What Robot Rules should be changed?

In the LRI thread Al mentioned that if people advocated for certain rules to be changed FIRST would be willing to consider it. Now that the season is over I would like for us to discuss those rules and see what people think would be worth asking FIRST to take another look at. Specifically I’m asking about Robot Rules, as those tend to stay the same between year to year.

Please also consider this thread an opportunity to discuss positive changes to rules this year and things you found to be particularly helpful.

I particularly liked how bumpers this year were close to the ground, as this enabled teams that were dragging fabric to not be in violation. One thing I would love to see is FIRST completely integrate bumpers and not require that they be easily removed, and instead only mandate that the team be able to easily display their alliance color. Personally I would love to see FIRST go back to the spinning lights from 2000, but the main reason I ask that the requirement that bumpers be removable is to make things easier for inspectors and teams. If it were up to me I would eliminate R25 entirely, as there already is a penalty for not swapping our your bumpers at the game level.

I would change R31 to allow a minimum gap between the bumper and corners of the frame (1/4"). I ran into a lot of teams this year that had corners that had gaps in them due to wear and tear on the robot, or simply misalignment. R29G would still ensure rigid connection to the frame.

I would change R32 to remove “select automotive motors” due to how subjective that definition is. Either specify particular models, or specify particular characteristics that must be met to be an approved motor.

I would like to see R37 changed so that small batteries would be permitted to power custom circuits, in the same way that COTS computing devices or self-contained cameras are already permitted to have integral batteries. I don’t see a problem, for example, with permitting a team to tape a flashlight to their robot so long as it’s properly secured.

I would like to see R38 updated so that it explicitly states that alligator-style clamps are not permitted, and that “installed” means that the Anderson SB connector is physically wired to the charging leads.

I don’t particularly see a value in R85, particularly given how the pneumatic control system was never intended to be disassembled and reassembled.

I would like to see a rule that explicitly requires that pneumatic storage tanks be securely mounted, using wording similar to bumpers. Something like “Pneumatic storage components must attach to the the ROBOT with a rigid fastening system to form a tight, robust connection to the main structure/frame (e.g. not attached with hook-and-loop, tape, or tie-wraps). The attachment system must be designed to withstand vigorous game play.”

Field Elements
While technically not part of the Robot Rules, I would like to see FIRST HQ reconsider allowing teams to create field elements that require inspection.

What would you guys like the see FRC address?

What part of R85? It’s actually pretty easy to add and remove the compressor by juts having some sort of breakout for the compressor power outside the robot and then plugging in a hose from the compressor into a push fitting on the relief valve.

On topic, I think that it may be beneficial to allow another type of H-bridge relay, since Spikes aren’t being made anymore. The main problem is getting a supplier to make a new one.

Personally, I would like to see bumpers not require red and blue capabilities and remove the team numbers. Let teams make their bumpers whatever color they want and define another way to show alliance color and team number (below). As it is, bumper covers come off too often, flip bumpers often have issues showing some of the wrong color, and team numbers get beat up over the course of the season. By moving the color and team number to a part of the robot that is NOT intended to interact with other robots, you remove a lot of those issues.

To replace the color/team number, require a rectangle of the alliance color (provide specific dimensions) with the team numbers on it in white (given the height and stroke width we’ve had in the past). You have to be able to swap between them, you have to have one of these boxes visible from each side of the robot. It would be so easy, on most robots, to affix a plate to the side with some velcro or thumb screws, and then swap as needed. This would also let us more easily integrate bumpers permanently and remove the requirement that they be removable and weighed separately. Inspecting the sizes with the bumpers on this year went pretty well, I would support keeping that around. Just give us a robot weight of 140lbs and have the bumpers included.

I support having bumpers show the alliance color. (As a driver) in the “heat” of the match, just seeing a giant red/blue bumper around another robot letting you know if the are friendly or not is super easy/helpful, and doesn’t require you to have to actively try to figure out what alliance that robot is on.

Plus it also looks cool as a match spectator to see red bumpers vs blue bumpers going against each other, because the bumpers are basically the “uniforms” of the two alliances.

I think your idea has a lot of merit. As a possible counter point:

One of the benefits of having bumper weight and bumper sizing separate rom the other robot parameters is that it does not incentivize cutting corners on the bumpers. IE weight, or stretching tight or… With bumpers part of the sizing, I had several teams that were running KOP Chassis where they cut the cross piece at 29". Then the frame sides actually bolted up about 0.1875" outside of the front cross edges, and of course with 0.25" bolt heads, the robot was suddenly between 29.375" and 29.875". With bumpers that are nominally supposed to be no less than 3.25" wide, I had several teams about 0.25" over. This was frustrating for them and me as we remade bumpers, and did pockets and… I had a different team show up with a 31" wide robot frame that fit inside the 36" dimension… Squishy parts in sizing tend to lead to squishy situations.
I would be concerned of a similar item happening with the weight being integral.

I did like that bumpers could go to the ground this year. Once I straightened out a couple head refs, I got a lot less complaints about saggy bumpers which was nice.

I too would like a provision for back-up battery for computing devices. I had a few questions in the build season about legal means of powr a computing device. One of my favorite questions was what constitutes a “computing device”? IE does a battery that can compute/convey its own state of charge count as a Computing device?
I think there is some opportunity to tweak that rule to allow for some flexibility there.

135 lbs without the battery would be realistic, IMO.

A well built bumper set using good plywood usually weighs about 10 to 13 lb. Add 15 for the battery and we’re just under 150 lb.

OK - how would this impact the robot weight limit? In “normal” years, Frame perimeter?

I very strongly dislike this idea
Since 2009, it has been very easy to tell which robot is apart of which alliance.

The rotating light has an easily cracked plastic cover to change the color. For those of us around long enough, there is a very strong hatred for that light.

When FRC went to the 3v3 format in 2005, the team color indicator was a simple flashing LED square, but other than the color tetra the robot was carrying it was very difficult for a casual observer to tell which side robots were on. In 2006, there were flags but visually it wasn’t easy. In 2007, the flags interfered with the game (woe to the robot that had a tube accidentally hooked on their flag, they were essentially disabled the rest of the match).
2008 was even more difficult to tell which side was which, since there were fewer game pieces than robots.

Believe me - bumpers are a very good solution to alliance colors.

Allow any number of unmodified 5v USB batteries (with an overall mAh limit if you must) to power custom circuits, COTS electronics, etc. All connections must be done with the stock USB plug and stock USB cables so we don’t have to inspect any wiring of modified batteries or any of that mess.

A relay should be allowed that isn’t the Spike, since the Spike isn’t COTS anymore. It’s basically saying only old teams get to use PWM relays.

I like the bumper rules as they are, more or less. The color on bumpers thing really does make a huge difference in audience being able to identify the alliance, and the standard place for robot numbers helps too. Maybe a bit more flexibility in additional graphics on the bumpers.

The limit on CIMs is obsolete. No need for that, it doesn’t really serve a purpose. The weight limit is your limit on CIMs.

I’m sure I will have more in mind.

Unpopular Opinion:

Lower weight limit without bumpers to 100lbs.

Lower max frame perimeter from 110 to 96 inches.

Legal Motors - Remove automotive motors.

COTS battery pack for onboard computing. 5000mAh USB battery pack max?

The first two let us move to 4v4 on the field (driver station is another issue but not robot rules) which will resolve, in the short term some of the growing pains of going to Districts for regions like Texas, MN, and California by allowing events to scale to 54 teams.

#3 is simply a quality of life improvement by removing a thing most people don’t use.

#4 is to make it easier for teams to do cool stuff with different processors.

I wouldn’t mind seeing bumpers grow to 8.5" tall instead of 5", depending on the game. Increasing protection, at least as an option (choose either 5" or 8.5") without increasing the robot perimeter might be nice. It would also improve visibility of team numbers, I think. I don’t think that removing the team numbers to another part of the robot, or adding more graphic options, or changing the red/blue color scheme, is a good idea.

Isn’t R15 a robot rule? Bag and Tag has become the equivalent of safety theater. I’d rather people be safe fer reals than walk around screaming “robot!” or handing out a chemical spill kit. I’d rather we stop pretending that some teams aren’t continuing to develop solutions after bag and tag; I’d rather that teams who can only afford one robot be allowed to stay competitive with teams that currently build identical practice robots. Not that my team doesn’t do those things, too; I just hate seeing my compatriots at other local teams not have the option to make themselves competitive if they choose to invest the time, even if they don’t have the money.

This is a tough problem to solve. I would be interested in your potential solutions? I have thought about this issue a lot, and it’s tricky.

Not opposed to the idea but just wondering why you would like to see this change?

Combination of reasons - the lower max size being the obvious one. But it also comes into play with lowering the kinetic energy of impacts and will make teams really debate “is that 6th CIM worth it” 16% of your weight budget into drive motors is a hard sell. And it’s a sell I’d really like to make teams think about.

It also helps alleviate some of the current draw issues folks have been having.

Really, it lowers the energy of the robots and after seeing some of the huge hits that might be a good idea.

Has my vote. I spoke to Al about this… not sure what/if anything will change.

I’d like to see the COTS cost limit increased to $500 or $600 per individual part to just keep pace with inflation.

I would rather bumpers get inspected less on the basis of “do they fit within the allowed dimensions?” Sure, there is a degree of importance in dimension assessment, such as making sure they are not too thin or wide, if they are secure, cover corners, and cover the minimum length (6-8").
But as an example of what I would consider an arbitrary rule, at North Star, we failed bumper inspection initially because our reversible bumpers, when flipped to one color, was above the 7 inch limit because the thick fabric we used would add a quarter inch or two in height (we raised our intake side bumpers to the max height to allow gears to fit under our bumper and increase our intake size). The fact that one insignificant part that has little to do with the bumper’s primary functionality kept us from passing initial inspection was fairly aggravating.

I just don’t see the reason to place many limits beyond the necessities. The bumper’s purpose is to protect the robot, and I feel that if it a team desires protection in a certain spot, barring a few locations that may violate other rules, bumpers should be allowed there.


I’d really like looser rules on bumpers. Require that they exist, because they’re infinitely more helpful to knowing who is who, but with certain maximum properties (such as weight, sizing, etc). Let teams choose how they implement them, for example if I don’t want a bumper in a specific location, don’t require me to have 6 inches of bumper in that location per side. If I want my bumpers to be thinner, let me make them thinner. If I end up causing damage to the field or to another robot because of my choice to deviate from the standard, penalize me for doing so, but let me make that choice.

Also, I’d love to see the return of the big robots. Big robots + open field is a really fun combination to see. The more we decrease our size the closer we come to FTC senior (though FTC is already becoming FRC Jr.).

R96 should be changed to permit the open source QDriverStation as well, or possibly kill the NI driver station entirely. This is basically a win-win situation for FIRST and teams, since now they don’t have to buy Windows for all the KoP computers, and teams can now use a driver station that’s entirely free and can be contributed to.

Explicitly allow static IP addresses in the rules.

The loading zone rule should absolutely be eased up on. Getting hit into the loading zone shouldn’t count as 25 penalty points, but if the robot is already in the zone and gets hit, that’s fair.