Meeting electrical requirements at district venues

Can anyone connected with holding a district event at a typical high school facility share how hard it is/isn’t to meet the electrical demands associated with running an event?


You would want to contact a regional director to be certain, but all of the events I have been to in Michigan were able to run off of the sites power. The only exception was Niles, MI where they had a generator that ran just outside the gym. We were on a list to host, I’ll go dig for the information packet I was given for an exact number on the power needed

Well I’m not directly involved with the planning of the new PNW District, but I keep up on it and have traveled to some of the venues so I can share information with the teams.

In the typical HS gym around here there will be one or two 20 amp circuits in the main gym where the competition field will be set up. Teams will not be allowed to plug in anything what so ever in that main gym other than their driver’s station lap top while at the driver’s station.

For the auxiliary gym or common areas where the pits will be located there is frequently only a single circuit. That will be used for the pit admin and any AV equipment set up in that area.

For pit power we are bringing in generators, something I believe was done at one of the University events last season. The generators will be on the smaller side. This is due to the extreme cost of starting up a district which required purchasing 2 sets of field perimeters, floor protection systems, parts to build cases to transport all the equipment, along with AV equipment and a lot of other items.

So for now the plan is to have 5 or 6 teams share a single 20 amp circuit and they will have to supply a 40’-50’ and a 15’-25’ cord to plug into the spider boxes. Yes it will be minimal power and teams will not be allowed to use items such as shop vacs, large power tools like table top drill presses and band saws. They will also only be allowed to charge 2 batteries at a time.

The pit power will only be on during the times that pits are open so teams will be asked to take their batteries home or to the hotel and ensure that all batteries, including those for lap tops and cordless tools are fully charged upon arrival.

There is some precedent that makes us believe that it is a workable, if somewhat less than convenient solution. For the past two seasons we have held off season events with a regulation FIRST field. There were 20-24 teams at those events and 6 to 8 teams were able to share a single 20a circuit w/o problems. OK, there was one problem and that was when someone plugged in their Leaf on one of those circuits. The car was unplugged and there were no more problems.

There will be a machine shop trailer at the events and in some cases the school’s shop will be open. So teams will have access to things like drill presses and band saws along with a lathe, chop saw ect.

In week one there will be only a single event so if this proves totally unworkable then the plan will be re-evaluated.

I can offer some feedback from MAR events:

Often a gym or cafeteria has 2 or 3 20A circuits, intended for floor maintenance equipment and such, and this is generally inadequate for pits.

MAR rents a several kW 3-phase generator and owns a distribution system (cables and boxes) used to deliver 120 VAC to the pits. As a single data point, I saw each phase was drawing about 30A during the middle of the Mt Olive competition (about 42 teams). I don’t know the generator size but guess at 20 kW or so - a trailer with a generator 5’ tall, 8’ long and 5’ wide or so.

I have seen this same setup at other MAR events.

For offseason events, I have seen events get by with extension cords from nearby electrcial circuits, maybe 6 circuits total for 32 teams, and 3 circuits for 20 teams (IIRC).

I can have Ed Petrillo of MAR contact you, he has more precise details and some of the design calculation considerations in mind. PM me if you need his e-mail address.

Thanks for responses guys. We have no indication Las Vegas will be part of a district at this point but looking farther ahead it seemed prudent to at least get an idea of the viability of using a high school as an alternative for an event here some day. I have suspected we would need a generator to support use of a high school venue. Can’t tell you how many times the breakers trip when using just a few hot plates in a typical room at the high school I retired from:D

MAR Power Distribution System
LEX Products
1 – 200 Amp 3 phase pagoda to 50 amp locking receptacles (DB200NP-A6S-S3)

6 - 50 Amp Pagoda Jr. to GFCI Duplex Receptacles (DB-50NF-BQQ-S3)

The 200-Amp feed for some events comes from a rented 65Kw Generator
(This is oversized for our application but it works exceptionally well). We typically rent the generators from a company called On-Site Energy. MAR purchased the power distribution system and the appropriate cables. I would get in contact with a qualified electrician to ensure the proper calculations are met…. (I am not an electrician, I have set-up the system twice and it has worked well for our events).
Come events are unable to provide a single 200-Amp feed, and there have been some customization(s) to this distribution system dependent on the event and what their supply line has capability of. It typically has cost between $1400 - $2000 to rent the generator for the weekend.

Of course you will also need the appropriate number of extension cords to run to each teams pits…

This is an expensive / but reliable system for which MAR made a significant investment. However, it was important to the events committee that we had enough power to ensure that all teams had the “required” amount of power.

Whoa. Not saying this to be mean or cause trouble (and we’re not eligable for your event anyway) but those power restrictions would keep a team like ours from signing up for the event if we knew about them. Furthermore, we’d be real upset if we showed up and had those restrictions with no prior notice so that we had no time to make an effective plan.

Well those of us that are eligible don’t have a choice either, if this is the plan for all PNW district events.

We will make due as we always do, but this is a big reduction in available power [strike]and I think PNW teams should be told soon through official channels that this is the situation[/strike]. I know at least for our team, we used a lot less power at Girls Gen than we have done a traditional regional. We will have our pit crew working on a wheeled battery cart after the break.

The last two years at Traverse City district tournament, which is hosted by the local high school, they power the pits with a trailer mounted generator.

This was covered at the 11-25 PNW District Briefing.

Ha! And I even was part of that. Thanks Joe! :o

Well those are going to be the restrictions at all of our events with the possible exception of the one held at OSU.

Teams have had the chance to learn about this in the webinar that Joe posted the link to the recording of. Unfortunately on that webinar there were only about 30 some odd attendees, despite the fact that there are over 150 teams in the district. Unfortunately at least 6 or 7 of those were people who are behind the planning or are otherwise involved in the switch to the District system. The main team contacts will receive at least a couple of emails detailing the important changes and instructing them to watch the webinar on youtube and to share it with their team. Note the pit power slides are at the 22:45 mark though I suggest watching every minute of it. At about the 27:00 mark you’ll find out just how much Century Link field charged for the power set up and consumption for the last tradtional Regional held there, the cost is staggering. I strongly suggest that everyone in the PNW district that reads this to pass along the link to that video to everyone they know that is involved with FRC in the PNW.

As I mentioned before if this proves unworkable then changes will be made. Not sure where the funding will come from but I know we will make it work somehow. Hint: more teams signing up for a 3rd event would certainly help as those funds in their entirety go to FIRSTWA and not to FIRST headquarters.

The costs of getting everything needed for the first season have been substantial. Some things just had to be purchased such as the fields and materials for the road cases to transport the fields, though we built those cases with volunteer hours. Items where the cost of renting was near or in some cases more than purchasing it, often thanks to generous discounts for being a non-profit that supports the future of students in our state, we purchased those items. For items where the rental cost was much lower than purchase or just aren’t practical to purchase the choice was made to rent.

Going forward FIRSTWA will continue to invest in equipment to produce the events. I just don’t see purchasing generators, as large ones are quite expensive, require periodic maintenance, storage space, and aren’t really happy about sitting unused for 46 weeks of the year.

A quick search of Hertz’s rental site shows that very large (40-80 kW) 3 phase generators similar to what the MAR guys are saying they use are only in the range of $250-400 a day. Obviously you need other gear to distribute that power, but is that an unworkable expense? If I were a team competing I would glady donate additional money on top of my entry fee to be able to utilize proper power in my pit, if the RPC couldn’t afford the expense outright.

I am not sure that this specific restriction is workable for many teams. Considering that a 6A charger uses less than 3/4 Amp, I would also argue that this restriction is unreasonable.

It doesn’t affect me, but as a possible solution I would suggest that you tell teams that they may not use more than 3 (or maybe 4) Amps total at a time. Enforcement could be according to nameplate current rating of whatever is plugged in.

Another idea is for teams to bring in UPS power supplies and use them. (Although it’s not ideal, I think it would get the job done since you’d be pulling the amps from the stored energy & the AC power is basically filling it back up). We were running a network closet at school on a 20amp circuit for a while and had 2 of them running 6 large POE network switches and a few servers that totaled 80 amps. It shocked me that the fire marshall never said anything and even more so that the circuit didn’t melt (although we were tripping it a few times at the end of the school day when everyone hopped online lol)

At BunnyBots this weekend (offseason competition with 24 teams) we didn’t have any problems (at least not that I heard about), and the pits were in a tennis court with scarce outlets. With more teams, I’d be a little worried, but for multi-day events if teams bring batteries back to the hotel at night I wouldn’t stress about it.

Should I read this as two robot batteries, or two batteries.

Attached is the documentation of the MAR power system as prepared by Frank Larkin from FRC Team 272 (An amazing Dude!!!) and the co-chair of the MAR Event Committee. For those of you looking for information about distributing power at District events this may be helpful… Pricing is no longer valid!!! But may give you an idea!

MARPowerDistribution.pdf (268 KB)

MARPowerDistribution.pdf (268 KB)