Field Issues

Interesting, but that sounds like a “it couldn’t hurt” solution, rather than a required one.

At NJ most teams ran with
The 2/27 version is identical, except in how it handles changes to IP settings, only noticeable on a small number of laptops, but maybe you had a lot of those if local teams all purchased the same third-party laptop on sale. :slight_smile:
At NJ, we did upgrade a few driver stations with the newest edition.

Of course, since it couldn’t hurt, upgrading to the 2/27 version is probably a good idea anyway.

Yea, I’m seconding the whole thing. was fine on practice day, but they had everyone move to by the first day of comp.

Also, at least for java users, update netbeans so that it matches the new cRIO image. We had a very unofficial way of fixing ours w/o internet (our programming mentor used hacking skills). Try to fix it in a better way though if possible, haha

Some additional detail based on my observations at Trenton (thanks Mark for the great list!)

To expand on the situation behind this - the WPA configuration kiosk apparently has sporadic problems and will report a “failure to configure IP, wrong operating system” error (or something like that - can’t remember the exact wording, sorry!). Usually the bridge will still be configured OK, but better safe than sorry. Hopefully the word can get out to the other regional volunteers so everyone knows the correct kiosk procedure is to plug in ethernet 1st, then power 2nd.

To expand on this, using DS Rev but having multiple IP addresses configured on the network adapter will also mean your robot will never link to the field. I think this is what jhersh meant when he euphemistically explained that DS rev would “ease proper configuration of the driver station laptop’s IP configuration (making you more likely to successfully connect to the field).” Prior to rev, setting the team number in the DS config just set the additional IP for your team without getting rid of any additional pre-existing IP addresses that may have been configured.

Several teams at the Trenton regional found this out the hard way when they borrowed Classmates from spare parts - the spare parts classmates all had DS rev, and also had an existing IP of - so any team using a spare parts Classmate could not connect to the field initially.

Again, better safe than sorry - probably best not to consider DS rev “optional”.

Huge thanks to all the Trenton volunteers but especially Mark, “NI Greg”, “NI Ben”, and “FTA Pete” for all the hard work!

  • Ron
    Team #2607 controls mentor

It can be an issue for teams who switch their IPs around a lot, or if you borrow a laptop from another team or Spare Parts.
That’s why the vast majority of teams won’t see this.
It’ll only cause a problem the first time you go to use it.
If you connected at least once before by tether in the pits then you’re good and it won’t crop up later or anything.

The way to tell if this was happening to you is pretty simple.
The symptoms are: the Driver Station can’t see the robot on tether.

If you check your IP settings use the Advanced button down at the bottom (1st attached image), and you’ll get a list of the IPs associated with that network adaptor. Just delete the extras that shouldn’t be there leaving you with one IP address as in the 2nd attached image.

Hey Ron,

Want to report on the CAN bus issues you debugged?
That’s useful for teams to know, too.

Hey! Yep, will probably take another day or two before the students and I finish pouring over all the runtime data we collected. Preliminarily it looked like stray CANBus exceptions would cause FRC_NetworkCommunication to block, and therefore cause FMS<->DS<->Robot comms issues whenever stray CANBus exceptions would occur - but now looking at all the data we’re not sure if this is the case. I told Greg we’d write everything up and send to him and Joe for review.

Quick question on the DS tethering - the students say they were able to tether successfully with the borrowed Classmate and “multiple IP” situation before going on the field…they would have done that to charge the pneumatics since we have an off-board compressor this year. So I’m wondering if the multiple IP problem is a cRIO issue, or an FMS issue?

Anyway, safest procedure is just to check the IP settings!

  • Ron
    Team #2607 controls mentor

I watched Trenton all weekend and tracked who won on which side of the field. This is my third year as an FTAA at Chesapeake and it seems like evey year someone complains that one side of the field is favored. I can tell you this was not the case at Trenton. It was very nearly a 50/50 split. Hopefully that holds up at Chesapeake!

The account being named Driver and not being able to change the name to Driver, ton top of a lot of CAN issues caused us much trouble. We are setting up at least 4 computers for Hartford, and hopefully we’ll be able to make practice matches to test them.

I did not know that was why the decorator didn’t show up around the DS windows. Thats a really useful tidbit of information.

Ditto on the Windows account being named exactly Driver with the uppercase D in order to work with the FMS.

Don’t know if it has been mentioned or changes somewhere in the great update loops of FIRST, but at Kettering the reflective tape used on the field did not match at all what was sent in the KOP sample.

The tape I had purchased and tested with, had reflective properties similar to sample tape provided in the KOP.

Using this tape the Line sensors, when placed approx. 2" above the floor, we had to detune the sensor all the way, and if the sensor got closer than 1.5" the sensors would false trigger.

At Kettering, we had to turn up the sensitivity almost 100%, and the sensors worked over the carpet, but when we had the bot in the pit, the sensors would false trip on whatever they used to cover the pit floor.

I was pretty nervous going into the first match, with no practice matches.

So be warned, if you have tuned your sensors to the KOP sample, you better make a trip to the practice field before your match.


While this is an excellent warning to any other teams that may have made this mistake, I do feel compelled to point out that this is not really a field issue. The reflective tape provided in the KOP was a sample of the material used for the reflective targets on the scoring grid. No sample of the grey gaffers tape used for the lines was provided in the KOP, but the manufacturer and product description were published by FIRST.

True that…

Silly me to think that the KOP unidentified reflective sample of 2" material would be used with line tracking sensors… Silly me to think that Pro-Graff tape was “generic” (akin to Duct tape) name as opposed to specific manufacture of tape.

The learning curve of a first year mentor. :slight_smile:

While I am on this exposing my sins, although off topic here, can someone tell me why we get autocad for free and publish all the area drawings in .pdf forms?
I don’t know how many times I had to scale a .pdf printout to set up the “Y” line on our school floor.

Live and learn.

By no means was I suggesting that FIRST made it clear which tape was which or easy to understand, merely pointing out that the information was there.

You are not the first team I have heard with this confusion (there are many posts here on CD with/about it) and I’m fairly sure you won’t be the last.

Regarding the field drawings, many of us have been wondering for the last few years why FIRST won’t just publish the CAD in some standard format, ocassionally aloud to the GDC or other FIRST officials. With Autodesk, PTC and Solidworks all sponsoring FIRST, it seems like it would make a lot of sense to publish CAD in addition to the drawings.

This has long been one of my pet peaves with FIRST. I am a Tool Designer for a major aerospace company. Every drawing I produce contains the following General Note: “Analyze <your CAD system here> model for all non-critical dimensions and information not shown” I have never gotten a good explanation for why the models of the field are not released. It would surely help with finding those dimensions FIRST did not think were critical enough to add to the drawing. The alternative I have used for severl years is to get the .pdfs and build my own models based on the drawings.


We were having extreme communication issues for basically all of Thursday and we couldn’t figure out what it was. After a ton of other things we stopped printing things to the display and that seemed to fix some of our problems.

(Week two)
At Lake Superior regional it started with the laptops having to be updated to communicate. Then a minibot tower was knocked over, like literally leaning on the side of the field. The problems subsided after a tube hit the antennas to send info back to Manchester meaning we could not send score data to Manchester until it was fixed a few minutes later.

Here’s a list of issues that caused teams to not work on the field at San Diego. Many of these were already mentioned, but I wanted to reiterate them.

Communications, Robot Side:

  • cRIO lost power after a very hard hit. It looks like it was probably the fuse within the cRIO. cRIO was replaced.
  • Radio not configured through kiosk.
  • Radio powered through breaker not through dedicated 12v radio supply on PDB
  • Loose wires on the on the battery, breaker, or PDB, which either came out, or caused excess current which dropped the battery voltage low enough to cause problems. Fixed by tightening all power connections.
  • Radio located next to lots of metal, motor, or speed controller. Fixed by relocating radio
  • Power cable has loose connection with radio. Fixed by securing radio power cable or replacing it.

Communications, DS side:

  • Driver station account needs to be “Driver” (case sensitive) if you’re using your own laptop.
  • Make sure you set up your DS in the correct position. It won’t connect to the field if you aren’t.
  • Make sure that ethernet cables positively latch on the classmate’s ethernet port. If yours is broken (ours is), you can use a USB ethernet adapter, or another laptop.
  • Do not set up a bridged connection that uses the ethernet port that FMS uses. It will not connect to the field.

Joysticks don’t work:

  • USB hub was unplugged, so joysticks not detected. Double check, especially if you have a multi-part control station, or the usb hub is mounted in an unsafe location
    *]There were at least 3 cases where joysticks did not work on the field. If the team went to the setup tab and pressed the buttons on the joysticks, the joysticks did not change color like they should. This may have some interaction with waking up from sleep mode. It was fixed by unplugging the hub and plugging it back in. Check that your joysticks work (eg light up on the setup tab when you press a button on the joystick) when you’re setting up prior to the match.

Formatted printing (using printf or cout or similar functions) is one of the slowest functions in the C/C++/Java libraries. It should be avoided at all costs in the production or competition environment. If it is buffered things get worse because the functions will block waiting for room in the buffers. This can cause huge problems with timing, even professional programmers (new to programming in a embedded real-time environment) make this mistake. Memory allocation functions are also problematic in critical code sections.

FYI, there is a simple function provided by the operating system on the cRIO called ‘logMsg’. It sends a message to a task that does the printing for you and the priority of that task can be adjusted so it does not affect your application. There is not much you can do about the memory allocation functions except organize your code so the allocations are done during startup sequences and not when the robot is responding to DS inputs, running PID code etc.


Hey All,

I was the Control Systems Advisor at the Pittsburgh Regional last week (had an absolute blast there :D). Our volunteer team there carefully monitored every issue that came up with the robots in all the matches. If a robot stopped moving (or never started moving), we made sure we and the team knew why it happened.

Throughout the whole competition we did not experience a single field related issue (except for a rouge tube knocking down a tower’s lights). I have had teams approach me after they see the “communication” light drop off the dashboard saying that there must be a field problem. While nothing is impossible, it is much more likely that something else was the cause. For example, if a robots battery falls out, that will also cause the “communication” light go red for obvious reasons :stuck_out_tongue:

Mark and Joe have given excellent summaries of the common problems that were encountered in getting teams up and running. I will just add some of my own observations.

On the issue of using version DS 2.17 and 1.05. At Pittsburgh we saw both work fine, but I encouraged everyone to update their software if for no other reason than consistency on the field. And again, “couldn’t hurt”.

Non classmate laptops were the cause of a few weird problems throughout the weekend. We had one team using a non-classmate laptop who always had to log out and log back in to successfully connect to FMS. They would get all greens on the dashboard the first time, but FMS wouldn’t see them, so we always had them just log off and log back in and it would fix it.

We also had some interesting problems with a few teams updating their cRIO firmware using non-classmate laptops. I think a few of those problems were just caused by buggy computers, but there was one case where a brand new computer running Windows 7 just could not successfully download the cRIO image. My best guess was some kind of firewall issue. We just had that team download the version using their classmate and it was fine. At least 3 teams needed to use different laptops after unsuccessfully using theirs to download the latest image.

The DLINK radios take about 1-2 minutes to connect after power on. In order to keep up 6 minute match cycles we had everyone power on their robots as soon as they hit the field (unless they had a gyro). We kept track of which robots got powered on last so we knew which ones to wait for while the radios connected and not accidentally bypass them while they were still connecting.

Thats pretty much all I can remember right now. If anyone had an issue that went unexplained or was thought to be a field problem, please PM me and I would be happy to try and investigate it. Always looking for potential problems :slight_smile:

A best practice for using the gyro is to have the software do a gyro reset at the very beginning of autonomous. That way the team can line up the robot with it on, but the final position will be the 0 angle for autonomous. Even if a team can’t implement that software fix, they can reboot the robot with the reset switch on the cRIO, which will sync much faster then a full power cycle of everything (they may also be able to use the reboot robot button on the DS).

  • As the FTAA for the Wisconsin And Minnesota North Star Regionals, I, too noticed that the driver station software v1.05 seemed to cause FMS linkup failures. I just told the teams to upgrade to the latest version just to keep that out of the equation.
  • And STILL the teams don’t seem to understand that having the Developer account logged in (in the background) is a bad thing!!
  • Although the FIRST instructions for setting up a non-classmate laptop are very specific, some teams failed to get the memo and came onto the field with various incorrect driver accounts. I’d think that this should be a line item for the robot inspectors to check.
  • YES, these new robot radios take FOREVER to link up! I can’t remember how long both the FTA and I just stared at them in order to make them connect (it was an aura thing I suspect). Although, some teams had the switch set to AUTO rather than “bridge”, which took even longer to link, it was probably just an inadvertent change of the switch during the competition.
  • And I’ve noticed that there’s not any type of training provided for the FTAAs on the FIRST site. You’d think that a position like this would merit at least a one page summary of what the FTAAs are responsible for.

Maybe this is the start…