New Robot Control System!

Greetings Teams:

We are pleased to announce we have begun development on a new Robot Control System for the FIRST Robotics Competition. The new system will be introduced in the 2009 season.

While specifics are not yet available, the new electronics are expected to provided additional features such as: greater processing power and memory size, adaptability to a wider variety of programming languages, and include increased support for enhanced peripherals such as new sensors, vision systems, motor controllers etc.

We will keep you updated as we move through the development process. In the meantime, have a terrific summer and please check your email or our email archive page at for upcoming 2008 season information.

Go Teams!

So what do you guys think it will be? dsPIC? ARM? AVR? Blackfin? Robostix? Intel XScale? MIPS?

This could be very very awesome :]

OMG Speechless . . . . . .


:confused: What other languages could it be??? Java?? actual C++?? C#?? :confused:

Lets just hope it isn’t another flop like the 2007 radios were and they do some actual testing :slight_smile:

USB is currently available :wink:

But not included :cool:

If I may venture a wild guess based on my own speculative adventures into radio controlled robotics:

USB joysticks/controllers via a laptop included in the K.O.P. (OI+dashboard combined) and a new radio format - Zigbee? 2.4GHz, 115kbps up to 300’…

Wireless everything, including programming and debugging.

As for…“adaptability to a wider variety of programming languages”…hrmmm, no ideas…

yay java programminng:yikes:

mmmmm zigbee… that would be GREAT! no more drop outs, crushed flower pots, trashcans, or dented walls!

Don’t think i want USB or FireWire for programming… i have this thing against networks getting in the way of me loading code… plus it would be a ton of overhead for the processor to run the USB stack. A dsPIC would be SWEEEET though… I just hope they keep C!

An updated OI with oLED matrix display (like those new osram pictiva ones, got the 3" screen demo kit, full color graphic display screen) for more readouts on the screen and the ability to make graphical outputs would be sweet…

Maybe moving all of the pwm outs up to 16 bits might be cool too… I did that on our robot this year and LOVED the results… not only do you get a ton more resolution but you also get to use all integer math for integrators n stuff since your numeric range is so huge…

I’d also like to see a higher chop rate speed controller, like 2KHz chop rate as opposed to the 120hz now so the first robots lose the angry buzzing.

I feel like i’m writing a christmas list… :o


I want Linux!:smiley:

I can’t wait until 2009.

I for one hope they remember that while many newer langauges are nice, they are not taught at many high schools.

Visual Basic and C are basic languages that most schools will teach (if they teach anything). Going too far afield with the language (C# or C++ comes to mind) will force quite a few folks to have to try and learn a new langauge. I don’t think that would be in the best interest of the competition.

Simple functionality improvements like wireless uploading to the Robot OI would be an incredible step forward in usability.

The option of storing several different compiled versions on board would be nice at times.

I actually appreciate the limited memory size and limited processing power. How many folks were forced to learning something new because doing floating point and trig killed the processor? It also prepares them for the state of the industry in most manufacturing environments. Finally, it forces folks towards elegant programming - clean code without a lot of garbage.

It’s interesting that they’d decide to announce this so far in advance. I wonder how long it’ll be before they release more information and whether this will affect how much development people put into auxiliary control system hardware next season.

Sounds like this is not being done by IFI… anyone know who the new control system vendor is? I hope they’re able to continue the same quality and reliability standards that IFI has created.

I also hope that FIRST is seeking out input from mentors in the program on the issues that would arise with this. Hopefully they’re talking to software and electrical people about this.

Finally, it would be great if they picked a processor with a free toolchain (GCC would make the most sense). AVR or ARM would be a good choice for this. It would open the doors to Mac/Linux development. Unfortunately I think they have a strong relationship with Microchip so we’ll probably continue to see more PICs in there…

Change is scary, more now then in other situations. If you look at the past to see how FIRST has handled new technology there have been many problems. Hatch, Banebots, the old FIRST controller, etc. I have my doubts about a change of this magnitude. If I am interpreting this email blast correctly it leads me to believe that the RC, OI, Victor, Spike, Arena Controller, and field control software will be all be gone.

Now I do see the potential for this change which will enable established teams to do more with their robots, but my doubts stem from the rookie teams of 2009 and on. Rookie teams need support from veterans which will be a seemingly impossible task if everyone is in the dark. Utilities like easyC and the WPI libraries will all have to be redone. I know that there is better technology out there which could make things easier but how much harder will it be to run an event when the bugs are still being worked out.

I am happy that they decided to give this development over one year but it concerns me that FIRST might have cut their nose off to spite their face by locking themselves into a new system which as of now is probably just on the drawing board or early stages of development. I just hope that the people who make decisions know what they are doing in this situation.

This topic is less than 3 hours old and the Chief Delphi community is complianing already:

Let’s not forget the 2007 radios! (No cell phones near the radio towers.)

I don’t care who designed it, or who makes it, NO ONE makes anything perfect the first time, or for that matter everytime.

Lets disprove a new saying overherd at the VIP reception in Atlanta:
“FIRST - Technolgy building egos”

The process just started, give them a chance!

i met 2 gentlemen in Atlanta, one from Google, and one from Red Hat who mentioned to me that they were hoping to have linux in our robots for the next season… maybe this is the results of their work…

That’s not a complaint at all. My concern is that this is a critical piece of the FIRST puzzle and we have a good, working solution in place. I’m all for new technology (and I think the control system could use a refresh). FIRST has a good history of having things “not work” in the 1.0 release (see scoring software for the last 4 years as an example).

Let’s not forget the 2007 radios! (No cell phones near the radio towers.)

Yes, this was a problem. But, given the amount of stuff produced by IFI, it’s fair to say that that was anomaly. Also, the problem was resolved before any official competitions occurred (and seemed to be a complete non-issue from that point on).

Zigbee? Zigbee wasn’t designed for bandwidth - The 802.15.4 bit rates are specifically limited to 250Kbps compared to 1Mbps for Bluetooth. I personally would prefer wireless 802.11[n/g] for everything, if power was not a concern.


Maybe not the field control software. I agree it appears that we’ll be getting a new arena controller, RC, OI, motor controller, and relay for the 2009 season. The 2007 FMS is a major improvement over what we had; it should be improved further, not scrapped.

I agree there will probably be slowdown in new team development by existing teams; that may be offset by team development through new channels if the new control system offers a signficant reduction in learning curve.

I hope so too.

Announcing the schedule for introducing the new system is really the only way FIRST can drive this to happen. 2009 will be a challenging target. I’m just happy that FIRST recognized they can’t realistically introduce a new system sooner.

Yes, change is scary; however, this change can and should be a good thing. Many present FIRST participants and volunteers have skills and experience that enable them to help FIRST make that happen; I sincerely hope that potential will be recognized and used effectively.

Something like this would be a giant step forward…,2877,BF537%2DSTAMP,00.html

As far as auxiliary control system hardware goes, I for one will continue working on it. The new processor is still a general-purpose computer system, and application-specific computers will always perform better at their specific task(s).

It would seem to me that the new system, if properly designed, could actually offer teams the chance to incorporate more sensors and sophisticated control algorithms (maybe even AI?) than the old system.

Just my $0.02.

I am sad to see the old system go though, especially after reverse-engineering the field control system :slight_smile:

I have to say that staying with pics is probably the best thing to do mostly because teams’ older members as well as software mentors are all experienced in pic architecture, how the peripherals operate, etc. A huge amount of relearning throughout the FIRST community would have to be done if the RC started using a processor from a different silicon manufacturer.

Plus, though other chips are flashier in their features the PIC microcontroller has a very high level of robustness such as high drive current on output pins and the ability to even handle a few ESD hits. I admit that having an ATMEGA8 or MEGA16 or heck even a mot ColdFire would be sweet, but, in the application environment I’d rather take the pic overall. Plus, you get the compiler for free from first…


First off, I don’t think anyone is complaining. We are just identifying difficulties which will need to be addressed. It may come as a shock to someone without a team but it makes it very difficult to build a program at a school when drastic things change from year to year. Over the past couple years (05+) there have been some major consistencies which increased the quality of the robots across the board. Things like the kit chasis and transmission along with easyC gave teams without engineering support the ability to make decent machines. Now as someone who has been in FIRST longer then I have you have seen things change more over the years with both good and bad results. The overall trend is to fix things that need improving like moving from the FIRSt built robot control system to the Pbasic IFI system and then making the change to the C IFI system. Each one of those changes was big and they had their problems but the structure was there to overcome. I have no idea what they are looking at or who would build it I just know that change can cause unwarranted problems. I have faith that whatever gets built will work and the community will adapt, I just hope that the changes are being made for the correct reasons like improving technology or making things easier for teams and not fed by other private agendas.

As for your quote about technology egos, without context it doesn’t really seem to apply to this situation unless you have some other information about a new control system you would like to share.