FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Pool Noodles for the 2017 Season

Jul 19, 2016 Written by Frank Merrick.


You'll need 'em.

Want more words than that? You will be using pool noodles for robot bumpers in the 2017 season. As in 2016, the pool noodles must be approximately 2 ½ in. diameter round, petal, or hex shaped in cross section. They may either be solid or hollow, but all noodles used on the robot at any one time will be required to be of the same construction and cross section – in other words, you will not be allowed to use solid round noodles on the bottom of your bumper and hollow petal noodles on the top.

If you are wondering what we mean by 'petal' shaped, we mean pool noodles with a cross section like this:

Bumper Pool Noodle Cross Section 2017

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Hello Frank,

I was wondering the past season if the use of hollow noodles is limited for 'COTS' ones? 

or is it allowed to create your own hollow noodle? also, are there any restrictions on the inner diameter when using a hollow noodle?



Forgive my lack of imagination, but why would you want to make your own hollow noodles? Is there a reason to use a diameter smaller than COTS hollow noodles (as opposed to solid noodles)? And wouldn't a larger diameter than COTS mean you've got less bumper capability?

We haven't actually written the rules yet for 2017, but the idea is to use a standard, off-the shelf pool noodle, rather than create your own.  We're trying to keep this simple, and our inspectors sane, or at least as sane as when they started.

Assuming that 2 otherwise non-identical pool noodles have the same diameter, how is a Robot Inspector going to be able to enforce the requirement? Feel the bumper to see if the top and bottom noodles feel the same? Feel all the bumpers to make sure that one side doesn't have different noodles?

What if a team has to rebuild a bumper using parts available at the competition? It is unlikely they will be the "same" pool noodle. Do they then have to rebuild all their bumpers so only one type of pool noodle is used?

Just curios: What issue is being resolved by requiring only one type of pool noodle per robot?

Frank,  what is the thinking around "all noodles used on the robot at any one time will be required to be of the same construction and cross section"?  My team, and I am sure many others, have a varied collection of pool noodles from many years of bumpers.  A lot of our stock is smaller pieces rather than full noodles and some are hollow, some are solid, etc.  

Where can you buy them! I have only found round ? Any thoughts?

That is surely thinking out of the box. Your time would be better spent applying that creativity to other parts of the robot


The time/effort to hollow out a solid pool noodle isn't worth it. 1) the performance would be greatly impacted by removing too much material, 2) the weight savings in FIRST competition is a moot point since the bumpers are not part of hte robot weight, 3) there will be very minimal weight savings by "additional" hollowing out of the noodle.


Consider point #3 above: a 35 pack of (hollow) noodles including the cardboard box to ship them is only 7.2 lb. or 0.21 lb per noodle. Assuming ~100" frame perimeter and 52" long pool noodles you will use ~4 noodles per bumper set. This is a total of about 0.8 lb (even including the cardboard shipping box weight). Additional hollowing out might save 10% fo the weight = 0.08lb per bumper set (whole robot perimeter).


Just not worth the time or effort when you can buy something that 1) works as expected 2) meets all FIRST rules criteria 3) requires no modification. Again, use that creativity and mindset in the rest of the robot design.


Have a great day,


This "change" implies the construction of the bumpers must be inspected. In the past, our covers have been staked on such that the noodle would not be "inspectable". Any comment?

Our team has the 2 1/2" hex solid noodles, 60" long. Drop me an email at if you are interested.

They are very sturdy.

Hi All,

The 2016 rules stated 'All pool noodles used in a BUMPER set (e.g. Red set of BUMPERS) must be the same diameter, cross-section, and density (e.g. all round hollow or all hex solid)'.  We don't anticipate changes to this rule for 2017. It's just a continuation form 2016, not something new in the rules.  Some teams in prior years were using a solid noodle on the bottom and a hollow noodle up top, effectively creating a subtle 'ramp' that would lift their opponents slightly if they got into a pushing match, giving them the advantage.  There is no way to tell by just looking at the bumpers that this was going on, and this kind of stealth advantage struck us as unfair.  Inspectors will check the bumpers by feel.  If the pool noodles clearly feel different, they may ask you to expose the construction so they can take a look.  The best way to avoid this happening is to use the same noodles top and bottom. 

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