Jack’s Judgements

Official Rulings by the Australian FLL Head Referee

Last Updated 11:45 pm on 24/11/2021

Important Note:

These are official rulings and clarifications that apply to all FLL tournaments in Australia only. However, they can be overruled by official updates from FIRST (found here). Check regularly for updates. Please note that the Cargo Connect Season contains rules that are different from previous seasons.

Further questions  can be asked at the FLL Australia Help Forum, or Contact Us if you have a question which you would like to submit directly to the Australian Head Referee.

Rule Clarification #1: Read the Rules…and don’t forget the Updates

Question: Rules? Updates?

Quick Answers:

  • Official season Rules and Guidelines can be found here
  • FIRST issues regular official updates to Project and Robot Game each year.
  • Official updates overrule anything here.
  • ASK QUESTIONS if anything is unclear or confusing!

Longer Explanation: To quote a section of text that used to appear in the FLL Challenge Guide…

Teams who have read everything:

  • Have fewer questions
  • Have less rework
  • Have fewer surprises at tournaments
  • Score higher
  • Have more fun!

Ruling #1: I’ve been working on the Railroad…

Question: M09 states that there are 20 pts “If the train has reached its destination, latched at the end of the tracks”. Is there any requirement that the train be on the rails for this condition to be met? There is no specific mention of being on the rails, but the common usage of “reached its destination” could be interpreted to require travel on the rails.

Quick Answers:

  • If the train is held in place by the latch, it counts, however it gets there.
  • “Latched” means we can’t pull the train north without the train catching on the latch

Longer Explanation:

My reading of this mission is that the train must be latched for this mission to count, but beyond that there are no requirements on the train.  Now, how can it be latched if it isn’t on the rails?  The way I’ll be calling it at events, and training referees to, is to pull the train towards the north wall, as horizontally as possible – if the latch stops it, then it gets the points.  

Part of my reasoning here is that M04 also refers to “reaching the destination” – if we rule that means that it must travel in an expected way, then accidentally flipping the truck, for example, would descore that mission, and that’s pretty harsh.

As to an inevitable follow up:  The train is the thing that must be latched, so we won’t be allowing transitive latching – if you place the train on top of some Equipment, and that Equipment catches on the latch, that will not be considered a scoring condition.  To be honest though, it seems much easier to just push the train down the tracks 🙂

As with all my rulings, if FIRST posts a rule update which makes a different call on this mission, that update will overrule this one, so keep an eye on the Challenge Resources.


Ruling #2: Helicopter Hijack

(Updated 06/10/2021)

(Updated 28/08/2021)

Question: In M08, is an active robot (within Home but without human assistance) able to reach up and extract the Food Package from the other table’s helicopter model? The rules don’t say that the other team has to activate the model to get the separation points, but the bonus is dependent on “both teams” separating the food package from the helicopter.

Quick Answers:

  • For physical events, if you take the package from the opposite team, they automatically score 30 points, but you cannot score the 10 points from the “both teams” condition
  • For remote events, follow Rule Update 10

Longer Explanation:

First of all, it doesn’t matter if the active robot is in Home or not – if it starts in Launch and finishes in Home and is not interrupted outside Home, it’s performing actions legally.

The M08 scoring conditions are:

  • 1: If the food package is separated from your helicopter: 20
  • 2: If the food package is separated from the other field’s helicopter and is completely in your field’s CARGO CONNECT circle: 10
  • 3: If both teams have separated their food packages from their field’s helicopters: 10

Now, with this rule by itself the wording is fairly clear and suggests this decision:  if your robot takes the other team’s package, you could score condition 2, and the other team would score condition 1, but neither could score condition 3.

However!  R20 Interference reads:

“A robot cannot interfere with the opposing field or robot unless there is a mission exception. Points failed or lost due to interference score automatically. Collaboration is okay”

Since this action is technically interference, the other team will automatically score (1) and (3), gaining 30 points.  Your team, however, cannot then score (3) because only one team has separated their food package.


  • Scenario: Team A releases their package and takes Team B’s package directly from the helicopter and leaves it in Home.  Team A scores 20 points, Team B scores 30.
  • Scenario: Team A only takes Team B’s package and not their own, and leaves the package in Home.  Team A scores 0 points, Team B scores 30 points.
  • Scenario: Team A takes Team B’s package from the helicopter to the Cargo Connect Circle and releases their own package.  Both teams score 30 points.
  • Scenario: Both teams release their own package and leave them in Home.  Both teams score 30 points.

Remote Events:

FIRST posted Update 10 which clarifies M08 for cases where you are the only team in the match – “If you are the only team in the match, you may begin with the food package completely in home. If at any point during the match, your robot interacts with the air drop model, you will automatically earn the 20 points for having released the food package and the 10 points for ‘both’ teams having separated their food packages from their field’s helicopters

Since remote events always meet this condition, these guidelines will be followed there.

Ruling #3: Accident Insurance

Question: M06 (Accident Avoidance): Rules state that the robot must be “parked over the line”, which the team is interpreting as any part of the robot crosses the blue line.  So based on this interpretation are both of these across the line?

Quick Answers:

  • M06 will score as long as any part of the Robot (see R03) is over the blue line and the robot is not moving.

Longer Explanation:

The scoring for M06 is described as: “If your robot is parked over the blue accident-avoidance line at the end of the match…

The key words for me here are “parked” and “over the…line” – the orientation of the robot is not specified, nor is how much of the robot needs to be over the line or anything like that.  As long as any part of the robot breaks the plane stretching up from the blue line (either side of the line, it doesn’t need to cross over both sides), then the robot is over the line. Note though that referees are human, and judging this may be difficult – if you plan to only cross the line a little bit very high up, the referee may rule it as not over the line.  The more obvious you make it, the safer you are.

The other key word I mentioned is “parked” – to me, the common conversational meaning of the word is to bring a vehicle to a halt. So, if the robot is clearly driving past the line when the buzzer goes, making no attempt to stop, M06 should not score.  Benefit of the doubt will of course apply to that ruling.

Last thing to remember here is definition R03 – what is the Robot?  Anything which doesn’t meet the definition of Robot will not score for M06 – so, if you drop off an attachment on the line, it doesn’t count; if the robot is holding a shipping container over the line, that doesn’t count.


Ruling #4: Random Container Generator

(Updated 26/10/2021)

Question: M10 (Sorting Center): When this mission is set up, the Containers are randomly placed in one of 6 different configurations.  At in-person events, these are set up by event volunteers, but how should teams set it up when filming runs for remote events?

Quick Answer:

  • As per official Update 11, teams may now request a specific configuration before their match, but must use a different configuration for each match.

Longer explanation: 

Update 11 reads:

“For consistency and to accommodate all types of events, the following setup instructions will apply to all teams. Each of the team’s matches must include a different M10 field setup configuration (there are 6 configurations in total). Teams may choose which configuration they would like before the match, but each match configuration must be different (the configuration chosen for one match cannot be used in another)

The way we will be scoring this (again, for consistency), unless another update comes through, is:

  • In-person events: The field resetters will still set the mission up randomly before you arrive at the table.  When you arrive, you may ask the referee to change the setup of M10 to a particular configuration.  However, the head referee will track which configurations you played on in previous matches to ensure it is a different configuration each time.
  • Remote events: It is your responsibility to ensure that each of your 3 videos uses a different container configuration if you are attempting M10.  Referees will be asked to check that the configurations are changing, and if there are videos where the configuration is duplicated, then M10 will not be scored for the second or third video where that configuration is seen (regardless of M10 outcome).

For example:

  • Video 1: the container configuration is “blue left, orange middle, green right”, and the team attempts M10 but does not score 20 points
  • Video 2: the container configuration is “blue left, orange middle, green right”, and the team successfully scores 20 points for M10
  • Video 3: the container configuration is “blue right, orange left, green middle” and the team successfully scores 20 points for M10.

In this case, the referee for video 2 would not score the 20 points for M10, since the container configuration was the same as video 1.  Video 3 still scores 20 points, since the container configuration has changed.


Ruling #5: Turbine Troubles

Question: In regards to M12 (Large Delivery) does the table wall count as “something” in regards to scoring the Turbine Blade? (i.e. can the blade be touching the wall and still score?)

Quick Answer: The Turbine Blade will not score if it is touching the wall (or anything other than the blue holder and the mat).

Longer explanation: 

The turbine blade scores 20 points if it is touching “only the blue holder and the mat”, and 30 points if it is touching “only the blue holder and nothing else”. The “blue holder” includes all the LEGO comprising that part of M12, and “the mat” is only the printed mat which is unrolled to form the floor on the majority of the Field. The Field perimeter is neither, so it does count as “something” in this case.


Ruling #6: Here Come The Nationals!

Question: Our team made it to Nationals!  Is there anything we need to change, update or keep in mind?

Quick Answer:

First off, great job!  It’s an amazing achievement to get to Nationals.

  • Remember to start completely inside Launch and finish completely inside Home
  • Read and understand the Stranded Cargo rules (rule R19 and update U06)
  • Remember to randomise your M10 containers – the consequences of not doing this are harsher at Nationals
  • For remote M08, “interaction” with the model means doing something which may have dropped the package.

Above all, have fun!

Longer explanation: 

Generally speaking, Championship level events tend to be more strict on the rules, since the teams who have made it have already competed once and the level of competition is much higher.  This is particularly important for teams competing remotely (e.g. East Nationals teams), since they won’t get a chance to update their robot on the day.  

So, a few reminders:

  • A lot of teams have been starting runs with parts outside of Launch.  It’s really tough for referees to make a judgement call on which points to award in this case, so make sure you start inside Launch every time or you may find you miss out on some missions
  • Some teams have also been picking up their robots when part of the robot is outside of Home – including if it’s fully over the line but part of the robot sticks out over the wall.  At regionals we’re often quite lenient on that, but at Nationals we’ll be cracking down.
  • Stranded Cargo – make sure to read rule R19 and update U06;  I also posted a summary on the Aus FLL Slack (if you’re not on it, get on it! But I’ve included the text below for reference).  A lot of points can be lost if you misunderstand this rule.
  • M10 Sorting Center – remember to randomise the setup of the Sorting Center before every run; per U11 every run must include a different setup if you want to score M10 points.  For regional events we disallowed M10 scoring for rounds with repeated setups, but at Nationals we may also not allow scoring using the M10 containers (blue, orange or green) since it was potentially too easy to pick them up.  For consistency, this includes situations where the team removes 1,2 or 3 containers from the sorting area.
    • Note: At in-person events, the referee will manage it for you.  At remote events, if you include randomisation in your video (e.g. a dice roll), you will also be safe
    • Also remember to check the rules for how to set it up – a lot of teams e.g. put all the containers in the same row, which is not legal.

We also have one clarified definition:

M08/U10 Air Drop: U10 reads “If at any point during the match, your robot interacts with the air drop model, you will automatically earn the…points”.  Since the spirit of this update seems to be to help remote teams who only have one Food Package (and therefore we can’t tell if it has fallen), we will be defining “interacts with the model” as the robot doing something to make the food package fall.  So, we’ll be looking for either (a) the yellow lever being actuated, or (b) the helicopter model itself shaking in a way that might release the package.  Simple contact which does not move the model will not score these points.

Note: this ruling is for National events only – for consistency, at Regional events, any physical contact with the mission model will be counted as an interaction.

Stranded Cargo clarification:

Stranded Cargo is something the robot was moving strategically which falls or is placed outside of Home;  If it’s completely outside Home it must be left where it is unless the robot moves it later, but if it’s partially inside Home (e.g. halfway on the line), there are two options the technicians can take:

  1. Pick up the cargo — if it’s a mission model, it will then be taken by the referee and cannot be used again.  If it’s not a mission model, take it into Home and lose a precision token
  2. Leave it where it is — don’t touch it by hand, and maybe the robot can salvage it later

An example of this could be if you have a program for pushing the M02 blue container into Home, but it ends up halfway in – if you do option (1), the referee takes the container and you can’t score M02; if you do option (2), you can try your program again, push the container fully inside Home, and fill the container to score the points.

If you’re at an in-person event, the referee can quickly remind you of these options and consequences;  at a remote event, we’ll have to take what happens (e.g. if you retrieve a mission model cargo by hand and then use it later, we can’t score it)


Good Luck teams!