VMXpi FRC compatible Training Robot

Hi Everyone,

Let me first introduce Studica:

Studica develops, manufactures, and distributes mechanical and electrical parts for the mobile and competitive robotics market. The Studica staff strive to support the FIRST Community and the robotics education market by developing and distributing essential components to robot builders.

As a proud Gold Sponsor for FIRST Robotics Canada, Studica supplies and supports FIRST teams at all levels across Canada. Studica stocks and distributes AndyMark, Rev Robotics, and Kauai Labs products in Canada to support Canadian Teams.

Through our partnership with FIRST Canada and Kauai Labs, we saw a need for a cost-effective way to bring First Robotics Training into the classroom while at the same time having a platform that would allow us to address the professional development and training of mentors and teachers.

We are pleased to announce the VMX FRC compatible Training Robot.


https://www.studica.com/us/en/Studica-Robotics/frc-training-bot.html

The Studica VMX FRC-compatible Training Bot (FRC Trainer) is a smaller, sturdy, lightweight, and less expensive robot than your typical FRC robot. If you have a large FRC team, often only a handful of students get to learn how to create and program your team’s costly competition robot. The FRC Trainer solves this problem and is ideal for groups of two to three to participate in hands-on learning in a classroom environment. Schools can equip their labs with multiple FRC Trainers, benefiting from the great value and compact size. Students can even take it home with them!

This affordable solution is intended for:

• FRC teams that want to learn and train on a smaller and more affordable robot,
• Schools looking for a way to teach FRC robotics in the classroom.
• Schools that want to teach coding in the classroom through robotics.

The VMX FRC robot is that it is compatible with WPILib allowing teams to access the identical tools and libraries (C++/Java) used by teams using in FRC Competition. Using the VMXpi from Kauai Labs as the controller, we can mimic the features of the roboRIO. The controller communicates to a specially developed motor controller, the Titan Quad using an FRC-compatible CAN interface. The Titan Quad integrates a simple PDP, LED controller, and can drive up to 4 DC motors with Encoder and Limit switch inputs.
VMX-Pi Key Use Cases and Hardware/Software Features and Benefits

The training robot also includes

  • 2 x 12V 3000mAh batteries
  • Battery Charger
  • USB Controller
  • Java curriculum (From basic Java to building Java projects used in programming FIRST robots. Includes getting the robot to move via a USB controller and autonomous programming.)

If anyone has any questions I will answer them here.

Thanks
James

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This is pretty cool. Is there a way to buy just the control system? I think I see all the different parts on your site, except for the motor driver.

Yes there is a way to buy just the control system. We have not listed the item yet on the website. When we do it will include the VMXpi and the Titan Motor controller.

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Excellent! Can this platform be extended to use FRC motor controllers if we wanted to add more motors into the mix?

Yes, the benefit of the VMXpi is that is compatible with any FRC compatible motor controller.

That’s great to hear, do you have a timeframe for when the control system will be available for purchase?

We are expecting another shipment of Titan’s around the end of June. When they come in, it will go live on the website.

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To be clear, this is not compatible with LabVIEW?

Has any effort been made to ensure forward compatibility with the 2021 and beyond control system?

Unfortunately, we have not been able to get LabVIEW to work with the VMX. We are open to anyone helping in attempting this.

As for forward compatibility, the VMX uses a modified GradleRIO plugin maintained by Kauai Labs to deploy WPILib applications. We have every intention of maintaining the compatibility for future control systems.

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I just want to chime in and say how amazing this is. We purchased the VMX-Pi with the hopes of creating a training program, and it is incredible. The hardware Studica seems to be using for the training bot seems good too.

The Vmx pi runs the 2020 library Java and cpp natively.

It seems 2021 library will be ported if possible. As you all may know, the entire control system is likely to change for 2022. I am not sure anyone can hypothesize with much certainty about what that will look like. However, We decided to purchase this (just the VMX-pi and a second one as well as preorder the Titan MC/PDP) because regardless, having a small robot that students can learn and prototype on is priceless for us. Regardless of the control systems change, we decided it os worth it.

An added benefit is that we can use the vmx-pi to have the programmers working on programming the robot throughout thw buold season.

A bit off-topic, but the VMX-Pi does not need 12 volts to run. So, it is compatible with most of our VEX edr hardware (we need to be careful with polarity, I am designing a pcb for this).

Anyway, Studica and Kauai have helped is a lot in the past two months gain some vision as to how to set up the hardware to create an accessible beginning to advanced robotics curricullum for our team.

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Hi James, will you be updating the SD card image shipping with your Studica VMX-pi kit to be truly FRC oriented out of the box? Is there time in the team’s schedule for producing a more detailed “getting started” guide, something closer to student-proofed than the current documentation?

Given Shelter-In-Place, I’m looking for a product I can send home with students.

I’ve been having a rough time getting the preassembled VMXpi kit I ordered from Studica to talk to the WPILib on my programming laptop, as a non-programming mentor.

Kauai Labs has been somewhat helpful, but apparently the image that shipped from Studica was the robotics toolkit and I needed to run some additional scripts to prepare to use it with WPILib? I’m at the point where I’m considering tearing the assembly down so I can access the SD card outside the Pi and reset it to the FRC image, in case I’ve just done too much hackery at this point and the networking scripts are now broken on my image. Which negates the benefit of shipping in a preassembled unit.

I think I can help you if you have questions.
This is cettainly one of our goals as well.
One issue you may run into sending the robot home with students is less about vmx (once you get the correct image, it is quite stable), but more with setting up wpilib on student computers (unless you are willing to lend a conputer too).

Until recently wpilib was beta, but the directions have been updated on Kauai’s site, and they are quite good now.

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Thank you! I’ll take another look this week with the new directions, and ping yall if I get stuck. Last time I was working on this was two weeks ago, probably before those instructions went out.

Hi James, will you be updating the SD card image shipping with your Studica VMX-pi kit to be truly FRC oriented out of the box? Is there time in the team’s schedule for producing a more detailed “getting started” guide, something closer to student-proofed than the current documentation?

There are currently two images for the VMX. The Robotics Toolkit and the FRC Robot image. VMX’s that come with the FRC training bot or purchased separately will come with the FRC Robot image. Which out of the box will be FRC orientated.

We are currently working on a read the docs page for students and teachers to have access to the curriculum and guides.

Given Shelter-In-Place, I’m looking for a product I can send home with students.

This is the perfect product for that.

I’ve been having a rough time getting the preassembled VMXpi kit I ordered from Studica to talk to the WPILib on my programming laptop, as a non-programming mentor.

Kauai Labs has been somewhat helpful, but apparently the image that shipped from Studica was the robotics toolkit and I needed to run some additional scripts to prepare to use it with WPILib? I’m at the point where I’m considering tearing the assembly down so I can access the SD card outside the Pi and reset it to the FRC image, in case I’ve just done too much hackery at this point and the networking scripts are now broken on my image. Which negates the benefit of shipping in a preassembled unit.

In this case, I would recommend disassembling the case and flashing the new image. The case has four screws on the outside and two on the inside that need to be removed to access the SD card. Once the SD card is out it will need to be formatted using the official SD Card Formatter. After formatting, the latest image can be found here on Kauai Labs website (Note it is a large download). The recommended software to flash SD cards is etcher. Once the SD card is flashed with the new image I would recommend following these guides in the meantime for getting everything up and working.

Setting up the VMXpi in Wifi Access point (AP) mode

Configuring VSCode for the VMXpi

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Are there plans to maintain the Pi image for WPILib betas?

Currently, we are focused on official releases however, if the there is a demand we can look into creating an image for betas.

Any further updates on curriculum or instructional materials for this product?

All the curriculum is free to access on docs.studica.com. It is still a work in progress, and we are adding more content whenever we can.

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It is a bit messy still (especially the develop branch), but here are some working examples I have been messing around with.

We did not purchase the full Titan bot, and are using mostly VEX Cortex motors and controllers with two 18650 batteries (or the vex batteries) for power. Soon I will upgrade to a 12 volt system, but we have access to many Cortex pieces, so that was the initial focus.

Now that most of that is working, I am going implement the Titan MC with a cheap mecanum base and 12 volt motors (not FRC legal yet though).

Got mine working a few weeks ago and figured I should update y’all:

Kauai Labs now has a really clean VSCode extension implementation that takes care of all the behind-the-scenes magic for switching between platforms, which made implementation as an FRC robot from the FRC image pretty much painless for this non-programming mentor!
Massive gains from a few months ago when the instructions were to set up all that manually. Great work by the Kauai Labs and Studica teams to polish up this product.

If I get budget for remote learning kits, I now plan to order at least four of these kits to send around to different students houses during remote learning.

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