[FRC Blog] Next Generation Control System -- Update

Posted on the FRC Blog, 9/10/2020: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2021-control-system-update

Next Generation Control System – Update

2020 SEP 10 | Written by Kate Pilotte, Senior Kit of Parts Manager, FIRST Robotics Competition.

While probably not front and center in your mind in September in a pandemic… the team working on the deployment of the next generation FIRST Robotics Competition control system wanted to provide an update to our February, 2020 pre-pandemic blog on the matter. The whole team is excited about getting these new devices to the community, but the roll out needs a bit of revision. Shocker, right?

Here’s the latest and greatest of where we are as of this moment…

  • NI will provide the next generation roboRIO

    • Similar functionality (improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary)
    • NI has made targeted changes to improve the user experience with roboRIO 2.0 including increased memory, increased on-board storage, and increased processor speed.
    • roboRIO 2.0 is designed to be backwards-compatible with hardware and software from the original roboRIO
    • NI will donate 1 roboRIO 2.0 per Rookie Kickoff Kit in FRC seasons 2022-2026 (in addition to other important support of FIRST that emphasizes ED&I)
  • REV Robotics will provide brand-new support modules

    • Power Distribution Hub
      • 20 power distribution channels
      • 40A load capability on all channels
      • 2 software switchable channels
      • All toolless & connectorless terminals
      • USB & CAN interfaces
    • Pneumatic Hub
      • 12 solenoid channels (6 double solenoids)
      • Analog and digital pressure sensing
      • Regulated 12V & 24V modes
      • USB & CAN interfaces
    • Voltage Regulation Hub
      • 12v or 5v module options
      • 3 individually protected output channels

Due to Covid-19 impacts (overall cost considerations and no off-season events available for testing brand-new products), FIRST is delaying rollout of the new REV boards in Kickoff Kits until the 2023 FRC season.

REV is on track with the new support modules, getting ready for a launch in 2021 for the 2022 Season. FIRST may make these new products competition legal in 2022 for teams who choose to adopt these products on their own.

  • For the 2022 Season, rookie teams will receive the existing CTRE products and these products will continue to remain competition legal in future years.

  • WPI and the WPILib development team will provide software in support of the new devices.

  • The wireless solution will continue to be the Open Mesh radio for the foreseeable future, and we will continue to pursue a solution to succeed these radios.

We emphasize that this is our plan as of today and encourage absorbing this with a Jupiter-sized grain of salt given that we all face so much uncertainty regarding the pandemic. We commit to providing updates though, so please stay tuned!

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20x40A, and a nice pay to win mechanic for at least a year from the looks of it

The wireless solution will continue to be the Open Mesh radio for the foreseeable future, and we will continue to pursue a solution to succeed these radios.

Sad robot noises

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I love all of this. Can’t wait to play with it in 22!

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Thank you Greg.

  • swerve teams everywhere
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I see it as less P2W and more “Lets allow teams to reuse things they might have following the economic devastation from COVID19 to improve team sustainability.” Any moves to improve sustainability is much appreciated. I bet we will see the teams who can afford to buy new electronics sell their old stuff at a good rate to teams who don’t have the resources. Win for everyone.

Also excited for the USB interfaces on all these new components! The one on the Spark Max has been super nifty and I’m looking forward to see how we can utilize the new ones in the future.

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This looks awesome. The switchable channels on the PDH will be really useful for light rings and stuff, though I hope each channel will accept 20/30A breakers as well as 40A. I’m also disappointed that veteran teams won’t be getting a RoboRIO 2, but I guess we can’t expect too much from a small multibillion dollar industrial PLC company.

I can’t wait to see these though, all of these (except the radio, really guys?) look like clear and huge improvements over what we have.

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20 times 40A… I know some people will use that responsibly, but I have to admit… it has me worried how many teams will wind up shooting themselves in the foot with it. We’ve already seen teams with 6-CIM drive trains wind up with power issues they weren’t prepared to handle.

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Absolutely, and it’s not like 8 vs 20 PDP channels. Just would be nice for everybody to be given access to new hardware all at the same time. It would especially suck if we had another Falcon500 situation, but I think we should be able to trust REV to get 8000 of these made in a year? I don’t see a PDP replacement having issues they wouldn’t have caught already.

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This new roll-out plan is both FIRST and us adapting to the Covid environment. We recognize that availability to teams and stock levels are very important. We factor that in with every product launch. I think it is important to note that we never had a stock issue with Spark Max, NEO or NEO550 in their launch years (or years after).

As we get closer to launch of these products in 2021 we will make sure we are prepared so all teams who wish to adopt for the 2022 season can do so.

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Alternatively, as long as the old system works just fine, I think teams who can’t afford to buy the new system right away won’t be limited by the old system. More PDP slots does not a better robot make.

I do hope, however, that this increase in motor slots doesn’t make the GDC more inclined to add complexity to games. Just because teams can have more moving things, doesn’t mean they all should.

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In 2022 FIRST will probably throw in a rough terrain game just to cause havoc on the new Swerve teams. :slight_smile:

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So will teams be required to use the latest roborio/pdp?
Or can we use the older versions?

Sounds like they will be legal.

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Some takes of various temperatures:

– This announcement doesn’t actually say that the roboRIO 1.0 will be legal to use in 2022, just that the new roboRIO is designed to be backwards-compatible. That could mean that 2.0 will be required for competition in 2022 and the 1.0 can be used for practice bots.

– NI donating 1 roboRIO 2.0 in each rookie KOP is a convenient way to make each team buy at least one with their own money by the time they’ll be required in the next few years instead of providing it for free in the KOP with registration fee money like they would have to if they required the new control system.

– 20x 40A power distribution channels will be somewhat helpful for teams that are already pushing the boundaries. It will be extremely helpful for teams that are trying to take the next step and add more functionality, but don’t have the experience to use complicated mechanisms to get more DOFs out of fewer motors.

– Teams will burn up the software switchable PDH outputs by plugging 5m LED strips into them without reading the max current ratings.

– Assuming “analog and digital pressure sensing” means inputs for external analog and digital sensors, that doesn’t add any more functionality than the current setup (digital pressure switch plugs into the PCM, analog into an AI port on the roboRIO).

– 3 individually protected output channels on the VRH will be good for custom circuits if they don’t share a non-resetting fuse like the current VRM input does.

– The one part of the current control system that really needed replacing (the radio) is staying the same. This is the biggest problem IMO. There’s nothing really wrong with the current roboRIO and CTRE control system, except that the radio takes 90s to boot and restarts if you look at it the wrong way.

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What does that mean?

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Probably means switchable with an integrated relay/mosfet. It could also be integrated motor drivers, but my guess is that’s less likely.

The death of spike relays.

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@Greg_Needel Can you give us a ballpark on when things like CADs and spec sheets for the new components might be available?

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I have a feeling that the teams that will be able to do dumb things with more 40A slots will also know better than to do dumb things with more 40A slots. I do expect an increase in 5 CIM gearbox CADs showing up on CD very soon, though.

Definitely. I’m not a fan of game designs that encourage building a robot that does everything. Luckily they didn’t go too overboard before 2015 when the PDB had more slots than the modern PDP.

Greg has confirmed that the software switchable channels are 40A like all the others.

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We will be releasing datasheets and more official information in early 2021. We are still in development of these devices so things may need to change based on test results. As such we are going to wait to release more information than we did today to minimize confusion.

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