Restriction on using the RoboRIO and WPI libraries outside of FRC?

After spending way too much time trying to get the Spark MAX motor controller working over CAN without a roboRIO, my college robotics team has decided to bite the bullet and buy two RIOs from NI directly (we cry at not being able to get the discounted one).

In the documentation for installing the FRC Game tools, when you get to the Vision Development Module 2019 Runtime, there is a serial number required. Is this a required piece of software? I assume this is something included in the KOP that we wouldn’t be getting.

We want to adopt the FRC control system to make development easier, since we are already using so many FRC products on our robot (PDP, Spark Max+NEO, Victor SPX). Before we spend $2300 on 2 RIOs, we want to make sure we can get them working.


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It is not required. You can use the RIO just fine.

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Instead of spending that amount of money on two rio’s, you might want to consider buying a VMX-pi. It’s far cheaper than trying to buy a rio outside of FRC. It is fully compatible with the WPI libraries, and it has support for the Spark Max and Talon FX vendor libraries.

Plus, for college applications, you can also add ROS, which is a massive plus in some areas. The VMX-pi also has an integrated navX, which will give you a 9-axis imu.

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We had already planned on integrating ROS on an additional co-processor. The VMX-pi looks interesting, but the website not having a price listed is making me weary. Typically “Get a quote” means its either going to be a hassle or too expensive. Purchasing has to go through the university, so getting anything from a new vendor becomes a huge hassle.

Yea, our website is a bit confusing. Currently, it’s set to get a quote as our primary market is World Skills, and they will buy 50 - 100 units at a time, which requires manual quoting for bulk purchasing. The MRSP on the VMX-pi, based on data I have access to, is $399. Based on your team number, I am assuming you are in the states. Our US office deals with universities and colleges in the states all the time, so there is a good chance we may already be on your approved vendor list. I will PM you an email address you can contact for more purchasing inquires as I am not a salesperson. Usually, a salesperson can give you a better deal then list price.

I purchased a VMX-pi from Studica a couple of weeks ago for $199.
After I received my VMX-pi, the link for the $199 “board only” version disappeared from their website. This led to to believe I may have purchased the last one in stock. They still have a bundle for $399 that includes more than just the VMX-pi board. Still way cheaper than an undiscounted Roborio, and it includes an integrated navX.

I am running the WPILIB/FRC image I downloaded from Kauai Lab’s website.
After some minor startup issues I have been successfully talking to a Spark Max Motor controller using CAN and have been experimenting with its integrated PID and Smart Motion control using an external Rev Through-bore encoder.

Kauai Labs (Scott) has been great answering my questions.

IMHO $245 for a VMX-pi + RPI4 makes a lot more sense than spending $$$ on a roborio.
Assuming you can get the VMX-pi for $199.

BTW I also encountered the serial number request mentioned by the op when installing the FRC driver station software on my laptop. I ignored it and it eventually stopped bugging me about it.
I don’t think it matters unless you want to use some LabView vision software.


Did you reach out to REV? This is from them: GitHub - REVrobotics/CANBridge: Generic CAN Bridge emulating FRC netcomm CAN driver for connecting a PC to the CAN Bus with WPILib 2020+ and SPARK MAX (FW 1.5.0 or higher) or other drivers, currently only supported in Windows.

With you confirming that the VMX-pi can control the Spark MAX controllers, it’s becoming a very promising option. We had looked into it at the very beginning of the project and never revisited it. I will talk to my team about it. Thank you!

Yes I’m aware of the CANBridge, but it is windows only and we cannot wait for Rev to release the Linux version, as we need to do testing before competition. They have an experimental branch with SocketCAN support but it currently does not compile.

I also reached out to Rev directly multiple times and was never given any helpful information, just promises that someone would get back to me.

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