Any advice for a new csa?

I’m helping out my old team whose hosting an offseason. I was asked to be a CSA. Anyone have advice for a first-time CSA? I just want to make sure the kids have fun!

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Always check the wiring.

When helping out teams, give your advice/guidance, but try to have a team member be the one to make the changes/fixes you are recommending. If you do have to get hands on, don’t touch a team’s robot or laptop until you have been asked to do so, or asked permission yourself.

We do this out of respect for the teams, but also to protect yourself. Jumping in to help a team finish rewiring their robot as they’re loading on to the field for a match seems heroic, but if the part you rewired or any related parts/mechanisms fails to operate correctly in that match, you’re going to be blamed for it.

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You might find this statement helpful as you interact with teams.

In my experience, a lot of the more “routine” issues you’ll run into is wiring issues (specifically power wiring) that have resulted from either (1) teams rewiring the robot in the offseason (or it’s the practice bot) or (2) connections that have shook loose over the course of the season. These issues manifest on the field as either the roborio or radio rebooting during the match, and your FTAs can help you better understand which one happened in the match.

When I’m first approaching a team to help troubleshoot what happened, I’ll look at the following connections

  1. The main robot breaker - make sure that the wires are tight on both sides of the connection. These wires should be rock solid and not move anywhere, and if they do it could cause a reboot of either the roborio or radio.
  2. The battery terminals - same as the main breaker above, if either connection is loose here it could cause reboots across the board.
  3. The little red and yellow automotive fuses at the end of the PDB - More often than not these are not pushed in all the way, so what happens during the match is the robot gets hit, the fuse shakes loose just for a split second and either the radio (via the VRM) reboots or the robo rio reboots, as each fuse controls power out to one of these. A tip that was shared with me a while ago and that I share with teams is to push them in with your thumb, and it should hurt your thumb a little before they’re in all the way (obviously be reasonable with this, you don’t want them to tell you that it broke because the pushed too hard).
  4. The connections from the PDB to the roborio/VRM, and the connections from the VRM to the radio. These sometimes are not in the connector correctly, the connector should have enough “grab” on the cable that if they pull on the cable a little (not hard) it should stay in.
  5. How are they powering the radio? If it’s just the barrel connector then that might have slipped out, if it’s over POE and over the barrel the issue is usually somewhere before this point in the power chain.

If all of that is fine, I’ll look for potentially main power wires that are pinched because of how they’re routed or other just strange wiring anomalies. But rarely do I get through the 5 items above without finding a handful of things for the team to fix that resolves their issues.

Another semi-common thing that happens as the season goes on is that teams have been making robot modifications where they’re cutting metal right over the electronics, and small metal shavings have fallen into the Rio/PDB/. If the error lights are indicating a short this is often (but not always the reason).

Not all of the issues will be power issues, but hopefully this helps as a good starter point. At an otherwise “calm” event I’d love to be able to take the time as an FTAA/CSA to go around and pro-actively check these items with teams if they wanted to, but the vast majority of the work ends up being reactive instead.

I’ll second this as well. The teams should be the ones making the changes and going through and doing the checks above, otherwise if you move something and it stops working you could be held responsible in their eyes.

Most of the time when you’re working with a team something has just gone wrong and they’re going to be stressed. Approaching with a nice calm demeanor with the attitude of “let’s work together to figure out what went wrong” goes a long way to making it a positive experience for everyone involved.

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