FRC robot in dusty conditions?

This is a new one on me, so I am gonna ask even though it’s probably a dumb question:

Has anyone had their FRC robot “run the bases” on a baseball infield? Is the infield dust going to get into anything and hurt it? Do we need to seal the RoboRio and other connectors? 775 motors?

With my experiences with baseball fields, absolutely. While these robots were designed to withstand Sandstorm, it’s not quite the same.

I’m not sure what your robot looks like, but the first thing I could see getting really dirty/dusty would be drive train, for obvious reasons. If you don’t mind the robot getting generally dusty everywhere, you’re fine. Just be aware there could be quite a bit up into the drive train, getting into your chain/belts. Also Just make sure your electrical board is completely covered. This includes from the bottom, as the wheels will most likely kick up the dirt up into the bot. Try to cover the main electrical board specifically. PDP, VRM, PCM, RoboRIO, all the main “brain” stuff. You can’t put a vacuum up to a roborio, so keeping as much out of there as possible is ideal. as for motor and other general connections, if you can keep them isolated, great. If not, I don’t see it as being a super big issue.

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Agreed with everything above.

The sealed can motors (CIM, MiniCIM, NEO) should be fine. It’s definitely worth putting electrical tape around all the ducting on 775s & similar vented motors. Even if they’re in your drivetrain, you’re only running for a hot minute, just take the tape off afterwards and maybe run it free-spinning on the cart for another minute or two to pump heat out once you’re off the field.

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Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but this sounds like some pretty poor advice. Covering/sealing the cooling vents on a 775 style motor and then proceeding to run them under load sounds like a disaster just waiting to happen. These motors fry themselves in seconds when stalled under load (with anything more than around 8v applied). Sealing off the vents would effectively simulate a stall on this style motor. I can’t imagine your motors surviving the length of time it would take to run the bases of a diamond. If I’m completely off in left field here (sorry, couldn’t resist that one :yum:), someone feel free to jump in and correct me. I’m also assuming that these motors would be run during the demo. If you’re suggesting sealing off motors that are not in use for the demo, just forget what I said cause that sounds like a very sensible thing to do.


I was thinking about maybe taping a piece of air filter instead, but I also read a rc forum where they used a coffee filter as an air filter, which would probably work for the time needed and still give some air flow.


Please note that the large vents near the motor terminals are where the hot air comes out. You would want any filters on the vents at the end with the output shaft since this is where the air goes into the motor.

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Hmm… OK, that’s all kinda what I figured. Thanks for the comments.

Robot is 6-wheel pneumatic tank with 4 CIMs for the drivetrain. Now that I think about it, I am pretty sure there aren’t any 775s on the thing and they are all bag motors (we may have had 775s on there at one point but I don’t recall the current state of the bot). The electronics are mostly in one of the side panels above the wheels so that would be a problem with dust kicking up if we don’t cover it.

I’d be less concerned if we we didn’t have one last offseason to attend because we don’t really have time to do major repairs due to us being stupid. :smile: But of course, they want to shoot some video in the next couple of weeks, so we are probably going to need to carefully dustproof everything.

Tea bag, sans tea.

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I think you should be fine. I have ran RC cars with non-waterproof electronics in dusty environments, so all your motors will be fine. Same with speed controllers. I don’t see why the Rio , Radio, and PDP would have a problem based off of what I have seen, but I would cover them up by taping up any open areas.

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One problem we had driving our old robots around on dirt/grass, is that gravel got into the drivetrain, between the belt and pulleys, and damaged the pulleys, and I think broke a belt.

I now strongly suggest to other members of our team that we don’t drive our current competition robot on any surfaces that might cause such damage.

We ran a robot around the perimeter of a baseball field, passing over gravel and dirt, and our robot managed to get through with no issues, yet a lot of dust and sediment on the drivetrain. This did not damage anything, and we were able to clean it off rather easily. This robot was short, fast, and had pneumatic tires.

We have to carry our Stronghold robot onto the mound during our annual “first pitch” event. The gravel is brutal.

I’ve heard recommendations to not vacuum around electrical parts due to potential static discharge. Sounds like a myth to me. Can anyone back that up before this dusty adventure?

I’m not an expert, but I highly doubt this is true (at least for most general cases). Our team vacuums out the electrical components of our robot fairly regularly at competitions to remove any stray metal shavings produced from fixing/adding things to our robot. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I doubt it’s a common occurrence.

OK, thanks for all the replies. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to do much in the way of protection for electronics and gears because we basically rolled the robot off out of the trailer on return from Cow Town and took it straight to the ballpark (reprogramming the radio in the parking lot). We brought duct tape and some paper to seal up the electronics if needed, but it turned out the grounds keeper wanted it out on the grass instead of the the infield dirt, which was wet and covered with a tarp, anyway.

So aside from getting the tires green on what was probably really expensive turf, we ended up not running into any issues.