We had our robot at a car show last weekend and there was a fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt. However, our robot got completely soaked from the sprinklers. I believe there were about two inches of standing water with the robot in the ground. I don’t think any electronics were actually sitting in the water, maybe the drive motors (NEOs). I am currently helping the team virtually and can’t assess the damage myself and the mentor that is in person is new to robotics this year. I’m wondering what we should be aware of in terms of what just needs to be through away, what can be reused for practice bots, and what should be fine to be on a competition robot again. I’m mostly concerned about electronics and motors.
Just a quick list of items that were on the robot that I can think of off the top of my head:
The FRC required control system (Rio, PDP, breakers, PCM, VRM, Radio)
NEOS and SPARK MAXes
Chameleon vision camera
CIM and Redline Motors
Talon SRX and Victor SPX
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so if there are other items that you think we should worry about, let us know. For items, what ways should we test them and what criteria should we have to ensure that they are safe/still working properly? Also, I’ve asked the mentor to get some pictures, and when I get them, I’ll upload them. Thank you
As long as you’re not trying to run them wet… most FRC components are going to be fine after this and drying out.
For motors, corrosion of the bearings/bushings is likely a larger concern than anything else.
For signal level components as long as there isn’t a large buildup of corrosion on the board they are likely fine (or at least likely to work for a season after they’ve been shown to run for a few hours).
On average I’d say 50% of 973 practice robots have been rained on and worked fine with no special attention afterwards.
First - dont turn the robot on
Then get lots of rice and take each item - and open them up and make sure all water is out then bury them in rice for 2 days or so then put everything together and test it out - one piece at a time so to avoid to have a bad item damage a good one
This happened to us in 2017, only with 2ft of water and not 2". Everything was fine after letting them dry for a few days, except for 1 talon with a hardware fault which we replaced. I would also replace the radio, as we had awful disconnect issues at Calgames the weekend after the indoor rain.
Update: The in-person mentor had been air drying the robot with a fan on it for the past 3 days, and they decided to turn it on. It appears like everything is still working fine, and we are very happy with this. I’ve asked them to mark the components on the robot because we don’t have the budget to buy new control systems every year and will likely have to reuse quite a few components. If things don’t work the way they should in the future, we can know this might be a possible reason. Thank you everyone for your responses. It appears like we won’t have as much of an issue as I initially thought.
Often, the assembly process for circuit boards include a water wash process so most of the components and the circuit board material should not be harmed by the water. As others have stated, make sure your components are dried out thoroughly and no conductive or corrosive deposits are left behind. Just don’t turn the system on when it may be still wet.
To add to this anecdote… I’ve sold quite a few miscellaneous robots with FRC tech control systems. Some of these were left in boxes that completely filled during rain, leaving the robots submerged for days.
They still run years later, and absolutely no care was taken to dry them off nicely.
Do I recommend this? no… but it’s a nice anecdote.
I don’t remember what team and what year it was, but at IRI they showed up early to help set up, and left the robot in the bed of a truck. One of those Midwest thunderstorms rolled in during the afternoon and the robot got drenched. They managed to play.
I’d be more concerned with the mechanical parts than with the electrical parts.
If the main disconnect was off during the fire then there’s less chance of your electrical components getting shorted out. Plus since you’ve already dried the robot and restarted it without any magic white smoke escaping, I’d say your electronics are OK.
My main concern is the soot. I’ve seen test vehicles where they were run over a gravel course and saw that the dust went everywhere. Next they ran the vehicle through a car wash and while the car wash removed some of the debris, the dust that wasn’t removed by the car wash was turned into a concrete like substance.
Soot, like dust, goes everywhere. The soot could be abrasive to your mechanical parts shortening their life span and it could coat the unused electrical contacts in the PDP, PCM, VRM which could reduce their conductivity.