Cheap & Dirty Radio Control Quick and simple robot

Hello, we are looking create a quick and simple robot for outreach events that will not break the bank. Therefore, we were looking for some RC style electronic system that does not require programming and can run 6-8 CIM motors for an extremely fast and powerful drive train. We were looking at something that will use either a button system, controller, or even simple On/Off and forward/reverse switches.

Wired Controls would work well too as we will have someone within one to three feet of the robot at all times.

We looked on AndyMark’s website, but they no longer sell the cheap and dirty RC control set. We want something robust enough where it won’t break, but cheaper than a RoboRIO. We do have two extra PDM’s and assorted FRC electronics if that will help us at all.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!!!

This one looks like a pretty good replacement (in fact, it’s linked to from the Cheap and Dirty RC page):

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Thank you, that one looks like it would work well. Have you used one of these before?
If we wanted to use 6 CIM’s then would we use an FRC PDP, connect each motor to a motor controller, and then use the PDM on the motor controller to connect to each channel of the RadioLink receiver? From there, we could just configure the motors to run in all at the same time when using the throttle controllers? Sorry, I have never done any electrical work outside of FRC.

Or would this be a better version where I would not need motor controllers?

Thanks!

I’m guessing @Nick_Lawrence or someone else at AndyMark would be able to answer specifically. From an earlier thread:

I’ve only messed with RC controllers a couple of times, but what we did to make a tank drive on a similar controller was to take the forward/backward left stick channel output and split it to the two left side motor controllers (PWM Y cable) and then do the same for the right side. That only uses two channels of the eight and leaves the others for mechanisms or whatever.

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I’ve used one on an AndyMark Fight Night robot. No complaints. Make sure you have a way to apply +5V to the receiver, whether the AM converter or a VRM or something else.

Not quite. You’d want to do Y cables off of the two channels that correspond to your signals (either the ones for the two Y axes, read the manual for the mixer function to do arcade drive).

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If you do not have an extra PDP, there may be two potentially more inexpensive alternatives.

This one from Andymark, or a boat PDP which you can find on Amazon or at a marine store. With each, they will have a lower max power than the CTRE one. You also may want a master breaker.

I’d counter with the old blue Power Distribution Board–free if it’s in your junk pile, or if you find a neighboring team with a junk pile they’ll let you rummage in. It’s either that, the existing CTRE PDP, or a very expensive process of piecing your own stuff together–it’s possible, but it’s going to require custom work as it’s very rare to see more than four maxi fuse positions on a fuse block.

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We purchased Flysky from Abra electronics. https://abra-electronics.com/quadcopters/controllers/fs-i6x.html The documentation isn’t great but you can essentially configure it to output 10 channels. We are only using six motors so have it outputting PWM to six motor controllers (pretty sure every approved FRC motor controller can handle PWM).
Keep in mind these controllers are designed for RC planes so you typically have to have the left joystick pushed all the way down when starting. A project I want to explore is hooking up the receiver to an Arduino and controlling everything through it. We are using a PDP and VCM in addition to the motor controllers (talons).

I have used a Raspberry pi, an adafruit servo hat, and a wireless usb gamepad for a similar application.

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I’ve made a decent number of minibots for demos and I’ve compiled a list of the components I’ve used.

Mini/Demobot Parts List

About half use the plain R/C setup but some of the more complicated ones use VEX microcontrollers (PIC and Cortex).

For the R/C Setup, PWM Y-Cables are your friend for pairing multiple motors. Additionally, analog transmitters can be soldered to regular potentiometers and you can make control panels like this.

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I’ve also used a FlySky FS-i6 to drive a robot. It worked fine, but I did get a little bit of glitchy behavior driving SparkMax controllers with it. It’s a little weird to configure but has some nice options through the digital menus, and at less than $60 it’s cheap. What’s also nice is it will fully saturate the PWM inputs on most motor controllers, and it has a good stick-neutral output that doesn’t require excessive trimming. If you’re okay with only 30 Amps per channel, I’d go with a cheap ATC fuse panel from these guys. ATC Fuse Panel (With Ground Pad) | Connector Concepts, Inc. You can stick ATC Snap Action breakers in it.

Depending on what motor controllers you use, they may not supply 5V on the middle (red) wire on the PWM cable, in which case you would also need a 5V regulator to power the RC receiver. Andymark sells one.