Thread created automatically to discuss a document in CD-Media.
Driver Station Best Practices by: MrRoboSteve
Best practices surrounding the driver station for FRC teams
Want to ensure the driver station isn’t a stopper for your team at the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) field? Building and configuring a solid driver station laptop is an easy project for the time between stop build day and your competition. Read on to find lessons learned by many teams over thousands of matches.
Since the topic is the driver station in general, here are a few lessons learned the hard way:
Use game controllers or other input devices that are hardwired, not with micro USB ports in the controllers.
Your drivers will be most efficient if they never are required to remove their eyes from the robot during the match to look down at the driver’s station. Use tactile feedback, if your controllers have that function, or status lights (LED light strips work well) on the robot as visual indicators.
Enable software logging for everything you can, including controller inputs, feedback devices, limit switches, motor currents, etc. This can be invaluable when troubleshooting unexpected controllability issues or hardware failures during a match.
Be sure your driver station and controllers are treated with care, and not abused, between matches. Build a protected spot on your robot cart if you have to.
Use velcro to attach the drivers station to the shelf.
I know the quality of the driver station is kind of a boring topic when compared to robots and game strategy. At week 1 and 2 events I saw/heard about enough bad driver station situations that teams should really pay more attention. It’s particularly sad when the FTA has to bypass a team because of their driver station not working well.
If you are looking for cheap but solid drivers stations, I use arrow direct. They are mostly business computers coming of leases. I strongly prefer the business class lenovos with real (not the collapsible) Ethernet ports.
Port locking has some key constraints that people don’t always think about, so I don’t recommend it.
Note: If you have two or more of the same device, they should maintain their position as long as all devices remain plugged into the computer in the same ports they were locked in. If you switch the ports of two identical devices the lock should follow the port, not the device. If you re-arrange the ports (take one device and plug it into a new port instead of swapping) the behavior is not determinate (the devices may swap slots). If you unplug one or more of the set of devices, the positions of the others may move, they should return to the proper locked slots when all devices are reconnected.
I’ll add that it’s fine fine to use a reputable* USB hub if you need more ports for joysticks or Ethernet dongles if you need. If you do use one, be sure to tie it down and properly strain relieve it so if you take a hit you don’t lose all of your joysticks.
*Don’t use one you found in a dollar store, spend a good $10-15 in an electronics store for one you know you can trust. It should have a built-in cable, not a separate micro USB port and cable.
Screensteps refers to this CD article for driver station best practices. While the Screensteps page links to a PDF directly, the link to the PDF here in the CD article no longer works. Are these the same doc? Can the link here in CD be updated to work with the new site? Thx!