by Derek Chan
The FRC 2015 game, Recycle Rush, features two alliances stacking totes and containers and utilizing pool noodles in order to gain as many points possible. Many robotics fans complained that the game was not competitive, not exciting as a spectator sport, and, besides the Coopertition points during the qualifying matches, involved very little interaction between the opposing alliances. However, careful readers of the game manual have discovered a breakthrough that could bring a new element of cooperation, trust, and even betrayal in this seemingly divided game.
Due to a loophole in the rules, human players of each alliance could purposely throw litter on their own side of the field for an easy 4 points per litter for the other team. If alliances both coordinate before hand, the alliances could earn points for each other, providing that the alliances agreed beforehand, giving these alliances an edge over those who do not honor the Noodle Agreement. Compared with the difficult task of putting a noodle on the containers, the Noodle Agreement is possibly the most efficient method to earn points with the litter. However, this sets up an interesting Prisoner’s Dilemma, where an alliance could possibly backstab the other team by pushing the noodles in the landfill at the last second for even more points for themselves (1 per litter in landfill). The Noodle Agreement would bring an interesting new aspect of collaboration in FRC.
Forum members on Chief Delphi and Reddit exploded on the idea, even coming to the point where contract slips were being made to ensure mutual agreement. However, FIRST apparently did not like the concept of mutual collusion in FRC. On January 9th, 2015, FIRST updated the rules, which would eliminate the Noodle Agreement. Pool noodles will now be color coded and will only award points if the litter is of the opposing team’s color. Now, human players have to throw their litter to the other alliance and remain there in order to gain the 4 unprocessed litter points. Granted that teams could still agree to not push opposing litter to the landfill, this “Newdle Agreement” is nowhere near as interesting nor as easy to pull off.
The Noodle Agreement was an interesting case of loopholing the rules and brought an interesting twist to FRC. As FIRST claims that FRC is more than robots, the Noodle Agreement brought economic game theory, such as collusion and incentive to cheat, and lawyer skills, such as carefully reading rules to find exploits, in the world of FRC. Although short-lived, the Noodle Agreement had the potential to bring an interesting new element in a seemingly simple and drab game.
In honor of the Noodle Agreement