QUESTION OF THE WEEK!!! [08-26-01]

QUESTION OF THE WEEK!!! [08-19-01]
Hi all, as most of you know, one of the most important parts of the robots we built for the FIRST robotics competition is the control system. No matter how different robots look like, or how complex/simple was a machine designed for the games, the control system is always the part that remains pretty much identical in every single robot. People might even consider that system as the brain or heart of the robot¡K The system is a great opportunity for learning and challenges, and most of the teams from the past years have had at least one year of experience with the Innovation FIRST control system, well, even if it means only using the default program for basic competition usage¡K So, with that in mind, here is the question of the week¡K

QUESTION 8/26/01: How many robot controllers does your team have and what do you do with them?

A little reason for asking this question, is that some people are trying to get teams to use their controllers to make things that would better their community… Seems like a pretty cool idea… :wink:

Have fun,
-Ken Leung

P.S. I am open to suggestions of any questions you want as the “QUESTION OF THE WEEK!!!”… So e-mail me at and show me what you got… :wink:

Being a rookie team, we only have one robot controller at the moment (and, of course, a respective operator interface), so it’s still on our robot. How better to benefit the community than doing demos at schools and public events, and exciting youth about technology?

On a related note, I am wondering how many teams out there keep their old robots functional year-after-year, and if they don’t, what they do with the robot(s).


We have a few controllers…

we have 3 new ones (2 from 2000, 1 from 2001), and 2 old ones that we reverse engineered from the old FIRST control system.

Since we have these sittin’ around, we thought that we could put them to use. Get this…

We’re going to use at least one for controlling a “robot in a box” for a local school for special needs students and adults. The box will be about 7 ft x 7 ft x 7 ft and it may have two sides to hold input devices (palm buttons, josticks, whisker switches, keyboard, etc). Inside the box, well put some robot stuff… like the old TKO arm from '99 or other stuff, like pneumatics. We have a bunch of stuff laying around the shop.

This local school is very excited about this, and they are eager to get something like this to assist in developing hand/eye skills for the children.

This sort of thing is something that many teams could do… we are trying to get the input devices donated, and maybe the LEXAN could be donated also. I’m sure that someone from the TechnoKats will post later on this to give an update in a few weeks.

Andy B.

We have 2, one each from 2000 and 2001. I think 2000 was the first year we got to keep the control system. This was a major factor in our deciding to keep our robots functional.

Well most of the time. Right now 2001 is down because we’re doing some mods and I think we need a new left hand screw for the drive in 2000. But both have all the pieces and have been used for several demos. 2001 even went to the Paris Airshow for a demo!

I think letting the teams keep the control systems was one of the best decisions FIRST has made. We really didn’t have the technical capability to reverse engineer the old control systems so we usually just scavenged our old robots for parts esp. spare motors. Now since we can run more than one robot at a time we keep at least two running so one can be a practice machine.

We’ll really need the practice machine this year as our driver should be graduating at the end of the year. It’s kind of hard to replace 5 years of experience!

We actually have quite a few, but I don’t know where we got them all. All I know is that I’ve seen several (some RC’s, some OI’s) lying around and as far as I know all of them are in perfect condition. I even stripped out all the old wiring (and I do mean ALL) off our '99 robot and replaced it with the new RC and stuff as well as replaced the motor mounts and drill motors (that was my job for the summer.)

I really don’t know what we’re gonna do with the extras. It is helpful to have an extra one when playing around with the programming (especially since this was the first year any of the programming team had ever used basic stamp.) It was really helpful to be able to hook up 1 joystick, 1 motor, 1 gyro, and a couple of other things just to play around and learn the code.

Until the need arises, ours will probably just sit around and be spares in case ours gets damaged (though I’ve never heard of anything like that happening to one.)

Oh yeah and all of our robots since the team’s first year (1999) still work, and we’ve even made some improvements ('99 got a complete rewiring and half wood/half metal motor mounts to replace the old all wood ones; '00 had its bumpers removed and is now getting new wheel mounts to replace the hastily done, overprotected ones that are on there now)

I am Keith, with a local robotics club in Ann Arbor MI, and we’re looking for a spare control system (and/or Victor and/or Spike modules) that are collecting dust somewhere to help some rookie teams get started.

We have a club mission to start FIRST teams at EVERY local high school in Ann Arbor, MI area that currently does not have one. (…which right now is ALL of them!) We are launching a Huron High team this year, and hopefully will continue for the next several years at an introduction rate of one high school per year! (We’ll next tackle starting LEGO League teams at the JUNIOR High Schools! :D)

The biggest problem we face is the rookie team’s massive learning curve. As things are set up now, they won’t get their hands on their first control system until kit pickup, which is crunch time. IMHO, trying to learn about this thing THEN, at crisis time, makes things especially difficult for a new team. :frowning:

To try to solve this problem, our club would like to build a “generic mule” with an arm and a few “simulated auxiliary devices” (i.e. light bulbs or small motors spinning a disk) out of wood, angle iron, and some scrap toy jeep motors. We could then loan this platform out to each new rookie team in the fall before their first contest for educational, programming, and practice purposes. :slight_smile: They’ll then know what it’s about BEFORE they get their kit! Once through their first contest, they can return the mule to us to loan out to another rookie team! :slight_smile:

To make this work though, we need to obtain an unused FIRST control system! If anyone has a SPARE control system they’d like to donate to our effort, that would be WONDERFUL! This would definitely find a home giving local rookie teams actual hardware and software experience BEFORE their first contest!

Does anyone have a spare system they’d be willing to donate? An older system would be fine for THIS purpose! You’d be doing a great service for us and the furthering of FIRST at new schools.

If you are one of the older FIRST teams, that have spare systems collecting dust (or even subsystem PARTS like a surplus Victor module, Spike module, joystick, or WHATEVER), PLEASE consider helping us make a Stone Soup FIRST controller for our mule. ANY official parts would be welcome! Contact me here by private reply, or via direct email at: (Taking off the “NOSPAM_”, of course… :D)


  • Keith McClary, FIRST Liaison, YAAARC

95: God knows where that is. It’s probably in a junkyard by now.

96: I believe that still has the original drive train. The mechanics for the arm need replacement, and it needs a control system (more on this later).

97: The drive train was torn out the next year and placed in that robot. Besides a new control system (and the train), everything from the arm to the flipper is still good.

98: All that needs is a new control system.

99: Fully functional. I think the basket may be detached, but that is easy to place on.

00: Fully functional. Neither of the 2 arms we made are currently on it, but they were meant to be interchangable, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

01: Fully functional.

Back to control systems: one of the engineers a couple years back came up with a system that could control the robot the same way the FIRST controllers would. It’s pretty cool, and in '00, we used it for prototyping. It would make a nice project to repair those old robots.