2009 Control System Possibility?

Hm… VEX and FRC control systems tend to be based off each other, and
this seems to indicate that there’s a new control system for VEX that runs on 802.11… perhaps this means the end of serial based programming for FRC bots! Would be cool to be able to program straight from wireless. Also, its opened the door to robot->robot communication, according to that link… 2009 game involving telling alliance robots data about something, anyone?

Man, already with the '09 stuff. We haven’t even had the Championships yet, lol:D

Recent info suggests that there is a split between IFI and First. Vex Labs released that they would have a 802.11g solution. FTC will use blue tooth for the new FTC controller. So I would expect First FRC to also go with Blue tooth.

which means that we are not truly moving away from serial communications.

I’m assuming that we will be using a blutooth serial module, which will greatly open up possibilities!!

I am also guessing that we will be moving away from PIC

It will be interesting to see what the new FTC controller really is. The announcement indicated its packaging is built on LEGO NXT which uses an AVR master processor (where io devices attach) and an ARM7 processor for user code. It would be unusual to keep the packaging but move away from the established architecture within the packaging although there will probably be inclusion of faster models of one or both of these chips. The specs on the ARM7 certainly seem to match the 10x memory and 38% faster specs released in the blog.

Currently, the LEGO NXT looks like it is set up to have all io devices plug into and be serviced by the AVR which is similar in architecture to the PIC - i.e. it has timers, ADC, io pins, etc. User written code gets put on the ARM processor which has none of these but does have a couple different methods of interacting with co-processors. With this type of architecture, it could make adding or creating your own sensors from industry available parts much more difficult (the AVR is not currently user accessible, but that is where h/w gets attached).

If so, then this is both a move forward but also possibly a significant change in terms of software programming environments… which is why until details are released there is a lot of angst and guesswork.

If true, then you will end up with two camps: those that love it because now they don’t have to worry about all those pesky hardware sensor devices as both the h/w and s/w for the devices are provided & hidden from the programmer, and those that hate it for the exact opposite reason. I’m in the “hate it” group becuase its a shift from systems programmer (me) to application programmer by adding another layer of abstraction and isolation from the hardware.

Even when the FTC details are released after nationals, that will just fuel a 2nd round of speculation on what the new FRC controller architecture will look like. Since FTC kits have already been distributed to some teams, my guess is things might be tweaked but are probably pretty nailed down unless there is outright failure of teams to be able to utilize the kits.

BTW, the Gumstix uses an ARM Xscale processor w/MMU and there are two flavors of Linux ported to run on the ARM. My random guess is the FRC version may use an Xscale core so it can run a flavor of Linux and deliver multi-threading, etc. and turn us all into application programmers vs systems programmers. Many will see this is great news.

But all this is speculation and even after the FTC announcement, there will continue to be a huge unknown factor as to what the new FRC controller will really look like for months to come.

After talking to Matt from IFI, his quote of “There is no more IFI next year” really had me thinking…

Perhaps another vendor? Perhaps you have to build your own!!!


I was talking to somebody from WPI a few months ago. The speaker said that the device he had was a prototype of the FIRST control system for 2009.

I got a chance to play with it, it’s impressive.

It was based yes, on an AVR and an ARM, though a move from ARM to XScale was to be made. This made it extremely fast. It looks similiar to an Arduino with a breadboard. There are quick connect ports for motor controllers, and a nice breadboard, similiar to the Parallax BOE board.

It was programmable in C, D, Python, Java, and BASIC.

From hints that I have got, GAME port controllers won’t be much use next year…

God i hope not!!! I want to use USB!

Thinking about that, maybe IFI is just changing names. This could also be why it is no longer FVC. They probably are doing a company overhaul as far as naming of products go. Personally I don’t think that IFI is just going to split with FIRST and then be done with it which is the first thing I think of when I read that quote above. What I expect it to be is just that they are changing their name.

I spoke with someone from IFI at SVR this year. He said that FIRST has canceled it’s contract with IFI and that IFI wasn’t going to be involved with FIRST next year.

I highly doubt there will be a breadboard on the new control system, at least not in the way most of us vision one. There’s a reason they are used on the lab bench and not in production. I can see modular motor control and misc I/O lines, running on some modern bus.

Also I would be very surprised if you could program the robot in Python, Java, or Basic. If there was an OS with interpreters and a control API, then MAYBE this is a possibility, but I highly doubt it. That is very scary from a support/infrastructure point of view. I would expect to see some kind of visual programming language (something similar to easyC, Labview, Simulink, etc…) after the success of easyC in FRC and FTC.

Considering the turn of events of the last year, I’d put down lots of money that the new control system won’t be from IFI.

I have also heard the same from various sources.

FIRST has made it abundantly clear that they will not be returning to VEX next year, and have since taken public potshots at the VEX platform.

It’s been a pretty open secret here that FIRST is trying their best to get rid of IFI.

Python support would be excellent.

Why exactly would FIRST want to get rid of IFI? :confused: They donate many supplies to teams (which if bought individually, could cost more that a thousand dollars), and there is always an IFI representative at almost regional.

IFI doesn’t do all of that for free, I’d imagine. They’re likely contracted by FIRST to provide those services and, apparently, FIRST is unhappy with how that arrangement has been playing out.

In my opinion I think that next year is not going to be a fun one initially. I foresee alot of issues at the initial regionals with matches switching from Hybrid to Operator control. I would have much rather seen IFI come out with a new version of the control system. I hope that the new control system is very similar to the current one with new features. It’s gonna suck If we have to buy new relays, speed, controllers and other control parts

I agree one of the best parts of being a veteran team is all the stockpiled parts we have that we can use for ourselves or helping other new teams near us.