Inconsistency in RECF Rulings

Hi everyone,

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.

Strategy

Defensive Features

Wedges

  • 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

Skirts

  • Polycarbonate plates (typically angled outwards) that aim to counteract the effects of wedges

Match Play

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.

Timeline

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.

Qualification Match 4

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.

Qualification Match 9

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.

Qualification Match 13

There were no issues this match.

Qualification Match 19

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.

Qualification Match 21

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.

Discussion

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.

Qualification Match 29

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.

Skills

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.

Discussion

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.

Qualification Match 35

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.

Discussion

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.

Qualification Match 39

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.

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.

Driver’s Meeting

At the driver’s meeting, they reiterated that defensive actions resulting in damage would lead to a disqualification.

Quarterfinals

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.

Semifinals

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.

Finals

We lost both matches and no rulings were made, which no one disputed.

Opinions

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.

Links

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.

Comments from Mentor / Registration Sponsor

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.

-Matthew Levis

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I would like to provide some additional information on this conversation, since I was there and @Yuanyang1727G wasn’t.

The EP walked into the room (the only teams present were 2616J, 2145Z, 1267X, and 169E), and told us to be wary of “a certain defense bot” (obviously 1721G). He said that there was going to be a “big announcement” before alliance selection reminding teams that if a team gets DQ’d in elims, their partner would be DQ’d as well, as well as telling the teams that the “certain defense bot” would be DQ’d if they broke any of their fairly arbitrary restrictions. This announcement did not actually end up happening, probably because of:

He then told us that he was split between two options for alliance selection:

  • Drop from the planned 10-alliance elims to 8 alliances
  • Run with 10 alliances but remove the bottom 4 seeds’ ability to decline being picked.

He said that he had to do one of those things because he thought that enough teams would end up denying the “certain defense bot” that it would break Tournament Manager. Fortunately he ended up picking the first option there, since the 2nd one is pretty questionable from the Game Manual’s standpoint.

To the best of my knowledge, none of this information was never divulged to any teams outside of that room, including the plan to make an announcement about the DQ rules in elims (1721G also did not know about this).

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yeah, after reading this it really shows that there needs to be much clearer rules on defense enforcement. also going up to the pits to say to teams that any damage done by team #### will result in an instant dq also seems a little odd since it could just be discussed between the head ref/ep and the team in question. hopefully the RECF takes a look at this

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now i want to build a defense bot

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From what I know of the situation, I think I have to take the side of the referees here. VRC is designed to be an offensive game, and strategies that result in damage to robots are not within the ethos or spirit of the competition. G12 states that

Strategies aimed solely at the destruction, damage, tipping over, or Entanglement of opposing Robots are not part of the ethos of the VEX Robotics Competition and are not allowed. If the tipping, Entanglement, or damage is ruled to be intentional or egregious, the offending Team may be Disqualified from that Match. Repeated offenses could result in Disqualification from the entirety of the competition.

G12 also states that teams should be prepared to encounter defense. A reasonable amount of interaction between robots is reasonable to expect, but it is absolutely not the fault of the team if a drive channel bends due to getting slammed into a goal by a bot purpose-built for the task.

Some people will surely argue that “Oh if you just build your robot well yy’s bot won’t damage yours at all”. I’d like to clear that up now.

Here is a picture that was shared of 1721G’s chassis after the Showcase event.

image

Remember, this robot was purpose-built for ramming and defensive interaction, and after a day of competition, this is what its chassis looked like. Let’s all think back to Physics class for a moment here.
https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/newton3.html#:~:text=His%20third%20law%20states%20that,are%20exerted%20on%20different%20objects

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If 1721G’s chassis (which remember, is designed for this) is looking like this after only one day of matches, just imagine how the chassis of the robots they ran into looked. Especially the ones that weren’t designed for being rammed head-on by another robot.

If I’m being perfectly honest, after the third or fourth “incidental” incident in a match, and especially after you broke the wheel of another team, I don’t think that the advisory to tie up your wedges or run at half speed were unreasonable or inconsistent. They had more than grounds to kick you from the event entirely. You were being thrown a bone, not cruelly and unusually punished.

These are just my two cents based on what I’ve gathered about the situation.

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Here is a picture that was shared of 1721G’s chassis after the Showcase event.

As the person who took this picture, I took it after our first qualification match. I believe it happened on the way to the competition, as the robot was not packed very well for the 2 hour trip. I had noticed the intakes hadn’t been working very well on the practice field, but well at the scrimmage the night before.

just imagine how the chassis of the robots they ran into looked

As I mentioned, 169A’s chassis was fine, as were 2145Z and 2616J’s robots after playing the same level of defense played on all teams.

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I stand corrected on that photograph, but my point still stands. If a simple packing error can cause metal bending on that chassis, just imagine what that robot can do to other robots that don’t have such sturdy frames.

Are there close up pictures of the robot mechanism that were deemed offensive? Also, were the mechanisms designed for interacting with the game objects or other robots?

As for prior Q&A citation, remember they do not carry forward to future seasons. The one cited spoke deeply about not having designs that would enable entangling or disabling a robot - that might apply here.

What was the perspective of the responsible adult for the team that was on-site? Pretty much the perspective of people on forum who were not there can not know all the details of the specific event.

If I were you I would also consider:

Where do you think the multiple complaints from teams at the event were coming from?

What do you think was their cause for alarm?

If you were in their shoes, would you be alarmed?

Those questions should frame why the EP and RECF representative stepped in.

Sorry this was disturbing to you and other teams at the event.

And at the other events you were at, did you get other complaints / warnings / DQs?

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This robot was not designed to break anyone’s robot, simply stop them from scoring by pinning, pushing, descoring. Also, the picture Taran send is out of context. That drive has been ramming for 2 continuous minutes for over 50 matches. If a robot cannot survive 1 minute of bring rammed, it is not built well, and thus should not blame 1721G when parts of the robot bend/break. Defense has always been a part of vex and robots should be designed around expecting defense. Remember, the manual also states that teams should expect to encounter defense.

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Are there close up pictures of the robot mechanism that were deemed offensive? Also, were the mechanisms designed for interacting with the game objects or other robots?

I’m not sure what the first question is asking, but I will answer the second one. The wedges are purely defensive, and are designed to interact with other robots.

As for prior Q&A citation, remember they do not carry forward to future seasons. The one cited spoke deeply about not having designs that would enable entangling or disabling a robot - that might apply here.

Agreed, not trying to argue that it should’ve applied.

What was the perspective of the responsible adult for the team that was on-site? Pretty much the perspective of people on forum who were not there can not know all the details of the specific event.

Our adult on-site chose to remain outside for the duration of the event for reasons similar to why the officially listed mentor chose not to attend at all.

Where do you think the multiple complaints from teams at the event were coming from?
If you were in their shoes, would you be alarmed?

From my perspective, the complaints became teams just looking for ways to win. Tying into the next question, if I were in their situation I would’ve done the same, so no harm there.

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As a team at the tournament, I 100% agree. There were multiple teams there who had sacrificed structural integrity in the name of speed by reducing mass. Thus, when 1721G played them, their robots could essentially not do anything. Instead of sticking it out, I believe that they were looking for ways to blame someone else for their building mistakes. As a 400 rpm drive robot who has played YY 4 times in 4 tournaments, I can confirm you can go fast and still be strong.

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The night before we ran many matches at a scrimmage with many teams and all the matches involving 1721g went very smoothly with no issues. There were no defensive constraints yet all the robots were fine so what does this mean?

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During a December event I attended during tower takeover, my intake chains snapped after encountering heavy defenses from a defense bot that I lent our spare controller to. Later that day, I lost finals because my intake chains snapped again after encountering heavy defenses. I did not blame any of the teams that caused damages to my intake because I know vex chains snap easily and it was my fault to not consider the potential of heavy defense during match play. Instead of blaming a perfectly legal strategy, I made my intake chain connections more robust so that the chains won’t break even if a link is broken. They never snapped again for the rest of the season.

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When you use chain on your robot, you assume the risk of it breaking. Thus, chain breaking is always ruled as incidental and never results in a DQ. The bots in question that bent lacked proper C-channel bracing and thus assumed the risk of bending. Why should this be ruled any differently? This should also be ruled as purely incidental.

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Adding into this, what is preventing teams from spending the time and effort to design and fabricate more robust drivetrains? Even just adding basic diagonal braces and spacer boxed segments is enough to incredibly strengthen your base.

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By the way, I just edited my top comment spot into actual relevant information regarding what happened, so I’d recommend you read that

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Thank you djavaisadog

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If you think about it, you are beating teams in the most frustrating way possible; of course they’re going to complain when you have a dominant off-meta robot.

I just want to say that your team’s robot design is probably my favorite from this season, and so that is one of the reasons why this concerns me so much. Another reason this concerns me is because this has become a noticeable pattern regarding officiating. My favorite part of VRC is watching teams play defense on each other, and of course referees aren’t perfect, but at what point does their judgement become clouded by emotions? I recall that in one of your tournament videos, the referee states “don’t target the same robot”, and your response “Why not?” was perfectly warranted; there was no rule preventing you from “targeting” a certain robot. While it would most certainly be frustrating to play against your team, it is not out of the ordinary that your robot would involuntarily cause damage to others. I mean, heck, my robot loses 1-2 brain ports from static electricity and around 5 screws come loose every tournament. Is it really your fault that damage was sustained in a match against your robot? How do we know that this damage wouldn’t have been sustained even if a different robot played defense on them?

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