Today’s question comes from Alex Tannahill, an FRC Volunteer from Michigan:
I find the purpose and correct application of the Q&A cloudy. I have heard from different sources that it only exists to provide one interpretation of the rules, on the other hand I have heard it exists to clarify any confusing rules and results should be treated as part of the manual.
I have seen Q&A results presented to inspectors been ignored.
Can you clarify the purpose of the Q&A and if this purpose will change in the future?
No current team
Alex, thanks for this question.
The Q&A system allows community members to ask clarifying questions about the contents of the FRC Manuals directly to the authority for that particular section of the manual. In many cases the authority answering the question will be members of the GDC. Sometimes, for example when a question is asked about the FRC Administrative Manual, it may be someone from Team Support or another authoritative source.
Q&A responses are intended to provide clarity to the rules in the manual (although I will also say that it is not intended to be an opportunity for teams to get designs or ideas pre-approved by the GDC – thus the common “we will not do design reviews” response). If a question is asked that makes the authority realize something in the manual itself needs to be changed, we will make the adjustment and announce the change in a Team Update. The manual change made via the Team Update may be a rule change or blue box addition that helps make the rule clearer. If we feel the answer to the question is already effectively covered in the manual as it is written, we will not make any changes. The decision to change or not change the manual because of a Q&A response is a subjective one, and as with many aspects of FRC, thoughtful, caring, well-intentioned people may (and often do!) come to different conclusions on any particular case.
As stated in this Q&A response, the manual is the principal authority. Given that the Q&A answers should be direct descendants of the manual, they should also be considered authoritative. It is our intention that if a situation occurs exactly as described in a Q&A question, the appropriate authority at an event will follow the manual and any clarity or fortification provided by an answer from the related Q&A. Note that there may be some subjectivity involved in determining how similar a situation at an event is to a Q&A question. It’s also important to recognize that with the volume of Q&A questions we receive, it’s not reasonable to assume every authority at an event has read and memorized every Q&A answer that could possibly apply in every situation. If you feel a Q&A question is applicable but not being followed, respectfully sharing that is a good approach, but recognize the final decision may still not go your way.
There is no intent to change the overall way the Q&A is managed, however we’re always looking for ways to improve our systems and services. If you have constructive input, please send it to email@example.com.
Frank Answers Fridays is a new weekly-ish blog feature where I’ll be answering ‘good questions’ from the FRC community. You can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, team number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.