Useful Idea for Champs?

I know that we have had a lot of problems with our driver station running low on battery this season. Anker, a company that makes portable batteries, recently unveiled their PowerHouse, an AC portable battery available for $400. This seems like a heavy price tag, but I think that it could be really useful to keep on the cart to charge the laptop in between matches, especially for the finals.

We are trying to get one through a contest they are hosting right now. If you want to help us out, and enter the contest as well, just follow the link: https://www.anker.com/deals/powerhouse?ic=9263ea908b7c90407029 and then share the link with your team mates and other nearby teams! Just be wary not to use school email addresses, because too many school accounts can get your points removed. :frowning:

I think this could be a really useful tool for champs. See ya’ll there next week!

Someone else had suggested using this for charging batteries between finals, or even for outreach events. I think that this kind of product could have tons of benefits for FIRST teams in general.

EDIT: This is not an inverter for your robot batteries. It is a separate battery with a built in inverter and a much higher capacity, that can be used to charge your batteries while on the go (so they are always at hand when you need them).

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“AC Battery” I think not :slight_smile:

Many teams already use a DC-AC Inverter to allow them to use a SLA robot battery. There is a inverter available from Andymark which already has a anderson connector on for this purpose http://www.andymark.com/product-p/am-0626.htm it seems to be out of stock, but there are plenty of other alternatives which cost below $50. It doesn’t need to be very powerful for a laptop, 150watts or 200watts max.

If you want to fork out the $500 I think you’d be much better purchasing a laptop with longer battery life.

Andymark has a similar product that is much cheaper ($33.00). It is a 12V DC to 120V AC Battery Power Inverter that uses robot bateries.

http://www.andymark.com/product-p/am-0626.htm

I think you guys are misunderstanding it. This isn’t a way to to charge things off a battery, it is a full separate battery that you can use to charge things with (a mobile AC outlet). So it litterally is an AC-Battery. From specs I’ve seen, it can charge a laptop for 25 or so hours straight, so it might be something useful to have to charge Robot batteries while on the move.

No, this is just a battery with a built in Inverter. I think you’d be much better off just getting a separate inverter and using a SLA or just getting a laptop with a better battery.

There is no need to be able to charge a laptop for 25 hours straight.

Using something like this to charge robot batteries just sounds ridiculous. With the $500 spent on this, you could buy more than 10 Robot Batteries

Why not buy a dozen batteries? I’ve been in the program for 6 years and never needed to charge a battery on the go.

Let me try to clear things up. My ideal circumstance for this would be to have a powerstrip or extension cable attached to the battery, mounted in the cart. On the other side of the strip would be the battery charger with the batteries plugged in, and possibly the laptop charger (we try to not plug our computer in during the match to keep setup and takedown simple with our complex to set up camera pole) on the other side. That way, the batteries would always be on you and charging, and when you have an extended time in the pit, you could switch power from the battery to the pit’s plug. That way, you aren’t wearing down your robot batteries while using AC, and so that your robot batteries are always on you when you need them, in case of a quick match turnaround.

I thought this would be a cool idea, espeically since there are other uses for it (maybe charging strategy tablets with it’s included USBs) but idk. If you can get away with an inverter that drains your robot batteries instead of charging them, that works.

I’m a big fan of Anker products (they make THE BEST Lightning cables, and I keep an Astro E5 battery pack on tap for events), but I can’t imagine getting much of a robot battery charge out of one PowerHouse–the use case is very different compared to topping up a laptop. When 4901 tried Android phones for scouting, we used an old robot battery (one of our 2014s, clearly too old to put in for a match but plenty for a lower-load application) through an inverter we got at Harbor Freight. That then powered my PowerPort 10, which charged the phones. I don’t think the battery we used for that purpose even had to come back to the pit all Orlando Regional.

I totally get your enthusiasm for this idea. I think the practical matter is that many teams already have an abundance of 12 volt batteries and not an abundance of cash, so the cheapest option is typically to use what you already have.

This or a similar auto “cigarette lighter port” inverter is plenty adequate to charge a laptop, and can run off of robot batteries that are no longer quite good enough for competition.

If you want to spend a bunch of money on a battery charger, go for a solar charging system. We bought some solar panels, a big deep cycle battery, and a charger/inverter for our trailer for about $1k. If I recall the prices correcly, for significantly less than $500, you can get a 'briefcase size" setup that will charge a laptop and a robot battery at the same time whenever the sun shines. Not so good for competition, but still generally a good idea; we usually set this up for all of our outdoor demo events as a nice conversation and recruiting (students, mentors, and sponsors) piece.

Sorry for hijacking the thread, but…

I don’t suppose your team would be interested in making a whitepaper for this “power pack?” I’m intrigued by the idea and think my team would love to consider building this for our outdoor events so we don’t have to lug the gas generator around.

Yes, this sounds like a great idea!

Err, if you just brought along a power cord for the computer, you could plug it in while in the DS (on the field). Beyond that, and charging it while in the pits, I’m not sure you need much more power.

And that is what the other guys have suggested with a much cheaper setup.

On the other side of the strip would be the battery charger with the batteries plugged in, and possibly the laptop charger (we try to not plug our computer in during the match to keep setup and takedown simple with our complex to set up camera pole) on the other side.

And what is different about your setup from the other guys, except that you have a 25 hour battery?

That way, the batteries would always be on you and charging, and when you have an extended time in the pit, you could switch power from the battery to the pit’s plug.

Ok, so we have to swap out the robot battery every hour or two. Not a big deal. We are never an hour away from the pit, and our cart can bring a dozen batteries.

That way, you aren’t wearing down your robot batteries while using AC, and so that your robot batteries are always on you when you need them, in case of a quick match turnaround.

We have “Competition” batteries and “old” batteries. We use the Old batteries for the cart power. The cart power does not need the high current draw like the robot does, so they work just fine.

I thought this would be a cool idea, espeically since there are other uses for it (maybe charging strategy tablets with it’s included USBs) but idk.

Nothing wrong with your setup. If that’s what you want, go for it. It works. Other people have found cheaper alternatives that meets the need of the Team. We use something like this ($30):
http://www.lowes.com/pd_329147-10018-XR100-12___?productId=3172495&Ns=p_product_price|0&pl=1&Ntt=inverter

In fact, we have one on the cart (for the Driver Station), and a second one we use in the Stands for laptops and pads we use for Scouting.

If you can get away with an inverter that drains your robot batteries instead of charging them, that works.

It is our Team’s 10 year anniversary. We have lots of old batteries that are not good for competition, but are ideal for low current draw, such as this. We don’t use Competition batteries to power the laptops.

There are “Problems”, and then there are “Solutions”. Understand the Problem, and keep your mind open to alternative solutions. Don’t get married to a Solution.

The first real details on the Powerhouse hit Facebook this morning:

$499 ($399 with a promo code), 434 watt-hours inside there. A standard FRC battery is 216 nominal, so you’ve got a hair over two robot batteries of power available. But you couldn’t get two charges out of that, due to efficiency losses in the inverter and then the battery charger.

Still a cool piece of kit, but if I was spending team money I’d probably stick with the inverter and retired battery system unless there was an overriding reason.