Using Old Componeents to Build Personal Robot at Home

My robotics team was recently cleaning our new workshop for next year and the lead mentor allowed me to take some real old stufffrom the shop. So I grabbed these old power ditros. and “brains”. I want to make something out of this stuff but don’t know where to begin. Any suggestions on where to find manuals for these things and or personal experience with any of the equipment is very much welcomed.

Some pictures of what you have would be helpful… there have been a few control systems since your team started back in 2004, it’s hard to point you to resources without actually knowing what you have.

See if this helps with identifying any of the old control system pieces that you have:

It looks like the board from 2004-2008. How do I add photos that I take to forum that way I can provide a photo inventory of what I’ve got.

Upload them to Imgur (or whatever your favorite image host is). You can add an image directly into a comment with this button:

but it’s kind of a pain to have a bunch of huge inline images in a forum thread, so you might just want to post a link to the album directly.

Here is the link to the images

If those are all the pieces that you have, them the last photographed item is probably the most useful of the bunch. It’s a standalone mini-robot control system that will work with a standard RC handheld transmitter if you have one.
If you don’t have an RC transmitter to borrow, then it can run autonomous programs on your robot without an operator interface of any kind.

The gold and the black power distributions are also useful. The black one is for 20/30a self-resetting breakers like we use in today’s robots, the gold block is for 40a breakers.

The 2004 generation Robot Controller in the second picture will require a corresponding Operator Interface to be of use. The built-in safety features prevent robot operation without an actively communicating operator interface.

The Radio in the fifth photo (labeled “Robot Controller”) requires a matching “Operator Interface” radio to work, and they work as a pair with the 2004-era robot controller/Operator Interface.
Keep an eye out for old flightsticks to use as game controllers that fit the older connectors used by the Operator Interface.
Here are the robot side pieces of that complete control system (does not include the Operator Interface in the picture above):](

The small blue item is an intermediate breakout piece that is intended to be used with a cRIO (circa 2009-1014) control system. It also won’t be of much use without several other pieces from that generation of control system.
P.S. Here’s a layout of the pieces of that cRIO control system:](

Okay thanks. My lead mentor has some of the other stuff I think on a shelf in his classroom. Maybe he has most of the stuff from the last gen. tech that I don’t think he uses. Now I just need to knpw how to program the stuff. Do they use java like we use to program our robot today or is it something else? Also will I need any special drivers for my computer to program the boards? Thanks for all the help so far.

Oh also the connector on the board labeled 7.2v battery, what connector is that so I can purchase it if I need to.

The cRio can be programmed in Java, if you manage to get a hold of one of those. The old IFI system, however, cannot. That needs to be programmed in C, and is going to be much more difficult to get up and running these days, I think.

The power connector was either a set of spades or a Tyco Electronics (AMP), Mate-N-Lok, stocked by Mouser & Digikey

  • 1-480318-0, Housing Plug (on 7.2v battery)
  • 60617-1, Pin Female, 18-24AWG (on 7.2v battery)
  • 1-480319-0, Housing Receptacle (on Edu board)
  • 60618-1, Pin Male, 18-24AWG (on Edu board)
    More info on the mini-system and code and such is here.

If you get a complete set of the bigger IFI system it’s pretty easy to get running.
The programming is in C and there are default programs you can start with and modify as necessary.

The main drawback is you will need a USB-to-Serial adapter to program it.

If you can’t find a radio, I think I have one. The antenna is broken though, so you might need to figure out how to hack one together.

I already have a usb to serial that I snagged when I was organising the cables at my new electrical table. I just need to get the proper software. Could the arduino software work since it’s based off the C program? Or is it C+, I can’t remember. Also I was talking to my Dad and he was wondering if I had to program the RF from the RC in order to control the bot. Is he correct?

These answers just apply to the mini-controller in your last photo.
arduino software isn’t a good place to start with that mini-controller, because it isn’t an arduino.
You need to start with software targeted for that particular platform.
Start with the default and example software intended for it and linked to in my earlier post.

Not sure what you are asking with your last question.
Did you mean RF=Radio Frequency and RC=Robot Controller?

If you want to use an RC controller with that mini-controller, then you need an RC handheld transmitter/game control, and a matching robot receiver.
Like that used to control model helicopters or airplanes.
The receiver of such a setup with have several PWM outputs that plug into the mini-controller. In standard use the RC receiver PWMs go directly to model airplane motor controllers, but for the mini-controller they show up as inputs to your user code to do with as you like.

RF=Radio Frequency and RC=Remote control. Sorry about the confusion. So what you’re saying is that I need one of those crystals used in model airplanes and RC cars to control the robot using the mini controller right? If so I should be able to do something as I have a box of misc. model airplane parts including sefvos and some RF crystals.

Yes, that’s what I meant.
This kind of thing.

If you do find a matching Operator Interface, you’ll also need a specialized tether cable (red 9-pin male to 9-pin male) in order to “pair” it with the Robot Controller.

So I need a specialised serial cable? What exactly makes it special?

The tether port to wire the Operator Interface and Robot Controller directly together requires a null modem serial cable.
It’s only necessary if you aren’t using the radios to communicate between them.

If your team also kept old cables, look for a red 6’ serial cable.

SpasmaticAA…I had exactly the same desire as you to build something in the off season, to learn the internals of how FRC systems go together. I obviously didn’t want to shell out big $$ for a RoboRIO, so after some searching around, I realized a lot of wpilib friendly development (particularly for vision processing) is happening with a Raspberry Pi. You can develop in the same languages used in the onseason (Java and Python), and there’s material out there to help get you started.

My goal was also to get new students learning about basic circuitry and wiring, so we’re planning on having a “hackathon” based on lower cost Raspi units, to get kids turning (smaller) DC motors, and looking at sensors.

This kind of nudged us in the Python direction (at least for the off season).

Since I don’t have any real fabrication facility in my home, I started with Legos, and got a basic Pi based bot running around my house (using networktables, and PyDriverStation - thanks pigmice!), so it’s kind of tracking the software architecture on season.

I realized the Lego stuff was a bit micky mouse, so, I ended up buying a $30 RC controlled 4WD rock crawler, and a VMX-pi board from Kauai Labs. My goal for the summer is to retrofit the Pi/control board combo into the RC controlled buggy (wire the control servos to the control board), and have a super cheap platform to do most of what you would do during the on season (vision, IMU, networktables, etc), and have a 4WD rock crawler to attract the young kids at the same time!