On April 24th, my team, 1721G, competed at the Mid Atlantic Showcase event. We are primarily a defensive robot, and our strategy involves descoring goals and slowing down the offensive power of more conventional “meta” design robots. While most of the rulings and controversy surrounding this relate to our defensive strategy, we understood when building the robot that there were risks involved (i.e. G12). The goal of this post is to clarify specific interactions between RECF, the event staff, and competitors.
- HS axles cut down to around 4” and drilled so that they can pivot on a screw
- When playing defense on another robot, wedges decrease their traction, improving the effectiveness over a flat surface
- Q&A from In the Zone
- Polycarbonate plates (typically angled outwards) that aim to counteract the effects of wedges
When we approached Change Up, we saw the value of the autonomous bonus and determined that attaining that bonus was almost a guaranteed win. The opponents could even be given a row and that would only match the value of the autonomous bonus. This meant that a strategy of descoring all the goals was extremely powerful and when coupled with defense would be highly competitive. This can be seen in 9364B, a robot with a similar design that omits the defensive aspect, making it to the Tennessee state championship finals by purely descoring goals.
Below is a timeline of the events of this competition, told mostly from my perspective. It is accompanied by certain actions that can only be described by other teams at the event, and those are indicated if applicable.
During the match, there was an entanglement between their intake wheels and a rubber band that helped filter balls out of our robot, and this was determined to be incidental and thus no ruling was issued.
After the match, 63857A found that the rollers on their omni wheels had come off as a result of our defense (G12). In our discussion with the referees, I agreed that this was solely my fault, and was issued a warning. This could have been a DQ per the referee’s discretion, which I would’ve been okay with. Here, it was first recommended that we remove the wedges.
There were no issues this match.
Seen at around 1:49 in the video of this match, 2011A’s right intake chain run snapped when I pushed them from the left side into the wall, causing an impact on the right side. The referees determined this to be incidental, and no ruling was issued.
169E Discussion (from their perspective)
At this time, I was told that there were multiple incidents with 1721G and that there were no incidents with me. The representative came to me asking about strategy with them and I explained that they were for decreasing opponents traction and not destroying other robots. They said that since 1721g was already given a warning, they recommended that 1721G take off the spikes, but the referee said that he has never heard of something like that before. I told the referees to tell 1721G to drive more carefully (bc i had no issues with it) and that they should be able to use their spikes as long as they take the risk of accidentally destroying other robots, and the refs agreed.
In the match recordings I provided below, you can hear an audience member around 15 seconds into the video saying something along the lines of “pushing 2 robots at a time.” Just wanted to clarify that this is completely legal. It can be seen in a famous clip of 62A.
At this discussion, the RECF representative brought up that they had received multiple complaints from other teams about damage. We were told to keep our wedges up, as they were a feature that directly created situations of entrapment. The ruling here made sense when explained by the referee, and could make for an interesting Q&A at some point. Essentially the wedges fully control the movement of the other robot, and as such trapping can be counted even when in the middle of the field.
The wedges were secured up by zip ties in this match based on the recommendation of the RECF representative. 4610S’s left intake chain run snapped at a goal when I pushed them from the back right corner of their robot. The referees determined this to be incidental, and no ruling was issued.
During our 2nd driver skills run (a video is in the album), we disconnected from the field at around 21 seconds into the video. The event staff unplugged my controller and then allowed me to finish the run. I was given the option to keep the score I had gotten this run, and then was asked how many more runs I would like to do for the rest of the event. We did not particularly care about doing well in skills, so we only asked for one more run.
At this discussion, the RECF representative once again brought up that they had received multiple complaints from other teams about damage. Despite our wedges being up, they ruled that driving across the field at full speed was not okay. We were recommended not to run into teams at full speed, and to show clear intent of this, to run the drive at half speed or less when near other robots on the field. This ruling is impossible to enforce, and cannot be supported by any rule from the game manual. We were also told that any damage on opponent robots would be assumed to be a result of our defense, and disqualifications would be issued for damage.
Based on the discussion, we chose not to play any defense, opting to spin at full speed when there were no elements on the field that we could interact with. There were no issues this match.
Call With RECF Representative
Having been told by many of the top seeds that they were no longer considering us for alliance selection (reasoning explained later), we feared our chances at success were jeopardized. We connected with our mentor, who was able to contact the RECF representative directly and shed some light on their perspective. The representative said that our team had been an ongoing issue since 10 AM, and they had received more complaints about us than any other team at any other event. They also reiterated that we were breaking RECF event ethos, which they had mentioned independently to us in earlier discussions. With 3 to 4 robots being broken, they no longer considered the situation to be incidental. Additional notes from our mentor are attached below.
After having our mentor call the RECF representative, they pulled back on their rulings, and told us that they did not want to treat teams differently. The speed limits were no longer in effect and now only damage could result in a disqualification.
This match went similar to the previous one, no issues here. We chose to once again spin when there was nothing else to do, as this would completely avoid being penalized by the rulings made in the discussion.
EP Announcement (from the perspective of other competitors)
The EP walked into some of the pits prior to Alliance Selection claiming that any damage done by 1721G would lead to a DQ. This ruling may have impacted the alliance selection.
In alliance selection, first seed 20164T picked down the rankings, being declined by 2nd through 7th seed. We were 4th seed, and they did not even try to pick us. We were told that 2 teams in the top 3 seeds wanted to pick us but pulled back after the aforementioned announcement by the EP in the pits. If I were in the position of another competitor, I would have also considered myself to be a risky pick due to the uncertainty of rulings involving us.
At the driver’s meeting, they reiterated that defensive actions resulting in damage would lead to a disqualification.
In our quarterfinals match, we chose to run the wedges up as we believed this to be a fairly safe win and did not want to risk the disqualification. No issues were raised by the referees.
Knowing our opponents from previous events, we trusted that their robot would not withstand any damage. Note that in effect the rulings made by the representative punished teams with good build quality. As such, we ran the wedges down and played defense on that team. During the match, the zipties securing their intake elastics snapped, and they struggled some to intake. This was determined by the referees to be incidental, and no calls were made. This is inconsistent with the latest rulings at the time, made in the driver’s meeting. However, both alliances believed this to be the correct call, all things considered.
We lost both matches and no rulings were made, which no one disputed.
The inconsistency in the RECF representative’s rulings represent a concern with how decision making is handled at events and what the chain of authority looks like. Rulings shifted over the course of the event. Decisions that resulted in a disqualification in previous events, such as constantly ramming back and forth on a team, were also ruled to be legal for other teams.
From start to finish, our interactions with the RECF created the impression that we were not welcome at the event, and they were looking for ways to disqualify us from the event, pressured by coaches from less defense heavy regions. At one point, we were asked if we had a guardian with us, which did not happen to any other teams. By the end of the event, the rulings were made in a way that us and other competitors agreed was correct, but the effects of the mid-day decisions had already impacted the alliance selection process.
This link contains all recordings of our matches and skills runs, taken by a team member. Links to individual recordings are included in the timeline.
This link is the official livestream of the event, and can be used as a secondary point of view of all of our recordings if needed.
The description above is a fairly good synopsis of my call with our regional representative from the REC Foundation who was present at the event. I originally called because I heard some things from the team regarding some things that had been said about them, both from event staff and from event staff talking to other teams. I indicated that we could try to work with them on finding ways to mitigate intentional damage to other robots, but was still very concerned with the language around our team and the inconsistency in rules. I think we reached a good understanding on what the RECF representative felt about the situation, to help reinforce how 1721G could proceed at the event. However, I found the event ethos and other comments very disconcerting, when coupled with specific quotes said by select team mentors and event staff directed in an extremely negative way towards our team. It makes it particularly difficult for our parent organization to supply full event referee staffing at future events under RECF in Maryland as we typically do, with some of the unproductive comments made.
I also did not personally attend these events due to the covid risk in combination with my work being much more strict about covid risk, and after seeing some of the EXTREMELY relaxed covid precautions taken and lack of mask enforcement by event staff I do not regret this decision.