We just finished up the second Alpha weekend in New Hampshire, so now is probably a good time to give an update on what’s been happening with the new 2015 hardware.
As a preface, we’re a LabVIEW team, and our test robot from Ultimate Ascent has 11 talons, drivetrain encoders, a gyro, a photoeye that we’re using as a counter for speed control, an analog string pot and an analog potentiometer.
Back in September, most of the components weren’t working correctly due to a combination of hardware and software issues. I’m happy to say that a couple hours into Saturday, everything on our robot was functioning correctly. There were no significant differences in LabVIEW code.
We did get some bad news going into this weekend. Unfortunately the ASUS wifi dongles simply didn’t play well enough together to supplant the current DLINK radios. So this weekend we spent all our time on the field using the DLINK radios. Bummer, but I’d much rather use a well proven product than spend a season with connectivity problems.
We all got new pneumatic control modules this weekend. While we put ours on the robot, we don’t have any pneumatics so I can’t comment on the functionality. I know the other teams spent a pretty fair amount of time working with the pneumatic systems and code, discussing backwards compatibility, and how automatic compressor control should work since the new PCM closes the loop itself with the compressor.
We got a chance to play with a new, updated driver station that utilized mDNS so we didn’t need a static IP on your RoboRio for our driverstation to find it on the network - it used the RoboRio name instead. This could eventually lead to a point where it’s unneeded to set a static IP on the driverstation either, but we didn’t test that out at all. No word for certain if these features will make their way onto the competition field or not.
We spent a lot of time testing what happens when the RoboRio browns out. We were able to continue running our robot until the point where we started seeing dips into the 5-6 volt range.
I’m happy to say that deploy times have been reduced significantly for LabVIEW. We were one of the unhappy recipients last year of the bug that left us waiting long periods for our code to deploy (using the run arrow). Seeing it go over in 20-30 seconds was great.
Imaging happens over USB now with a new imaging tool, and our experience was a huge improvement over last year’s as well. One try and it was done. It was also faster.
NI also mentioned that they’re looking at not requiring a RoboRIO reboot when new code is permanently deployed via LabVIEW, which will be a nice improvement if they manage to work it in.
A portion of the weekend went towards safety discussions as well. Especially on how the expansion port and potential break-out boards will be handled. It opens up a whole new realm for creative teams, and adds a whole new layer of potential complexity for those poor inspectors!
I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface in this list, and I’m sure the Java and C++ teams will have more to add. HUGE thanks go out to FIRST, NI, and CrossTheRoad Electronics for all the work that went into this weekend. As always, everything mentioned here is on a “maybe” basis, and nothing is definite until we get our kit of parts in January.