COTs part's question

There are some small computers like the Intel NUC. It would be classified as COTS unmodified. However, it is barebones and comes with no disk drives or RAM. That means you need to “modify” it by adding so-dimms and an mSATA ssd. Would this still be considered a COTS part?

No. It is no longer COTS if someone cannot buy it, in that configuration, in a store, or online.

A COTS part that has been painted is considered “fabricated” because it is not available in that “configuration” to the general public. A COTS controller board, memory card, etc., are all COTS on their own. But once you slap them together they become a “fabricated” item.

Or do they become a collection of COTS parts? Can’t anyone buy the HD and memory off the shelf?

These seems like it would be something that could be easily clarified by the Q&A when it opens on the 8th.

It can be taken either way. The device was meant to be expanded. I doubt that you’d use a computer without RAM and a Boot drive! This is something kind of complicated and maybe Al could clarify this for us because he is part of the inspection team.

We aren’t building the RAM modules ourselves, neither the disk drive, so we are technically not modifying the computer. Just pull out the ram, wifi, bt and disk and the computer will be exactly as out of the box.

By the way, how much could I get a CHEAP set of 4GB RAM that will work? This wouldn’t require anything special. The same would go for the SSD. This isn’t something we will be using daily, so a cheap ssd will most likely cut it. Otherwise, maybe I could boot from a flash disk!

The components would all be considered COTs. The issue is how to power it. You either will need to power it from the robot battery or the battery will need to be self contained in the COTS computer.

I was thinking of a 12v to 19v boost converter. I think it would be cots legal because it is external. It is just a vReg, so I am doubtful that any problems would be caused!

Definitely a Q&A question.
Also, I think the CUSTOM CIRCUIT of a 12 - 19 V converter wouldn’t be a problem.

In the past we fielded a Gateway netbook with added RAM.

The RAM modules are COTS. The Gateway netbook is COTS.

The COTS rules should also not prohibit repaired systems but I’ve not actually competition inspected a repaired laptop on a robot and I am very unclear on how anyone would know. I’ve repaired plenty of driver’s station laptops that were used in competition.

We did remove the display and keyboard from that Gateway netbook we had on the robot and it was like that during inspection. You can’t buy it COTS without the display and keyboard but through several inspections no one complained because it was properly enclosed and packed in foam blocks.

I have seen cRIOs that were repaired fielded.

Nothing stops FIRST from changing this around but we actually did this so it would be a change.

Isn’t that illegal? That involves opening the case of the cRIO!

Think for a minute - how would you know?
What do think National Instruments does when they refurbish these things?

The issues of how do you detect tampering was part of the reason why when I helped to propose a 2015 control system I proposed a tool that would detect tampering and the altered operation. A proper repair does not alter the normal operation it restores it.

But they would be the experts…the manufacturers of the device. I don’t think students could know where problems are likely like the NI team would know!

We’ve had to take apart our cRio numerous times, not to modify but to clean the gunk that gets in there. There was one incident where a freshman got metal shavings into a cRio, so we took it apart, cleaned it up, and continued doing so as routine maintenance. That particular one never seemed to work right, but it was due to the shavings, not the cleaning.

As for the computer, it would probably be classified as a modular COTS system per R11 for price (components priced separately), though you are probably more concerned about the battery and fan allowances for COTS computing devices. Frankly, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be considered a COTS computing device, and using included fans or batteries would definitely follow the intent of the rule, though it wouldn’t hurt to try the Q&A.

There is some confusion here when discussing computing devices. Under the rules as interpreted in the past, if a team chooses to use a laptop, netbook, tablet or other device that has a self contained battery, that is a legal use on the robot as the battery is strictly used for the computing device under R31. Disk drives that are included in such a device are also legal under R29. A single board computer that you have modified by adding required items like RAM is considered under the custom circuit rule R40. (Adding disk drives does not meet the motor rules unless the drive uses one of the specified motors.) However, all custom circuits are subject to other sections of the robot rules as they might apply. Teams have been allowed to supply required power through another custom circuit (such as a voltage booster or multiple output power supply) provided it does not violate any other rule. In particular you may not wire a 120 volt inverter on your robot to power a device and you may not modify the power pathway to devices on the robot. Any and all custom circuits will be inspected for compliance and at a minimum must be insulated properly and meet all the other electrical rules.

Just to be clear, it doesn’t have an internal battery. I wish to tackle this by mounting the filesystem as read-only. Whatever directories are susceptible to change can be using a 1G ramdisk, and the data can be stored on an NFS running on the driver station! I think that an optimal solution to get past the era of corrupt disks caused by a hard-reset. Check out this article at

Just make sure such a networked solution doesn’t depend on ports that might not be usable during a match.

I doubt this will require much bandwidth, and I am quite savvy with port forwarding. That shouldn’t be much of a problem! Otherwise, a battery backup would be another optimal solution!