What Can We Do (As a team) to Make Inspection Easier for RI's and LRI's?

The inspection process is a team effort between the RI (and LRI if need be) and the robotics team which should include the students and adults. It is the robotics team’s time so show off all of the really cool hard work they accomplished to an RI that really wants to know about it. Part of being a good mentor is knowing when to take a step back and let the students shine in their moment and when to take a small step forward and lend that guiding mentor hand when the students need it. Part of being a good RI is knowing how to effectively listen to those students when they want to describe all their hard work and when to gently prod and guide them to the information you are in need of when they aren’t so sure. This is part of the inspection process. It’s part of the inspiration. It’s a give and take of information between a team of people working diligently to make sure the robot is ready to hit the competition field. Mentors shouldn’t be answering all the RI’s questions. The RI shouldn’t be directing all their questions to the mentors. The adults should be working together to create a positive learning experience all around for the students. It should be just the same when the yellow hats leave the pit and the blue shirts step in.


I’m sorry. The inspection process is not a celebration… it is a gate. The gate stands between your team and the playing field. If you’re able to say the magic words, the gate opens.

Our shop is open year-round… we’d love to have RIs swing by during the offseason for tech deep-dives and inspirational mind-melds with students and mentors.


It should be just the same when the yellow hats leave the pit and the blue shirts step in.

Strongly disagree. The inspection process is a time where the students typically are all business and under a lot of pressure to get the robot as ready as possible quickly. Treating them like a novelty during a time when they’re trying to focus on direct productivity seems weird IMO and is just asking for frustration even if you’re doing your best to try being gentle and considerate (e.g. making the students feel like they’re being judged or being condescended-to, on top of the pressure to get the robot through inspections so they can get back to work on it).


Nate that is certainly one way to view the inspection process. One of the things a good RI needs to be able to do is recognize that, as you say, the sticker is the golden ticket to the the playground and time is of the essence. However, I’m not sure what I’m saying about the process being an opportunity for the adults (mentors and RIs) to be wholly inclusive with the students and make a positive impression on the them has to be mutually exclusive to your gateway analogy. I don’t expect the inspection process to be a celebration but it shouldn’t be an interrogation process either where the students or adults feel their work isn’t valued and the RI is there just to checkoff some boxes.



The Robot Inspector (RI) for FIRST Robotics Competition is a key volunteer position. Robot Inspectors perform mandatory robot inspections, including weight and size, to ensure compliance with robot rules. They determine inspection outcome decisions (pass/fail) and work under the directions of the Lead Robot Inspector. The RI provides technical support to teams to help to resolve issues with their robots. This is a physically active role.

From the Volunteer page for an RI. These are at odds quite a bit, given that for most teams, the inspiration happens on the field, not in the pit. The robot may be a bonfire to gather around, but… it’s also one you’re acting as fire marshal for, to stretch the analogy even more thin.

The word “Inspiration” occurs only once on the volunteer resources page for RI/LRI. In the footer of the page where it says “FIRST”. It’s in everyone’s volunteer resources training, but it’s not the piece that makes inspectors a special role.

More than anything I agree, which is why this is important to me to respond to granularly. Inspectors are the robotics equivalent of the police, or taking your car to inspection. You dread getting pulled over, and you want to get in and out of inspection to get back to the rest of your life asap.

The inspiration happens when the rules are met, and everyone hits the same bar in theory, but compassionate inspecting is recognizing that it’s still a barrier and it’s intended to be one. Of course people will do any song and dance you ask for.

If the goal is for the role of inspectors to be anything other than as written in the sense of an authority figure in the team experience, it should be in the manual (ie a blue box that says teams can request an LRI if their RI doesn’t adequately meet their needs), and on the volunteer resources pages as well. Leave no room for people who don’t believe in making it for the kids room to get out of it.



I understand, I really do. So much that I wrote a detailed post addressing this issue (and other) last year: Dear LRIs & RIs, please read

Let’s please not start that all over again. The inspection teams job is first and foremost is to work with the team (students and adults) to get the robot through inspections as expediently as possible. What I was trying to say was that process can involve adult mentors when needed but should include students when possible. The same as when the blue shirts step in.


I apologize if I’m misreading your tone here, but it sounds very adversarial. The inspection is a gate, but it’s one we figure we are not going to have any trouble walking through. So, yes, for our students the sticker is a celebration of sorts (and they love talking about their robot to anyone who shows up in the pits, hats, no hats, shirts, no… ok, please wear some shirt).


I suspect the point Nate was trying to make (and that I failed to make) is that isn’t something newer teams or new mentors to the program will necessarily know since it’s not inherently documented as it’s executed (or executed as written, depending on perspective) The escalation pathway, assuming good intent, etc.


To prepare my students last year, I played the role “Very Thorough and Annoying Inspector.” Basically I made them “prove” almost every item. I prefaced with, “Hey I’m doing this annoying thing on purpose” and debriefed with “It’s unlikely you will get that character as an inspector but I want you prepared.”

It helped on a few fronts:
a) We ID’d any potential issues (such as Main Breaker Placement) and how to talk about them if it is an issue (we placed it there because it gives as much access as possible without being exposed for accidental contact).
b) The students were prepared to demonstrate any line item asked of them. This was especially helpful for things like wire gauge and using the appropriate fuse (breaker? idk the term).
c) I used it as a chance to talk about what behaviors from volunteers are not okay and what we do if we run into an Excited Volunteer*.

It was especially helpful last year as we had a huge loss of competition-experienced students.

*Excited Volunteer: They are very excited to help and volunteer. They want to do their job as best as possible. Sometimes they get a little blinded by their excitement and say or do things that may feel very relevant to their job but miss the bigger picture. I think most people who volunteer were excited volunteers at some point in time - I remember my first time as a queuer for FTC… oof.


I yearn for the days when this is not necessary.


You’re right and that’s exactly how it should be if you’re robot is legal. However there’s evidence from past threads that this hasn’t always been the case and that teams have felt trapped by inspectors (who may not even mean bad) going beyond the “if this legal then move on”. In some instances that’s meant missed practice matches and missed actual matches which isn’t very inspiring at all imo. Especially when you’re paying thousands of dollars to compete.

I can understand getting a little adversarial about it. Frankly, it made me pretty angry in the past reading some people’s accounts of their robots being held hostage.

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This is absolutely key. We’ve walked through the rules and inspection checklist many times by ourselves before we ever set foot in a competition (starting with during CAD-time – far better to point out “that intake isn’t inside the frame perimeter” during a CAD review than after it is built, assembled, and attached to the drivebase, let alone be surprised by that during an inspection).


How did you get from “step out of the pit” to get lost, I don’t want you around? Step out of the pit is just that, step into the aisle, I will call you over when I need you.
There is a paragraph in the rules Section 10, “At the team’s discretion, they may request a different INSPECTOR or invite the Lead ROBOT INSPECTOR to participate in their ROBOT’S inspection.”


You know exactly how I got there. It happened to me. Do you want me to pull out the receipts?


Hey, this post has gotten off topic. Yes, mentors can step in too much, and things have happened with RI’s and LRI’s. However, this is not a thread about that. Can we focus on what we can do as team members, please? I love the ideas so far, keep them coming! :smiley:

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Al and I wrote a couple of blog posts earlier this year that sort of align with this thread and may be worth revisiting:

Inspection Reflection: Part 1 and Part 2


I am also curious why the request for the mentor to step out of the pits. As far as I can tell In the rules there is only a stipulation that there is at least one student present. There is no indication that they must be the ones interacting with the inspector.

I understand that this program is to teach and inspire students and I think students interacting and describing how their robots work with inspectors is a great learning experience and can teach valuable skills so I encourage it, but if the students are intimidated and not comfortable interacting there is no rule that says that they must as far as I know and I don’t think an inspector should require that a student be the one they interact with.

There are specific rules regarding discussion with the head referee, but only the requirement of being present for the inspector.

Edit: added quote for clarity on my question


To be fair, the title of the thread is not “what are we required to do for inspection?”


I didn’t say ‘mentor’ I said “everyone else”. In most pits with a robot and two students, the pit becomes terribly crowded. We take enough heat over inspections taking a long time. If an inspector has to constantly walk around people that are not needed, the time adds up. Only one student is needed, but two students can cover most questions about the robot and get it tethered and powered.


Thanks for clarifying. I agree more than a few people in the pits can make them crowded.

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