possible solution to the static problem

As seen in last weekend’s regional competitions the electro-static discharge caused by the rover wheels and the floor can fry speed controllers, driver stations, and even knock the field systems out of whack.

It could be possible that anti-static spray could be used on your drive wheels and control board to prevent any catastrophic discharge. Plus the spray is pretty cheap and can be picked up at almost any office supply store for around $3-4, you can also buy industrial-strength spray from McMaster-Carr for $11.57 for a 11.5oz can (part # 6038T11)

Any thoughts?

Thought #1: If that spray affects traction, don’t even think about it.
Thought #2: Might be worth it for a team with a practice robot and field to try it out.
Thought #3: Why not just put a wire hanging from your frame almost to the ground? You’ve got plenty of wire, I’m assuming. Can’t be that hard to attach it to the frame…

The FRP is non conducting, so there is no path from the robot to the ground while it is driving around. If you are driving full speed into a wall or airlock, there may not be enough contact with the carpet to discharge the build up into the ground before it contacts the field frame.

Ah. That complicates matters.

How about grounding the airlocks? Teams can’t do that, but if FIRST figures out how to do it, then the issue won’t exist anymore. At least, not as much.

Your first though scares me that you are more worried about a team getting traction then a team frying their driver station. :confused:

Eric might have been thinking about the rules…

There are spares (or were) at the event.

Quite honestly, I don’t really like the control system this year. There have been reports on top of reports of things breaking, frying at the slightest provocation, releasing magic smoke, etc. You’d think that with over a year to design for that, they’d be better. On the flip side, customer service has been excellent for the teams that do break system elements. I’m sure that there will be improvements for next year.

My first thoughts are about the teams. What fun is it going to be if a team blows their driver station or power blocks and cant run.

What fun is it going to be if the team finds that they can’t run because they’re in violation of a rule? Remember, violation of the robot rules not only keeps you from competing, but if it happens on the field, it’s grounds for a disable and a card.

Just out of curiosity, have you actually used the control system at all this year? Are your comments based on actual experience and personal practical knowledge? Or just second-hand information provided by others that you have not personally verified or validated?

I am just trying to understand how to calibrate credibility levels of the comments.


I didn’t see anything at the mini-regional I was at, but if this is a problem with the field, FIRST needs to be contacted.

Just on what I’ve seen on CD. This may be a small portion of teams that each fry multiple components, or not. I am not involved with a team this year due to location (no team within about 100-200 miles, and no car). However, my old team reports that if you set up the control system as spec’d, you should be fine (other than the risk of frying that has been reported).

I don’t know how much it would affect traction, or if it would at all as the spray’s viscosity is almost the same as water and it dries without leaving any sort of residue or film on the rover wheel plastic.

As I said in my first post you could also spray it on the more sensitive parts of your electronics and control board to reduce the likelihood of releasing the magic smoke.

The issue is is that the regolith sheets are over carpet and when you drive a robot over it the floor works like a capacitor, storing the charge until it builds up to the point of catastrophic discharge. At the Manchester Regional the field crew’s solution was to spray water on the field to dampen the static, but I think that having water and electronics that close is asking for trouble plus it makes the field dangerous for people to walk on.

FIRST is well aware of the problem. Dean and Woodie were both at BAE and there is even a video around here somewhere of Dean spraying parts of the field down with water.

Hey Dave,
Just admit it, the GDC made a plastic wheel on plastic surface game so they could do accellerated ESD testing on the new control components. :wink:

Eric–do you think we hear about problems more than we hear about things working well?

We haven’t had any hardware trouble with the system, aside from some “no comm” during testing/practice, which might be due to the WGA location on the robot. And we used it almost continously from late December till ship.

I think we all have seen the 100+ reply thread about failing Jaguars, but outside of that my experience with the new system has been largely positive (though I still maintain that it is 5x bigger and heavier than it needs to be).

Can the moderators merge this thread with this one: Field Static Solutions?

Just out of curiosity, are you still questioning the fact that teams have had problems with the control system?

I’m aware of many Driver Station issues, ESD sensitivity among them, and I hope appropriate corrective measures can be determined before too many weeks of competition go on.

Where have you seen reports of ESD frying speed controllers?

The data logs from the field electronics don’t seem to show anything specifically ESD-related, with the understandable exception of a missing ground connection causing issues until reconnected.

Grounding them wouldn’t seem to be as useful as insulating them. Simply taping over the airlock metal to attenuate the spark when a robot bumps into it ought to be a good solution.

If it leaves no residue, it can’t really affect anything, including static electricity. Obviously it must be leaving something behind.

As I said in my first post you could also spray it on the more sensitive parts of your electronics and control board to reduce the likelihood of releasing the magic smoke.

That’s not how it works. You can’t just apply a magic static-insensitivity solution to electronic components. What the spray does is reduce the ability of exposed surfaces to accumulate electrons and charge the system up to voltage levels where ESD is a problem. It doesn’t work in many situations, though.