Pre-manufactured control box for FIRST

One thing that i have noticed in my FIRST experiance is that many teams just dont have enough time to focus on their control box. The majority of teams i have seen simply velcro their oi and joystick to a peice of plywood. I happen to work at a sheet metal shop that makes control boxes for big companies. If i designed a simple FIRST control box with mounts for joysticks and the oi and offered it for a reasonable price how many teams think that they would be interested? My boss happens to love FIRST so mayby i could work out a deal with him. What would you pay for a good control box? What features would you like to see on it? Some ideas that i had were to have the top panel easily replacable for differant switch layouts and so on. It could also have jumpers on it to relocate differant ports to easily accesible locations. Some could also come prewired with switches and led’s. I think that a nice, clean, pre-manufactured control box would be a huge benefit and timesaver to many first teams, especialy rookies. Let me know what you think and i can start working on some inventor drawings. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Ben Van Selous

Going by rules about COTS (commercial off the shelf) parts, you may be opeing up a bigger can of worms than you are realizing. BY 2005 rules anyways.

I believe the rules about COTS state that it has to be made readily available to everyone. Even if half the teams use it, you still have to have enough for 1000 or more teams.

Are you ready to get into that?

As an alternative, I suggest since you have CAD, make plans and sell the plans instead.

Then you are complying to everyone, it will be a lot cheaper on your part, and you don’t have to carry full size custom enclosures in stock.

I think a one or 2 page cad drawing, & assembly instructions with a materials list can work.

Good luck.

Selling plans sounds like a good idea but making the box available to everyone doesn’t neccasarily mean i need 1000 pre made boxes in stock. Right now i am just trying to see what kind of interest there is and what i might be getting myself into. Thanks for the input.

Ben Van Selous

Yeah but who wants plans. I think everyone knows how to build one we just don’t always have time or resources.

I believe, the past two years the 45 control box was made from Inventor plans. Maybe that is rare…:confused:

You don’t need to have them in stock. There’s no way Andy had 1,000 AM Shifters/planetaries/omni’s in stock.

You just need the capability to manufacture and deliver whatever the product is in a maximum of two weeks.

I agree. Not all teams need a pre made control box, but being able to make and ship them for teams that would want one, in a short period of time would be good. For example our electronics team is one of the last sub teams to get the robot and you can’t really do much with the electronics, so in the first week or so the electronics team builds the control box.

Exactly. Provided there is enough demand i will make 75-100 or so before the season to have some in stock and if people start ordering more than i will just have more made. The shop i work at specializes in sheet metal enclosures so having them manufactured will not be a problem. I just need to know if there is enough demand to make this worthwhile.

Thanks for the input
Ben Van Selous

I know he didn’t lol

This is a good idea. I suggest you do some market reasearch and go for it.

No, you don’t need to have 1000 on the shelf, pre-made. You just need to have enough in inventory AND have your manufacturing timeline swift enough to be able to ship product out within 5 days of delivery to any FIRST team.

Make the design simple and with good quality, and people will find you and buy your control board. Joe Johnson has suggested this as a good product for years.

Andy B.

We always make our own foldable control board, but I see this as being a great resource to up and rising teams without a strong electrical sub group to their team.

Go for it!

Thanks for all the great input. Im going to start working on some designs and talking to my boss. Are there any specific features anyone would like to see on the box? I was thinking of a simple box with mounts for 2 joysticks, the oi, and a panel with locations for a few switches. It would be layed out so that the wiring will be very clean and will run inside the box. How much would you be willing to pay for such a box? I was shooting for around $75. Let me know what you think.

Ben Van Selous

It appears with the added language of Update 2 last year, that it wouldn’t even be necessary to guarantee 5 days, since this is a FIRST-specific item. However, it wouldn’t be a good business plan to not be able to manufacture them quick enough.

Ben would have to apply for a Tax ID number to make him a legitimate VENDOR.,,id=97860,00.html

Since this part is for the OI and joysticks, it does not fall under any COTS rules. COTS refer to COMPONENTS (section 5.2) which are part of the robot.

The control board has not been included for cost or weight at least since 2001.

I say start advertising and see who bites. We generally buy a handy box and blank cover from the hardware store and mount our switches in that. These tend to be single year, game specific so we keep it simple.

Of course this is all subject to change this January.

Sounds excellent. Our team would buy one.

My suggestions:

  • breakout connectors for the plugs needed in competition
  • carrying handles and or strap are a must
  • plastic or fiberglass would be nice to make things more portable
  • have some way of viewing the lights on the IO.
  • Punchouts for standard buttons
  • possibly an optional battery power supply for the OI. It has an internal DC-DC converter power supply so its not too picky about power. It doesn’t need anything fancier than 9v gell-cell to power it.
  • hinged box is a must
  • to make it more affordable, it could be offered in unassembled kit form.

seems to me that the main problem is mounting joysticks and marketing to FIRST teams. Not everybody wants to use the joysticks in the kit and it is impossible to accomidate every possibility.

I know injection molding isn’t part of the sheetmetal business but if there was any way you could reproduce the old CH Flightsticks you would make millions! (Okay, maybe not millions but I know lots of people who would buy them)

yeah if you could make a reliable 3D joystick that works on serial ports you could be one rich dude. And for those of you who say all you have to do is mount a potentiometer to the bottom i can say its much harder than that!

Even though they’re probably patented.

well theirs allot of flexibility in that. One the patent could very well have expired. Also its hard to enforce a patent on something like a joystick. What is copying and what is a alternate design. This is an interesting issue that patent offices have to deal with. He might very well be able to make something similar.

We’re talking about using the IFI system here. Except for the dedicated radio connection, it doesn’t have any serial inputs. The joystick ports are joystick ports, and must be directly connected to switches and variable resistors.

What would really be great is an OI that supports USB pointing devices. (Second best would be for someone to start supplying Flightsticks for the kit of parts again.)