Doing the Right Thing

Blog Date: 
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 13:06

Over the weekend I attended the Central Washington Regional at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.   My experience up until the final round was wonderful.  Folks were having fun, the volunteers were great, matches for the most part were running smoothly, I saw some terrific robots, and, I think, I made some new friends.  Things did not go as expected in the final round, though, and it caused some significant pain for many present.  I’d like to talk about this.

The final rounds were between two very closely matched alliances.  The blue alliance won the first match, the red alliance won the second match in a nail-biter – only 6 points separating the two alliances, and the final and deciding match had apparently ended in a tie.  The Head Referee carefully reviewed the rule regarding tie-breakers in elimination rounds in the rule book, and worked out the final score with the Scorekeeper.  The Game Announcer announced that we had a tie score, and the venue erupted.  He then proceeded to carefully read the rule regarding ties aloud – even with an audience of thousands, you could have heard a pin drop. The first tie-breaker that becomes active is the number of foul points incurred, with the alliance that had fewer foul points being awarded one additional point, and so winning the match.  If the number of foul points is equal between the two alliances, there are other levels of tie-breakers employed, but in our case, these were not necessary.  The red alliance had a single 3-point foul assessed against them during the match, while the blue alliance had none.  When this, and the final score, was announced, the venue erupted again.  The blue alliance had won and earned their slots at Championship, after an exhilarating set of final rounds.  The Game Announcer later told me his announcement of the tie and the winner was one of the most exciting things he had ever done in that position.  I could see why!

Unfortunately, after the winner was announced and the score was displayed, we learned something was wrong.    A single disc that would have given the red alliance two points and the victory had been overlooked in one of the goals.  This was a red disc, and so was the same color as the front of the goal, making it harder to see than a white disc would have been in the same position.  We checked, we double checked, we compared notes.  There was no question in anyone’s mind that the disc had been scored by the red alliance according to the rules, but had been not counted in the final score.

I’ve seen some rumors that we reviewed video evidence in determining that the additional disc had been scored; this is untrue.  This would have been a direct violation of section 5.5.3 of the manual.  I was behind the scoring table the entire time when this was being discussed, and never saw anyone looking at video.  At one point it was offered to us, but we declined.  We already had overwhelming evidence the additional disc had been scored per the rules.

I want to emphasize at this point that FRC has the most dedicated, most caring, most conscientious volunteers anywhere.  But many of their jobs are hard – really hard.  And while some of our volunteer jobs have significant requirements showing in their position descriptions, ‘Perfection’ is on the list for none of them.   A simple mistake was made, that anyone could have made.  The folks involved knew what this meant for the match, and were devastated, but did the right thing by stepping up to the plate to let everyone know what was going on.     

So, we made a very hard decision.  We adjusted the score in the final match to reflect what we know happened – that the red alliance had actually won the match, and earned those slots at Championship.  This was announced on the field.  I can only imagine what it feels like to be told you have earned your way to Championship, only to have that opportunity taken away from you a few minutes later.  I am very sorry that this happened.  No one wants to see an event end like this, but I firmly believe we did the right thing, as difficult as it was.

I want to thank Team 360, The Revolution, Team 2557, SOTABots, and Team 3789, On Track Academy, for displaying the utmost in Gracious Professionalism when it was revealed that they were not, as we believed, the winners of the event.  Members of the other alliance came up to me after the event was over and pointed out how gracious they were being in receiving this extraordinarily difficult news.  And they were right, of course.  These three teams are examples for us all.


I’ll blog again soon.



This is what it is all about. Your conscientious and detailed explanation. Your obvious heart felt apology. The losing team turning the trophy over gracefully. I'm sure the winning team was gracious too. The attention to detail that sorted out the error. And I'm sure - the afters-meeting to discuss how to prevent it happening again.

I am a 3rd year member of FRC 360, and I would just like to say thank you for noticing this! I believe that in any other sport, such as football, if a team had won the championship (the superbowl for example), there would most likely be a riot from both fans and players if such a thing happened. I am proud to be a part of this program where it does not matter who "wins or loses", but rather who succeeds at overcoming a difficult challenge. All of the 6 teams in the finals did so, and we believe that because even though the disc was at first miscounted, the better alliance deserved the victory.

This is exactly what gracious professionalism is, this is beautiful and totally the right thing to do. It may have been so hard for everyone, but my goodness, is everyone so proud of this team. Well done, and you will definitely succeed in your future endeavors.

Thank you to Frank for providing such a great example of The Right Thing taking place at the Central Washington Regional. With the news of a Championship being removed by a score correction can be incredibly difficult to take, those members of Teams 360, 2557 and 3789 displayed the highest traditions of Gracious Professionalism by openly accepting the corrected outcome.

It is very easy in the excitement of the moment to leave behind what we all know about Gracious Professionalism and Doing the Right Thing. I am thankful to FIRST for providing this great program and the ideals of G.P.

AS a parent of a Team 360 member I would like to say Thank you to Frank for the detailed description and heartfelt apology. Apology accepted whole heartedly. I was proud of both team alliances. It was a blow, a disapointment, but we are A-Ok with it - in the end the correct decision was made. The match was won fair and square, not by a subjective vote. FIRST's motto of gracious professionalism is so wonderful and I beleive everyone upheld that motto that day. I had the same sentiments as Sasha. Robotics is about far more than winning!

As an Engineer that works with (6) FIRST high school teams, I have to respectively state that I believe you are missing the forest for the trees. Yes, Gracious Professionalism is thankfully strong in FIRST and should continue to be promoted. Yes, the losing team acted very professional upon receiving the unfortunate news. However, I have attended several regionals this year and witnessed a large amount of scoring discrepancies. Apparently, FIRST is promoting state-of-the-art science and technology in the robot designs, but zero technology in scoring the competitions. More in next post...

Any robot in the competition is actually much more technically advanced than the fields. The fields are completely vulnerable to human error. In an atmosphere where students deserve nothing less than unbiased facts rather than unfair errors,FIRST is actually demonstrating that politics are more important than STEM. Please don’t take this message the wrong way. I am a HUGE proponent of FIRST and I’ve witnessed how profound it can change students, parents, and mentors. I only feel that after these students have worked so hard to reach a competition that the scoring should be accurately fair.

I can go on rambling about referees and their calls…here is what I promote in my team, referees and humans with two eyes. A foul is called out when a referee sees a team committing foul. When a referee calls a foul when there was not one or when referee does not call when he sees one, is the referee’s fault. All other times, we just take referee’s call and move on. Never take video evidence to referee, if FIRST decides to have video replay, they will do it. It’s easy to notice a mistake from bleacher than a foul from the field. ..contd

Referees are doing their best and there is no reason for anyone to question their integrity. If you think otherwise, step up and volunteer as referee in future.
About FIRST and technology…it’s unfortunate that some question about bad scoring and foul calls, we all know that FIRST is non-profit organization, it’s out there to help students do something constructive in sports like environment. Also we should understand that volunteers are not FIRST’s full time employees who are trained for every scenario in every challenge every year! ...contd

Be a good sport and take pride in what the team has accomplished during the season. Do some post season analysis, instead of counting medals and trophies, count how many students were affected in our team, count how many students learnt something new and constructive during the season. Even if one student learnt one small thing, it’s all worth participating in FIRST.
Well this is a ramble, sorry couldn’t help.

Thank you for sharing this. As we preach at our school, integrity is a 24/7 effort. We are proud to be joining a group focused on gracious professionalism. Team 4637

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