Team Agreement – For Review

Filed in General Information, Registration by on July 6, 2011 17 Comments

During the rules review period, several folks brought up concerns that are outside the scope of the rules (i.e. use of federal resources, citizenship of team members, etc).  These items are covered by the Team Agreement, a document each team leader and team member must sign.  Acceptance of the team agreement by the Team Leader and WPI represents the official registration of a team to participate in the challenge.

The Team Agreement is currently in development, but like the rules we wanted to give participants an opportunity to review it and provide some feedback prior to it being finalized.  This is a very short review period, given we want to open registration up as soon as possible.

Also, this is still being reviewed by all parties involved, as well as by legal counsel and is absolutely subject to change.

Please provide feedback by commenting on this post or emailing challenge@wpi.edu by 12-Jul-2011.   Click on the following link to access the sample agreement: –Link removed because review deadline has passed–

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  1. Sid Ahuja says:

    It is quite hard for student teams (which rely on donations) to come up with 3000 dollar registration fees in a very short amount of time.

  2. Danh Trinh says:

    2.2 CHALLENG Rules
    “Any changes to the rules will only be effective after all of the registered teams have read, understand and concurred by email or writing”

    I think WPI should have the final say on rule changes regardless of full concurrence by all registered teams to prevent one team from holding the rule change hostage.

    2.7 Eligibility
    What prevents a normally non-eligible foreign entity from participating by just picking an eligible TEAM LEADER?

    5.3 Purchase and Sales Rights
    Are the rights listed in 5.3 still legally binding if a team is removed by WPI before or during the competition? Are the rights listed in 5.3 still legally binding if a team self withdraws from the competition?

    5.3 Purchase and Sales Rights
    What happens if a team inadvertently uses patented technology owned by someone else? It’s impossible to navigate the existing patent mine field. I imagine a scenario where a team wins but then is sued by an outside entity because the outside entity’s idea was patented. There should be a specific clause that says NASA will award the money (within the 60 days) regardless of any outside litigation between winners and other entities. The rules should note that NASA & WPI will claim indemnification from such litigation.

    6.3 Reporting
    Is the total number of man hours spent on the competition part of “personnel/expenditures”?

    6.9 Insurance
    “In addition, WPI may, in its sole and absolute discretion, require that each TEAM have reasonable liability insurance”.

    What is this liability insurance and where does one get this? When will we know if this is required? The concern is this could be expensive and hard to get. Not sure how many insurers would get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I asked for insurance on a giant autonomous robot meant for outer space exploration.

  3. Michael says:

    6.2 Acceptance and Removal

    The registration fee is needlessly high and represents a financial burden that smaller, less well-connected teams could do without. That $3000 fee represents $3000 which could be spent on parts and labor.

    I can see two possible motivations for such a steep fee, 1) covering WPI’s expenses, 2) dissuading non-serious entrants from registering an excessive number of teams with little likelihood of actually competing. Personally, if WPI has to cover its costs, I would much rather see a few tens of thousands of dollars shaved off the prize purse for that purpose. A more reasonable fee can be used to dissuade non-serious entrants. I can open an online stock portfolio for $500 to $1000. I would feel more comfortable paying a registration fee within that range.

    These are lean times, as the news sees fit to constantly remind us. I’m not made of registration fees (and, unless I’m mistaken, neither are my prospective teammates).

    6.3 Reporting

    This question pertains to a fine detail perhaps not at place in the team agreement, but I would like to see it answered somewhere: how would WPI like the first month’s report formatted if expenses were accrued over several previous months. I must assume that teams will not wait until the registration date before working on their robots, nor necessarily register before beginning work on their robots. The first report may contain information dealing with many months preceding a team’s registration.

    6.9 Insurance

    Like other commenters, I’m curious about the liability insurance, where one would buy it, and what would cause WPI to require a team to have it. Anytime the phrase “sole and absolute discretion” is used in the team agreement, more information is warranted. We need to know what would cause WPI to make a unilateral decision in every section where a unilateral decision is mentioned in the team agreement.

  4. Jim Rothrock says:

    * 6.2 Acceptance and Removal

    $3000 is too much for a registration fee. That amount could buy a 100 Ah LiFe battery and a machine vision camera. $1000 would be acceptable, but $500 would be more reasonable. If the fee is intended to discourage non-serious teams from entering the competition, I think that the video demonstration will serve that purpose. Before the demonstration videos are submitted, WPI might have to deal with some non-serious competitors, but they will be filtered out when they are unable to submit a video of a working robot.

    * 6.3 Reporting

    What is the rationale for this requirement? If such information is provided at all, it should be done once in a document that is submitted at or near the time of the competition. I imagine such a total might be useful to NASA when comparing the costs of the various solutions demonstrated at the competition.

    Does “property (capital)” refer to items such as cameras, IMUs, motors, etc., that are used in the robot but were paid for as part of a past project? I assume that “personnel” refers to labor costs. If labor is provided for free, should its cost be estimated based on the cost of equivalent paid labor?

    * 6.9 Insurance

    More information needs to be provided regarding insurance. I don’t remember such a requirement being part of the DARPA Grand or Urban challenges.

    * 6.10 Waiver and Acknowledgement

    “Commitments by the federal government to provide purses for this CHALLENGE are subject to the availability of appropriated funds, and no provision in this AGREEMENT shall be interpreted to require obligation or payment of funds in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C 1341.”

    My understanding is that funds are available by definition if they have been appropriated, and that the Anti-Deficiency Act is intended to prevent the expenditure of funds that have not been appropriated. Has the Challenge purse not been appropriated yet? If not, I suggest that such a appropriation be made while funds are available. A year is a long time to spend on a project just to find out at the end that there is no prize money.

    • Danh Trinh says:

      Jim,

      I had asked WPI the question about whether or not funding was already available for the Sample & Return Robot challenge but didn’t get a response back. However, I found out the answer indirectly in a video about the Nano Satellite Challenge with Andrew Petro from NASA’s Centennial Challenges. According to Dr. Petro, the money has already been appropriate for the 3 new challenges and unlike other appropriations that expire at the end of the year, the Centennial Challenges money does not expire! See the first video in the link below and make sure I interpreted it correctly:

      http://teamphoenicia.blogspot.com/2011/04/nanosat-launcher-challenge-raw-video-12.html

      At time 6:40 Dr. Petro talks about funding. At time 8:40 he says money has already been appropriated for the Nano Satellite Challenge. I am assuming this is also the case for the Sample & Return Challenge since it is 1 of the 3 new Challenges.

    • colleen says:

      Thanks for your comments. Just as a note for everyone, the monthly ‘reporting’ is expected to take minutes to complete. It’s not designed to take large quantities of anyone’s time or effort, as we respect that most of you will be doing this along with having full-time jobs, families, etc! However, the reporting is important for NASA (and consequently the US Government) to realize the value of their investments compared to the prize money disbursement. We expect and plan to make a standard form that you can easily fill out with expect and known information in order to do your reporting. You’d have the option of filling out the report as progress since your last report on on the total duration of your project.

      More information will be provided regarding the insurance and exactly what is required and how to obtain it.

      As I believe Danh pointed out elsewhere, the purse money has been appropriated. It’s there and we’re good to go!

      There are a variety of motivation and reasons for the $3000 registration fee. For a reasonable comparison, the cost for the Regolith Excavation challenge (regular/late registration) was $3000/$5000 and the cost for Green Flight is $4000/$6000. I even believe in other challenges like Power Beaming, the competitors had to split the total cost to run the tournament in order to participate, which can fluctuate and escalate quickly and out of their hands. As others said, no portion of the prize money can be used for administrative purposes.

  5. Mark Curry says:

    I’ve read it through several times and in general I think its a thoughtfully written document. Yes, the $3K entrance fee will sting, but it will just have to go onto the “project expenses” list. This is a serious competition and I’m sure WPI and NASA want to attract high caliber entrants. I’m thinking of it as an “ante” to get in the game. To be sure, for single competitors this is more of an issue than for say, a company or larger organization. (in general).

    I think the proposed rules regarding citizenship, funding sources, reporting and so on, are all appropriate given the source of the prize. I like the purchase agreement section. I had thought of that but was surprised to actually see it. It leaves the door open.

    I do wonder a bit about the “liability insurance”, but I’m thinking its not a big deal.

    I’m thinking that reporting and so on, are all “best effort” sorts of things to show the progression of work and that if WPI wants further information on an item or issue they will ask for it. Dang, maybe I’ll have to disclose that Unobtainium power pack after all…

    Lets get busy!

  6. Jack Buffington says:

    I agree with the comments above. As Jim states, it will be pretty clear from the video demonstration whether or not someone is serious or not. For small teams, raising the money to just build the robot is a significant obstacle. A $3K registration fee is pretty excessive unless your contract with NASA prohibits using any of the prize money for administrative work or competition field preparation.

    As Dan stated in the previous round of comments, where is the incentive to register early? If I have to do all sorts of busywork because I registered, I’ll wait until the very last day to register. The same goes with the $3K registration fee. Small teams will want to hold off on registering until the last minute because it will be at that point that they will better know if they will actually be able to complete the robot. In my mind, it would be better to start building with the money and if at the registration deadline my team thinks that it won’t finish then at least we haven’t thrown a lot of money in the garbage.

    • Danh Trinh says:

      Jack,

      Apparently one motivation for registering early is that WPI will officially answer our questions outside of the FAQ. To quote Colleen:

      “We will make it more clear how a rule will be interpreted in various situations in the FAQ if requested. However, any clarifying questions on rules or the legality of strategies and technologies will only be answer for registered competitors.”

      I have an idea about the $3k registration fee for WPI. WPI should allow 4 installments to pay off the registration fee for people that register early. This would serve as another incentive for early registration. Another idea is to increase the registration fee as a function of the registration date in a linear fashion. The longer you wait to register, the more it will cost ($3k min to $5k max).

      According to Andrew Petro from NASA in a video I saw about the Nano Satellite Challenge, the prize money can not be used for administrative purposes. It takes a lot of money to run a competition and I can understand the $3k registration fee that WPI is asking. However, WPI probably needs to find some corporate sponsors to help pay for the administration.

      • colleen says:

        Thanks for the ideas. I certainly think an installment registration fee might be something we can consider. We will look into that and see what the possibilities are.

        • James Hughes says:

          Another variation would be to split the fee into two components: $500 soon for initial team registration and $2500 later for field competition registration. That would allow student teams to register first and then pursue fund raising efforts. More teams will enter this way and that will mean more public awareness, publicity, etc. The field competition fee will subsequently chop the field down to the serious contenders.

  7. Danh Trinh says:

    To others here, I think $3k is worth it if it dissuades enough non serious teams from entering such that we can get the field to ourselves and avoid the dreaded multiple robots on the field scenario. $3k is a lot of dough but it’s comparable to the cost of a few college courses for a semester. I still think this is a once in a life time competition and commend our country for having the vision to dream up such competitions. My guess is that folks will find out this difficult challenge takes a lot more time and money than expected and there won’t be very many viable entrants the first year.

  8. Terra Engineering says:

    $3k will be a tiny part of the total cost. This challenge is unlikely to be solved with an RC car, AL5D robotic arm and a USB webcam. Just do the math. 80,000 square meters and items as small as 1 cm. That means you need to search 800 million locations in 2 hours. That is over 100,000 locations per second. When you factor in the probability that some areas will need to be searched multiple times because of trees, hills or other blockages, you are going to need a state-of-the art vision system and processing. Add in the AI necessary to run a robotic mechanism capable of picking up objects in the dirt, on grass, in sand and leaning against trees and if we have a winner, they will have spent $500k in parts and labor.
    It would benefit all teams to band together to develop common technology that is required to compete (such as navigation) but not integral to the object ID or retrieval. Unfortunately, contests with prizes this large tend to minimize team cooperation.

  9. Mike Jones says:

    Why is there a rule limiting a team leader to only 1 team? Why can’t a team leader be a team member of another team? What limitations are there in a team leader providing support to other teams?

  10. Noah Zemke says:

    Is there an offical date for the release of the final rules?

  11. RAV says:

    Until final rules are published can someone please point me to draft rules.

    • colleen says:

      The Draft Rules are no longer available. They were posted for a period of three weeks in order to receive feedback from potential competitors.

      At this time, the final rules have been development and will be posted very soon. We are waiting on final concurrence of the team agreement by all parties involved.

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