Exceptions are:
B. BUMPERS (a protective assembly designed to attach to the exterior of the ROBOT and
constructed as specified in the BUMPER Rules section),
C. battery assemblies per R5-B,
D. FABRICATED ITEMS consisting of one COTS electrical device (e.g. a motor or motor
controller) and attached COMPONENTS associated with any of the following modifications:
i. wires modified to facilitate connection to a ROBOT (including removal of existing
ii. connectors and any materials to secure and insulate those connectors added
iii. motor shafts modified and/or gears, pulleys, or sprockets added
iv. motors modified with a filtering capacitor as described in the Blue Box below R63

Blue Box:
Please note that this means that FABRICATED ITEMS from ROBOTS entered in
previous FIRST competitions may not be used on ROBOTS in the 2019 FIRST Robotics
Competition (other than those allowed per R15-B through -D). Before the formal start of
10 ROBOT Construction Rules V14 69 of
the Build Season, teams are encouraged to think as much as they please about their
ROBOTS. They may develop prototypes, create proof-of-concept models, and conduct
design exercises. Teams may gather all the raw stock materials and COTS
COMPONENTS they want.
Example 1: A team designs and builds a two-speed shifting transmission during the fall
as a training exercise. After Kickoff, they utilize all the design principles they learned in
the fall to design their ROBOT. To optimize the transmission design for their ROBOT,
they improve the transmission gear ratios and reduce the size, and build two new
transmissions, and place them on the ROBOT. All parts of this process are permitted
Example 2: A team re-uses a 2019-legal motor from a previous ROBOT which has had
connectors added to the wires. This is permitted, per exception D, because the motor is a
COTS electrical COMPONENT.


R16. Software and mechanical/electrical designs created before Kickoff are only permitted if the source
files (complete information sufficient to produce the design) are available publicly prior to Kickoff.

Blue Box:
Example 1: A team realizes that the transmission designed and built in the fall perfectly
fits their need for a transmission to drive the ROBOT arm. They build an exact copy of
the transmission from the original design plans, and bolt it to the ROBOT. This would be
prohibited, as the transmission – although made during the competition season – was
built from detailed designs developed prior to Kickoff.
Example 2: A team developed an omni-directional drive system for the 2018 competition.
Over the summer of 2018 they refined and improved the control software (written in C++)
to add more precision and capabilities. They decided to use a similar system for the 2019
competition. They copied large sections of unmodified code over into the control software
of the new ROBOT (also written in C++). This would be a violation of the schedule
constraint and is not allowed.
Example 3: The same team decides to use LabVIEW as their software environment for
2019. Following Kickoff, they use the previously-developed C++ code as a reference for
the algorithms and calculations required to implement their omni-directional control
solution. Because they developed new LabVIEW code as they ported over their
algorithms, this is permitted.
Example 4: A different team develops a similar solution during the fall and plans to use
the developed software on their competition ROBOT. After completing the software, they
post it in a generally accessible public forum and make the code available to all teams.
Because they have made their software publicly available before Kickoff, they can use it
on their ROBOT.
Example 5: A team develops a transmission during the fall. After completing the project,
they publish the CAD files on a generally accessible public forum and make them
available to all teams. Because they have made the design publicly available before
Kickoff, they can use the design to create an identical transmission, fabricated after
Kickoff, for use on their 2019 ROBOT.


For the first time ever in FRC, the applicable rules on this are available prior to kickoff! This means we don’t have to deal with the ex post facto problems we’ve faced in the past. Check out R15 here: https://frc-qa.firstinspires.org/manual


I have a question related to this. What happens if a team starts designing a system (drive platform for example), but does not finish by kickoff? They then finish the design during the season. Would they be allowed to use the system on their robot?

Not the parts that were made as thats prefabricated.

Sorry, I didn’t specify what I meant. In this hypothetical scenario, no parts are fabricated before kickoff. Only a partial model is created. Would that change anything?

You have to release the partial model before Kickoff.

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extremely stupid question
By “release” i assume it means publicizing a CAD model of whatever you build? What if your team doesnt CAD?

Take some photos of whatever design you have, with a ruler in frame, and upload them. As long as you get a couple photos/angles of each part and the assembly as a whole then I think that would suffice.

If it’s the physical parts that you’re worried about then know that custom parts fabricated before kickoff aren’t legal to be used in your competition robot (see R15 posted by BSimmons, though there are no rules for a practice bot used purely internally), so you’ll have to remake them come January.


What platform do you use to make the CAD models public?

You can just upload a CAD file to a forum. For example, on CD you can just make a post about the file and upload, and then it is public.

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We use OnShape for our CAD, so by default, everything is public (educational accounts force all documents created to be public) as soon as it’s created, and it can be searched for in their public repository.

Which brings up something that really bothers me about the rule… Yes, our CAD is public. But it’s sitting in a repository with probably hundreds of thousands of other CAD models, and unless you know exactly what search term to use you aren’t going to find it. If a team saw something on our robot last year that they want to copy for this year, it’s going to be next to impossible for them to find the CAD - first, they have to know where to look, second they have to have some idea of what we called it so they can find the project, and third they have to sift through potentially hundreds of results to find the one document that they want.

Yes, it’s public. So yes, we can reuse anything from it we want next year. But that doesn’t really help any other team. I would challenge anyone here to go to OnShape, search the public repo, and find our robot from last year. If you can find it in less than 5 mins, you win a prize!

I don’t think the rules go far enough in making pre-season (or prior-season) CAD useful to everyone. Just making something public really shouldn’t be our baseline - the rule needs to be updated to include easily searchable as well. Honestly, FIRST needs to partner with sites like github and grabcad to create FIRST-specific public repositories for everyone to upload CAN and code to. Doing so could even let them enforce a project/folder naming structure that includes year and team number so that things could be easily found by other teams.


If only there were a way for someone to ask questions and get clarity on this subject. :wink:

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I don’t think it’s a clarity issue, the Q&A wouldn’t help. The rule is clear - files are available publicly prior to kickoff. I’m saying the rule needs to be changed to include more provisions and be more strict, with some additional infrastructure in place. It’s all with an eye towards making the rule useful for teams across FIRST, instead of making it a meaningless loophole for teams to jump through for their own benefit.

The “publicly available” part of the rule was added in 2013. It’s time for us to take the next step in making designs easily accessible.


PSA: Documents in Onshape Education accounts do not default to public. They are private until you share them. Onshape Free for hobbyists and makers does default to public sharing.


Really it was only added in 2013? What was the rule about CAD before that? What was the rule about releasing software before that?

And yeah i completely agree, there should be some expectation of how easily accessible your “public” documents/files are. Setting a rule for that would be hard but maybe FIRST should just officially acknowledge CD as a accepted place for posting (which would in turn expose more teams to CD and the resources available here)

Oldie but a goodie…

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

Beware of the leopard indeed.


Here’s R18 from 2012:

Robot elements designed or created before the Kickoff presentation, including software, are not permitted.

That’s it. Prior year’s CAD, off-season CAD… none of it was allowed.

Interesting, I had no idea that large of a shift happened then. The first year I attempted to do that just happened to be 2013. So teams just had to “rewrite” software and re-do drivetrain CADs year to year even though 90% of it would stay the same? So glad they changed that rule.

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