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Official Q&A: VRC 2023-2024: Over Under

Usage Guidelines All Questions

[Official GDC Q&A Post] How do I judge if a Match Load maneuver is unsafe?

Grant Cox


<SG6> Match Load Triballs may be safely introduced during the Match under certain conditions. For the purpose of this rule, “introduce” refers to the moment when a Match Load Triball is no longer in contact with a human and has crossed the plane of the field perimeter.

During this action, a Drive Team Member’s hand may temporarily break the plane of the field perimeter. This momentary interaction is an exception to rule <G9>. Excessive, unnecessary, or unsafe actions while introducing a Match Load may be considered a Violation of <S1> and/or <G1> at the Head Referee’s discretion.

There have been reports of confusion regarding how to determine if a given Match Load maneuver is excessive, unnecessary, or unsafe. This post will provide some guidelines and best practices that should help Teams and Head Referees evaluate these scenarios at an event.

Answered by committee

Generally speaking, our intent for SG6 has always been to encourage creative/unusual strategies. We want this rule to be as much “anything goes” as possible, within two bounds:

  1. Avoid irresponsibly unsafe actions.
  2. “Robots play the game, not humans.”

This Q&A post will be discussing point 1. Information regarding Point 2 can be found in this related Q&A post.

First, please see this previous Q&A for some initial background:

If a Team chooses to compete with a design or strategy that could risk being considered unsafe, they should be prepared to demonstrate any safety precautions or considerations that have been taken, such as during inspection or a practice match. We would encourage Head Referees and Event Partners to take these conversations seriously, and provide Teams with some degree of "benefit of the doubt" when it comes to their own Robots.

With that being said, there is a limit to that consideration, and Teams should also be prepared for the possibility that a Head Referee will not agree that their precautions are sufficient.

This sentiment still represents our intent for SG6/S1. Yes, creative strategies are encouraged ... if a team has done their due diligence of recognizing, preparing for, and addressing any risks involved.

To be clear: the vast majority of teams that we have witnessed this season have been acting within the GDC’s intent for “acceptable” Match Load behavior. However, as the level of play increases, so too are concerns about teams “pushing the limits”, and we would like to provide some further guidance as we head towards the second half of the season.

1: The Good:

The following examples, although not explicitly required, may help to demonstrate acceptable preparations / precautions:

  • Using non-functional decorations, such as tape or foam, to cover exposed sharp edges
  • Using sensors to prevent mechanisms from moving if a Triball is not in place
  • Wearing fitted gloves, tying back long hair, etc.
  • Strategies/designs which minimize the impact of defensive interactions from other Robots (e.g., brakes, bracing against the field wall)
  • Calm, consistent, clearly planned and practiced Drive Team Member in-match procedures

2: The “Probably Fine”:

The following examples depend heavily on context. Essentially, this list says: “We know these are occurring, and acknowledge that there could be risks associated with them if done carelessly. However, we have seen enough evidence at this point in this season to feel that these risks can be easily mitigated with robust design and practice.”

  • Placing a Drive Team Member’s hand “into” the volume of a Robot (legal example)
  • Mechanisms which are abnormally large, fast, or powerful
  • Two Drive Team Members loading in rapid succession, such that two incoming Match Loads (or hands) are never past the field perimeter at the same time (legal example)

3: The Bad:

The following examples, although not explicitly Major Violations on their own, toe the line of acceptable “risk tolerance”. They likely indicate a sub-par level of caution on the Team’s part, especially if repeated or if multiple items are combined, and will likely draw a warning from the Head Referee on the grounds of <S1>, <R5>, <SG6>, <G9>, or <G1>.

  • Any action which involves placing a Drive Team Member’s head over / near / in front of a Robot
  • Mechanisms which are visibly unstable or have a history of breaking during Matches
  • Mechanisms which have caused injury to a Drive Team Member in a previous Match
  • Two Drive Team Members loading in rapid succession, such that two incoming Triballs (or hands) are past the field perimeter at the same time, or such that an error made by one person could cause the other to be hit by a Triball / mechanism (illegal example)
  • A Robot design which requires repeatedly reaching further than one field tile away from the Match Load Zone (illegal example)
  • Introducing Match Loads from the side of the field that is not coincident with the Alliance Station