Power in the stands

Can we start rallying for FIRST to include power in the stands as a part of their standard event setup? In nearly every opening ceremonies, there is some CEO or dignitary who comments about the importance of data analysis and gathering and “doing the math”, yet FIRST is unable to support modern methods of scouting with a simple power drop for laptops.

Scouting is such an integral and important part of the FIRST experience. I have known students who have taken ownership of this area of a team, and have gone on to get jobs right out of high school as computer programmers at big corporations.

Most venues have only one duplex outlet anywhere in the field side of the venue, and it seems that recently, the UL safety advisors are having an issue with cords being a tripping hazard in the stands. At the Central Valley regional, teams were asked to remove their cords, because they were a tripping hazard. I could agree on the last point. Our students were in a hurry and did a poor job of taping it down to eliminate the hazard. But, the request to remove the cords was an over-zealous blanket policy without allowing teams a chance to remedy the hazard by running the cord through a less-intrusive path.

I’m willing to address safety hazards. What I’m not willing to do is give up something we’ve been doing for years, that is not unsafe, with no logical reason or explanation other than, “Well that’s what ‘they’ are asking us to tell all the teams.” Who are “they” ? Can I meet with “them” ?

We invest thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in our data gathering and analysis, through a system that requires electricity to operate. We have several students who’s only role on our team is scouting. To be told they can’t do it is disheartening.

Power in the stands is a growing need of teams that is not being met with the current setup. I can’t imagine it would add much significant cost to the event bill. It’s not like we’re running shop vacs or miter saws on that side…

Given the boom in popularity of laptops over the past 10 years and advancements in battery technology there really isn’t much of a need for power runs in the stands. Take your laptops out there, scout for ~4 hours in the morning, charge in the pits over lunch, and scout for another ~4 hours in the afternoon. If all you’re doing is scouting (which requires nothing more powerful than what, Excel?), then standard, recent laptops should be fine.

The laptop I’m writing this from is from 2010, and its battery can still go through a 7+ hour build meeting of use with excel, word, and web browsing before needing to be charged. And when plugged in and not being used it can charge up to full in under 2 hours.

We haven’t had this issue yet, but I’ve seen some teams use old robot batteries and a power inverter to top off their laptops/iPads/doohickeys. Strikes me as a clean way for a scouting section to stay powered up regardless of the venue.

For a cheap solution, we use a Marine Battery. Holds a long charge, is ‘relatively’ portable, and doesn’t take up too much room. I’ll add a link to an example if I can get one. We also have a charging station in our pit structure as well.

EDIT: We just got a new one, but here is what our older Marine Battery looked like: http://www.autozone.com/autozone/accessories/Duralast-Marine-battery-12-months-free-replacement//N-4ayy?itemIdentifier=95824_0_0. We can run about 10 laptops off of it.

We used a battery (I believe it was a deep cycle battery for marine use) and inverter last year to keep the scouting laptop going. Easy solution.

Depending on the venue, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could bring in a long extension cable to bring power from a nearby outlet.

We bring 500lbs of gigantic sealed batteries and UPSs to every event, and I’m glad we did which is what saved us at Central Valley (and Long Beach last year). We have them built into mobile power unit carts. For those of you suggesting putting robot batteries or marine batteries in the stands, from a safety perspective, is that really what we want? Wouldn’t some power drops be a far safer solution?

At Central Valley, teams were asked to remove all cords from the stands on Sunday. This was a blanket policy applied without giving teams an opportunity to remedy the situation.

I’m not an expert on batteries or safety, but if I were hosting an event in a high school gym, I’d feel much more safe about batteries than having to figure out some way to route power through bleachers.

Unless the power can come from overhead, I’d be worried about the obvious cables running across the walkways and up the bleachers…they can still be a hazard no matter how well their protected. Besides for that, I’d also be concerned about the control for the ‘battle of power’ between teams in the stands. Whose to say which teams get how much power from where, and who would be responsible for regulating that?

Is that an exaggeration? Or do you really bring 500lbs of batteries to every event? :yikes:

Between laptops that hold a useable working charge for 4-6 hours (or tablets for 6-10 hours of use), and using a 12VDC->120VAC inverter (with Anderson connectors) powered by FRC batteries, it’s not that hard to keep your electronic scouting effort going in the stands in a safe manner.

This is a good project for your electrical subteam.

Robot batteries are the best solution, in my opinion. You already have chargers and a supply of last year’s batteries (sorry, rookies) to cycle through. Power inverters are cheap.

…good for scouting in the stands and for long bus rides…

We built an Anderson connector and a 12v source socket (cigarette lighter) into a Radio Shack project box. Plug your favorite 12v battery in one end and an inverter / laptop / whatever into the other :wink:

We have been using old batteries and a inverter for about 5 years now. It frees us to pick any place in the stands and not having to worry about tripping on our cords. We have even powered other teams laptops at the same time.:slight_smile:

Our scouting team has transitioned to an iPad app written by a team member (check it out here!) so power in the stands is crucial for us which is why we bought a deep cycle marine battery and a fairly beefy inverter 750 or 1000 watts IIRC. Its enough to charge 8+ iPads and run a Mac Mini and a monitor all at the same time. The battery will typically last a day of competition and we charge it with our robot batteries over night. We also keep a robot battery and a smaller inverter on our robot cart to charge the driver station.

This is something that the venue has control over not the planning committees. It would be a major safety issue to run cables all over the stands and I imagine most of the insurance companies would have a fit.

We have an inverter with an Anderson connector on it. We use it with a spare robot battery mainly to run a monitor for our Chairman’s presentation.

As for scouting, our stands scouting is low tech. We use wet erase markers and laminated sheets. Our scanner is located elsewhere in the arena where we can find an outlet.

With 8 laptops, a network switch, and a camera, we have not found robot batteries to be adequate. Also, it doesn’t help that they shut off the power on the pits at night.

With the distance that we travel we can not bring a larger battery. It also limits how much we bring to run off the inverter so it works for us. I found that robot batteries are easy to carry up and down stairs.

Sort of like 7 years ago when my company, Bayer Healthcare, was taken over by Siemens Healthcare. Being a big tech company I was expecting great things. We took a step backwards of around 10 years in technology.