Withholding most of your robot? Read this

The rules change this year to allow 45lb of the robot to be withheld has some teams thinking about keeping most of the robot out of the bag.

Is your team thinking about this? There are a couple rules you should read and consider:

First, read rule R1, which defines ROBOT.


Then read rule R18, which specified what and how much can be withheld from the bag:


Then read the rules on Bag and Tag:


Now think about this. You are at the entrance to your event, talking to a robot inspector about what is in the bag and what is in your 45lb box. Can you justify it against the rules above? In particular, can you argue that what’s in the bag meets the intent of R1?

Yes I can, and the intent of R1 is at the digression of the one who builds the robot. A box on wheels in the bag is enough to meet the constraints of R1.

I’ll say this much though, As a student member in the past when I was on another team we never withheld much at all. If anything. This year with the almost full week of classes and robotics that we’ve missed because of the most devastating ice storm in South Carolina since the 1980’s…we’ll be taking full advantage of the withholding with my rookie team.

This concern was fully resolved by [Team Update 2014-02-11](http://frc-manual.usfirst.org/Updates/0#term 162):

The original intent of the 45 lb FABRICATED ITEMS allowance granted to Teams via R18 was to allow Teams the opportunity to keep a part of their ROBOT out of the bag for further development. However, because of the definition of ROBOT and the term’s use in R15, Teams were not allowed to keep a required ROBOT system (e.g. mobility, control, etc.) out of the bag. R15 and R18 have been updated to better capture the original intent.

Just to say it, We had kept the mother board including crio out last year and there was a good bit of trouble over it.


All ROBOT elements, with the exception of those withheld per R18 (including items intended for use during the competition in alternative configurations of the ROBOT) must be bagged or crated (as appropriate for your event), and out of Team hands by the end of Stop Build Day, February 18, 2014 (refer to the FRC Administrative Manual, Section 5 for more details).

This rule, which is what the inspectors should be inspecting to with regards to what’s in the bag, does not state that a ROBOT has to be bagged - simply that ROBOT elements that are not withheld per R18 have to be bagged. If you can withhold everything and still be under 45 lbs, then you can bring in an empty bag and meet this requirement.

I was one of the most vocal people pointing out this issue a week or two ago (At the time, the wording was such that you had to bag something that met the definition of a ROBOT). The GDC added the clarification in update 2-11 that made it legal to withhold and combination of parts (including a whole robot), so long as that combination is under 45 lbs.

For the past 6 years, we have built twins (competition bot and practice bot). We always bag (or ship) the drive base, and withhold whatever the manipulator is (or at least whatever parts fit within the withholding allowance). The reason is to save money. Most of the expensive or hard to machine parts end up on the manipulator. Not having to build two of them is a plus for us since we are not that well funded.

I don’t have a problem with this, as I believe that it is within the spirit of, and in fact, is the purpose of, the withholding allowance.

Why even have stop build day? It doesn’t stop experienced teams who waste money and resources building 2 robots, and as evidenced by the logic behind this thread and other “withhold the entire robot” posts, most people are experienced at finding the loop holes on the date.

It was fine when we had to ship. It’s useless now.

Who gave you trouble about that? We withheld our entire electronics board and shooter last year, bagging up the chassis and frame + climber on stop build, and after our first event. No troubles over that for us.

Except that even when there was a ship date, in a fancy crate, to an undisclosed location, there were still teams that had two robots and/or constructed and tested entirely new assemblies to incorporate at their first regional event.

The only thing that is unique this year is that it was upped to 45 lbs.

I meant that to the effect of: We had to ship our robots and therefore needed a uniform date. The robot then left our possession and so it wouldn’t be possible to keep working on it. Now that the robot stays in our possession for weeks, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be allowed to work on it.

I mean we’re working on its twin for the weeks up to regional. All FIRST is doing is making us spend twice as much money to stay competitive.

Define “stay competitive”. There are literally thousands of teams out there that don’t build two robots, and many of them are still competitive. Over the past 7 years, my team has made it to elims every single year - winners once, finalists 3 times, semifinalists 3 times, and quarter finalists 4 times. There were only two events we didn’t make it to the elims at. I would say we’re competitive, yet we’ve never built a second robot.

FIRST needs a stop build day because there are still teams out there that have to ship their robot to their competition. Simply put, they live too far away from an existing regional to make transportation for a robot practical. Is it fair for those teams to loose out on one or more weeks of working on their robot?

I think its fair to say that there are many mechanisms within FIRST in which more money can help with success. Larger teams can be more successful than smaller teams, and they cost more to feed/clothe/travel with. Going to more regionals increases your competitiveness, but can drastically increase your annual budget requirements. And yes, as you mention, building two robots costs more… but you also get to give students even more hands on time assembling and testing. Most teams will have some form of a constraint to work around, whether it is financial, build space access, number of mentors, commitment of students, parent/teacher support, etc. Should we not cap all of these things as well, so a team doesn’t have an advantage because they have 10 engineers working as mentors while another team has 2?

I know it isn’t 100% fair that teams with more money can be more successful, but in order to implement “balancing” you essentially end up capping the amount that can be donated to a team. If a larger sponsor or larger team is able to support the additional cost, and inspire students in the process, I don’t see a reason to artificially limit teams for the sake of fairness. There are already a number of “KOP” style competitions that cater to those seeking a pure technical challenge where the goal is to build the best product you can out of a very limited number of parts, with limited input from adults. They fill a role, but the intent is different than the mission of FIRST.


You are making the same mistake that most non-practice-robot people make. Building a second robot is not easy (my team builds one)! Not only do we have to fabricate, assemble, and wire double the number of parts, we also can’t use quick fixes to problems. The reason for this is that just slapping a piece of tape or something on a problematic mechanism isn’t repeatable, your practice robot won’t function the same as your competition robot if you’re not really careful. It forces you to build better robots from the start.
My team has the time, knowledge, budget, build space, and manpower to build two robots and we use every last drop of our resources to make it happen. By the end of the build season we have earned that second robot. A practice robot is not an unfair advantage as many seem to think.

We would need to see statistics on the percentage of robots at championships that build 2nd robots to know one way or the other. My bet is that every team on Einstein does. There are teams that are too far to bring their robot, but have the capability to bring 45 pounds of extra parts, all of their tools, and COTS parts to a regional? I’d be curious as to how that is possible. If not then is it fair to allow anyone to bring that stuff?

I think you misinterpret my tone and purpose. Capping money, or limitations on it isn’t the problem at all. Wasting it is. If everyone is going to build two why make teams waste that money. Let them use that couple of thousand on attending another regional. One of the biggest reasons for the district model is to allow teams multiple events. Students would learn more from attending two regionals and iterating their design between them, than refabricating a second bot.

We build a second robot. I also did not claim it was an unfair advantage. If youll read my post its about what the POINT of all of that is. Sure it “forces you to build a better robot”, but so does have the extra time to develop and iterate. Why should you waste all of your resources duplicating what you have already and not instead putting them to better use?

I have always viewed this as more of a 10K race kind of thing. Lots of competitors, but few with a real chance of winning the top spot. While competing & winning is important. It really is not the most important thing. You need to define success in terms of your own team. If you feel otherwise, you are certainly welcome to your opinion.

On the other side of this bag & tag thing. You can bag the uncompleted heavier elements of your robot & withhold the pieces that need the most work to make the most of your 45 lbs.

Aaaand now we’re back here:

Didn’t mean to derail. Thanks for linking the thread.

For us the allowance means we can make a practice bot for the first time. That’s twice the time learning how to better manage our production process, twice the time for our 75% rookie team to get more practice in the machine shop, twice the time for our %100 rookie programming team to debug, streamline, & try new methods, and any time for our rookie driver to practice. What’s so bad about that?

Furthermore it gives us more time to show our sponsors and potential sponsors what we do and what we are capable of. On a larger scale it can mean more teams becoming more competitive this year, which means more exciting matches and that much better of a spectator sport.

Sorry about that, I think I did misunderstand your intent as “this isn’t fair” versus “what is the point”. I can see the argument for allowing build to continue through the regionals. If your only regional is a later regional, it is likely the better teams have already attended more events to iterate their design, and you are at a disadvantage because of less time to hone the design. I don’t see how it would detract from the intent of FIRST to allow even more time to hone the design. I also don’t think it would be terribly unbalancing to allow free build through week 6 of events.

However, I do think 6 weeks is already a good balance between enough time to create a very capable robot, and avoiding catastrophic impact to work/personal life. Six weeks of working the bare minimum at work and very little family time (~10% of the year) is already a strain, though one my boss and wife understand. If I tried to do that for 3 months a year, it might reach a breaking point. For that reason, I support the stop build, and I look forward to sleeping tomorrow night :wink: