Competition Driver Station setup

Hey guys,

Due to the blue screening of our driver station right before our match, we decided to invest in a new setup, mainly, but not limited to, a new computer

Would you guys show me your driver station setups? I want to know
*your Computer specs. Laptop or desktop? *What are you proud of for your driver’s station aside from your computer?
*What are your must haves?

Our must haves are a reliable, portable, touch screenable setup.

Thanks for your opinions!

Edit: also what about computers with graphics cards. If we use a couple camera feeds, would a dedicated graphics card be better than an integrated one?


I would personally argue against this due to the risk of jumping into tablet mode. Windows used to be very bad about that, and it hasn’t gotten much better tbh. Absolute nightmare fuel right there.

Your real priorities should be:

  • onboard Ethernet, ideally not a fiddly little folding mechanism, but you should be using a short extension to preserve the onboard port anyway
  • no spinning rust, only solid-state storage as the DS wall tends to take some decent hits, and the laptop is usually running while being moved around.
  • lots of USB A ports for controllers. Running through a hub can be risky if you need to unplug and replug a malfunctioning controller during a match. The other controllers will be lost as well with a hub (been there done that, also lost comms b/c the hub was handling ethernet).
  • sd card port may be useful for RoboRio stuffs, but the DS laptop reeeeeeally should only have the DS software.

In terms of real “specs”, it doesn’t particularly matter unless you’re doing video processing on the DS laptop, but even then. 1114 was still using the 2010 KOP Classmate netbook as of 2019 iirc.

Also, if your school has some dumb IT restriction about all laptops having a giant password or whatever, never let them find the machine. A password protected DS laptop might as well be a brick to the FTAs, especially if your user account isn’t an admin.


Here is a PDF that I got from a couple of Minnesota CSAs Describing what they recommend


The reason for the touch screen (we haven’t had any trouble as of yet) is for the co-driver to pick various settings on the robot, climbing pose, shooting mode, collecting mode etc.–virtual button board.

As a former operator, this is nightmare fuel.
If you have to look at the button board instead of the robot (pretty much guaranteed if there aren’t physical buttons), you’re not gonna have a fun time.
Xbox style controller with lots of buttons is far more intuitive and carries other advantages.


This paper was since incorporated into wpilib docs. It is an excellent resource!


So are you saying one Xbox controller for the driver and another one for the co-driver?


Yes, it has worked just well for most teams. 1 controller for each person.


Added this edit just now

Or whatever physical controller setup you’d like. Some drivers still do tank with two flight sticks, but I’d advise against introducing that. Just, please don’t try and make a touchscreen work. If there were only two, giant buttons, maybe.


As said before, I’d advise against going for a touchscreen setup. Instead, check out the Logitech F310 Gamepad - a lot of teams use these and its reliable. Get one for the driver, one for the operator, and get minimum one spare each. A controller makes it easy to add commands (just add logic for a button being pressed vs. having to add that logic AND worry about layout on the screen, amongst other things). If one gets damaged/starts working unreliably, MARK IT WITH TAPE. At competitions, make sure its NOWHERE NEAR THE ROBOT when its time to play. The last thing you want is to lose a match because of a bad joystick. A good idea would be to have one laptop as the driver station and another one to deploy code.

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I’ve also heard of the F310 lasting longer than the xbox, +1.

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Thanks for the input. Do you have opinion on build specs of the ds laptop?

Honestly, pretty much anything from the last 10 years that can run windows 10 should be fine for running the driver station. Just make sure that’s basically the only program on the machine (no CAD or photoshop etc.).

I pulled this list from the link that Nate mentioned above.

1. RAM – 2GB of RAM is minimum, if you have a SSD.
2. A display size of 13” or greater, with minimum resolution of 1440x1050.
3. Ports
  1. A built-in Ethernet port is highly preferred. Ensure that it’s a full-sized port. The hinged Ethernet ports don’t hold up to repeated use.
  2. Use an Ethernet port saver to make your Ethernet connection. This extends the life of the port on the laptop. This is particularly important if you have a consumer-grade laptop with a hinged Ethernet port.
  3. If the Ethernet port on your laptop is dodgy, either replace the laptop (recommended) or buy a USB Ethernet dongle from a reputable brand. Many teams find that USB Ethernet is less reliable than built-in Ethernet, primarily due to cheap hardware and bad drivers. The dongles given to rookies in the KOP have a reputation for working well.
  4. 2 USB ports minimum
4. A keyboard. It’s hard to quickly do troubleshooting on touch-only computers at the field.
5. A solid-state disk (SSD). If the laptop has a rotating disk, spend $50 and replace it with a SSD.
6. Updated to the current release of Windows 10. Being the most common OS now seen at competitions, bugs are more likely to be found and fixed for Windows 10 than on older Windows versions.

I’d agree with everything here. Most important things IMO for the driver station are it’s robust (see business grade laptops) has a good deal of usb type-A ports, an HDMI output can be helpful at times (but not necessary) and a full size ethernet port.

To play it safe, go with 4GBs, even if the laptop is strictly for the driver station (not used for anything else). If you want the potential to be able to code on the same laptop as the driver station*, go with 8GB.

*I do not highly recommend this, but there are teams out there that can only afford to use 1 laptop, instead of the better 1 for code, 1 for driving.


Ya I’ll definitely agree with that there. Honestly, I’d say it would be down right hard to find a refurbished machine these days with anything less than 4gb of ram running windows. Maybe used on Marketplace/Kijiji (or whatever your local online classifieds site is).

If you’re near a Micro Center, you also have the option to spend $0 to replace it.


Here is our setup:

The computer is a Lenovo ThinkPad X395 with the following specs:
Configuration Details
● Processor: AMD Ryzen™ 5 Pro 3500U (2.10GHz, up to 3.70GHz Max Boost, 4 cores, 4MB Cache)
● Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64
● Display Type: 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare, 300 nits
● Memory: 8GB DDR4 2400MHz (Soldered)
● Hard Drive: 256GB SSD PCIe
● Graphics: Integrated AMD Radeon™ Vega 8

The frame was orderd from - if you want the list I can send it to you, PM me.
The mounts are RAM Mounts:
(1) RAM Universal Laptop Tough Tray Flat Arm - RAM-234-3FL
(2) RAM 1.5" Track Ball with T-Bolt Attach - RAP-354U-TRA1
(2) RAM Socket Arm w/1.5" and 1" Socket 18" - RAP-CB-201-18U
(4) RAM 2-7/16" Dia Base - RAM-B-202U

Doesn’t matter how tough you build these things - the kids will find a way to beat them up pretty good. This set-up was built in 2019/20 and it already looks like it has been through a few seasons of FRC.

Let me know if you have any questions - I don’t think we are at any competitions together this year as you are at 10K Lakes and we aren’t in Minneapolis at all this year.


Booooo! I refuse to accept this!

Pandamaniacs are running an aging ThinkPad T-series, want to say a T410 but we have a few flavors of ThinkPad floating around the shop. We transport it and two Xbox controllers in an Apache 3800 case from Harbor Freight; it’s more than plenty sturdy for the job, easy to toss in a car or on the cart, and it was surplus from my former business so the price was right.

I’ve dumped some too-ancient-to-bother-selling laptops in the shop to do things like run our router, but anything that was bought for the team is a used T-series because they are easily serviced and built strong without going full smash-a-hole-in-the-wall with the Panasonic Toughbook. Full-size built-in Ethernet is crucial for us in particular.

I’ll hit you with a concurring opinion regarding the touchscreen, as touchscreen access is a thing we have to worry about at work. I still wouldn’t use one in competition personally–CircuitPython boards are dirt dirt cheap for rigging up physical buttons–but if you do decide to pursue that then explore a keyguard. Here’s one designed for a communication app on an iPad (and an image search for many more examples):

By adding physical ridges, you’re going to increase the operator’s accuracy in selection. Vary the texture on the dividers, and it’ll be easier for an operator to distinguish certain functions without looking. Any team with a respectable-sized 3D printer or ability to cut flat plastics would be able to pump one out.

To be clear, I still wouldn’t do a touchscreen for a competition robot–but a keyguard would be how I’d do the wrong thing the right way.