Can I design my own PDP or motor controller for FRC?

Just curious, if i design a PDP or a motor controller, can i use it on an FRC robot?

For a competition bot I’m quite sure you can’t. The only rule in the manual that comes to my mind about that would be R40, but maybe there’s more.

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Update: R29 for the motor controllers.


2020-R29 for motor controllers and 2020-R40+41, in conjunction with the GLOSSARY definition of a CUSTOM CIRCUIT make it effectively illegal to make a custom main PDP or custom motor controllers for FRC.

If you wanted to make a custom board for power distribution to power multiple sensors off of one PDP port as a single CUSTOM CIRCUIT I believe that’s legal though, but your custom circuit still has to follow the custom circuit rules. (2020-R30-Subitem 2, among others)


If you got it approved by FIRST you can use it.


All correct answer so far. The main underlying reason is safety.

FIRST desires to ensure that, at least by design, the estop signal (or similar) will indeed bring the robot to a halt (“zero energy state”, with a handful of explicit exceptions). This is implemented in a handful of different ways, depending on whether you’re doing CAN or PWM control.

It’s not that you couldn’t ever make your own, but rather that to use it in a competition, it has to go through design review and approvals and testing to show it meets this safety requirement. Only controllers which can pass this with HQ make it to the approved controllers list.

It’s not that you couldn’t violate or override the system, but the idea is that any legal robot built with non-malicious intent should meet the safety requirement.

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This is technically correct, but the OP probably also should know that it’s not an easy or quick process. Suppliers who develop new parts for FRC may need two or three years to get something approved by FIRST HQ before it becomes legal for competition. Your team certainly can try to do this, but be aware that FIRST HQ will scrutinize it carefully to be sure that it’s 1) safe, 2) not producing results that are too far outside standards, and 3) something that everyone will have available to use. That last point means that if you designed something like a new PDP or controller, you’d have to make either the item or the (detailed) plans available for everyone else to buy or manufacture before they’d consider approving it, even assuming you meet the other two criteria.

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What is your motivation for doing this? Saving money and/or shorter delivery time due to your team being in Turkey? Educational experience? You think you can make better designs?

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From what I’ve seen of motor controllers, you can definitely get approved as long as it turns off when it’s supposed to. If the original SD540 got approved, your motor controller can too.


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