Controller preferences

So our team has used Logitech F310s for past seasons. This year, we are considering switching to Xbox one controllers, because both of our drivers own an Xbox. Are there advantages to either controller? Also, are there any other controllers you guys would recommend?

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Whatever the driver wants to use is the controller you should go with. Theyre the ones using it, they should have the say in what they use and are most comfortable with.


I get it, Im just curious whether specific controllers have advantages. Like button placement, reliability, etc.

They might, but will your drivers get that advantage?

Personally, I think the PlayStation DualShock controllers have a better setup than Xbox controllers. I like having my analog sticks next to each other, and dont understand why Xbox would place it where the d-pad is. That said, your drivers may find it to be the other way around in terms of the config they like, so my suggestion would then be useless.

In terms of reliability, anything first party that’s wired is a safe bet. I think this is the one we used this year.


You’ll get a bunch of anecdotes and personal preferences but the standard seems to be wired xbox 360 or xbox one controllers. They seem reliable, intuitive for most high schoolers, and are easy to program with.

*The above might be personal preference as well.

Favorite: Guitar Hero

  • lol

Best: something fancy but common (ie xbox)

  • has good weight to it
  • most everyone is familiar with the button placement
  • has some integrity to it, durable

Easiest: Logitech

  • cheap
  • but also, cheap - I’ve had a few go bad on my teams over the years

Preferred: Flight sticks or RC car style

  • higher analog range for more precise movement
  • less digital driving keeps spectators safer during “guest driving events” (demos).

Very bias towards Joystick arcade control. idk why. Felt like I was able to have a steadier hand and more precise driving. My anecdotal evidence is: I was could balance our teams robot in 2012 very quickly.

I’d say the controller is not as important as the control setup. 3081 switched to a more unique controller setup a few years back because the driver was used to playing racing games. The setup features throttle on the right trigger, reverse on the left trigger, and steering with the right left thumbstick.


Drivers giving feedback on control setups:

Of course you had to shut er down, Earl, what options did you have?

There are actually some good technical reasons to consider when selecting controllers.

Our drive team did some extensive research this past year and found that one big technical difference between the various common controllers is with the deadband region on the joysticks. The deadband can affect your ability to make fine adjustments or move slowly.

As a swerve team, this was important to us and was the main reason why we selected the controllers that we did.

Edit: I went back through our Slack discussion about the various controllers. Another factor that differentiated the controllers was whether they had a rumble feature or not. We noticed in the 254 technical binder from 2018 that they used rumble as one of the feedback mechanisms to the drivers. We are always looking for ways to streamline the interface between the driver and the robot and feedback features are a great way to do that.

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Which controllers did you end up choosing?

Sorry, I should have included that. It was the Xbox One controller.

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+1 for the rumble. We used rumble this year to specify whether the robot is in field or robot-centric mode

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How do you include rumble?

We have a vision based driver assist function that allows the robot to steer as we approach the scoring targets (driver still controls the speed in and out). We talked about using the rumble to indicate when the vision system had acquired the targets and was ready to take control of the steering. But, honestly, I am not 100% sure that is how it was actually implemented in the end. We also talked about using sensors to sense when cargo and hatches had been acquired and using the rumble to tell the driver. But I know we never added those sensors, so I’m pretty sure we never implemented that function.

The drivers had a lot of ideas of their own as to how to use the rumble feedback. And our lead programmer is also the main driver, so I’m sure he came up with his own clever uses for the rumble feedback.

We also added LED lights and a Blinkin to our bot and the lights were used to signal the drivers as well. So, I am not 100% sure how they did all the various feedback signals in the end.

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So we have used the big, simple Logitechs for several years. In 2016 we used an Xbox controller for the first time for the operator. We are still using this setup with a full size joystick for the driver and an Xbox controller for the operator. We do this largely because the Xbox joysticks are harder to make exact movements with, especially for someone who has never driven a robot before. We also have noticed that, at least with our controllers the Xbox joysticks required a wider deadband than the Logitechs.

We like the Xbox for the operator because we have started using the rumble and the students are also very familiar with the button placement. We often reference fps games with use of the triggers and buttons to control expelling game pieces from the robot.

I’ve been a driver as a student and have been a drive team coach for a few years now, and I can tell you it 100% depends on driver preference. In 2014, aerial assist, we used a mecanum robot. We did in 2012 as well. My co driver in 2012 used the play station controller. When we were practicing with that base in 2014, the drivers we selected for drive team could’nt get used to the console controllers. We gave them a single joy stick controller and they ran circles around everyone. My drivers currently use the xbox controller no matter the drive base. tank, swerve, mecanum, doesnt matter. It’s 100% what they prefer. That usually translates to what they grew up with.
The debate in specific controller comes after style is decided. Some have different features, as stated above the cheesy poofs used a rumble feature for driver feedback, we did that as well so we knew when the auto hatch grabber had the hatch since we could’nt always see it. Some have more or less buttons. Some are easier or more difficult to program. ect ect

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I’ve used xbox 360, joysticks, logitech’s for FTC, and playstation for Valpo Robotics. I personally liked joysticks since I felt like I could more precisely control the bot especially in high gear. Most of my years on 45, I used xbox 360 controllers which do have a nice rumble feature which was useful. I prefer to use either joysticks or playstation controllers, but in the end it what your drivers want and are comfortable with.

My bias was always gamepad-style, for the same reasons. My first year as driver (2012) I was also able to balance quickly, with mecanum, and spin on top of the ramp. 100% because I was using a controller I was familiar with.

Big +1 for control setup. The only reason I was able to control mecanum smoothly was it was set up like an RPG/FPS game where the left stick would move in every direction and the right would spin/look around. That made driving very intuitive for me.

Then in 2014 when 279 built our first WCD robot we changed to the exact setup you described, with the button to shift to high gear where the “NOS” button would be on most racing games.

There’s no denying the precision advantage of a single joystick, but it absolutely comes down to utilizing the right controller style/setup for the individual driver


The Navy will begin reverting destroyers back to a physical throttle and traditional helm control system in the next 18 to 24 months, after the fleet overwhelmingly said they prefer mechanical controls to touchscreen systems in the aftermath of the fatal USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) collision.

“When you look at a screen, where do you find heading? Is it in the same place, or do you have to hunt every time you go to a different screen?”

I didn’t read the article so it have mentioned it but I remember reading how in both Navy and Army applications they have opted to just mount xbox controllers in places like Submarine/ship controls because its simply one of the most intuitive and familiar controller for new, young people.