What does your build area network look like?

We’re doing a bit of re-vamp to our internal network - how we get wifi to student laptops. I’ve got this pipe dream of being able to remote-in to our test boards for software test as well, so anyone can try deploying to a RIO remotely.

Mostly for my own curiosity, and digging for ideas: What sort of networking equipment and architecture do your teams use to get team devices on the internet? Safety, firewalls, segmentation, etc… Tips, tricks all welcome!

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We use the public WIFI in our sponsors building. :laughing:

We have the school Wifi. Of course, the IP range doesn’t correspond to those used on robots, so we can’t really use it for robot work - have to switch networks to the one the robot broadcasts in order to deploy or drive.

Interestingly, in fall 2018 the EMCC off-season event had a wifi related issue - the school wifi network matched up with teams 25XX - had trouble getting any of them to connect to the field! Once we figured it out, we were able to work around it, but that was a very long morning trying to find out why some teams were having trouble and others weren’t!

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We use the school’s Wi-Fi except when we drive the robot, where we just connect to our radio’s wifi.

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This year will be real fun…they took away all the computers we’ve been using, since the Engineering class doesn’t have a teacher any more. I have no idea what we’re going to do. Hopefully one of the other mentors, who is working on a plan, will get us some computers.


We rely on various phone hotspots for internet… Wi-Fi’s weak in our part of the building our shop is currently in, but we’re looking into getting some form of permanent internet at our space eventually.

Our Bot Shop LAN has evolved a lot over time and…

is the biggest pain in the butt!

Seriously, this started out as a pet project for me, but after a few years of fun it turns out running enterprise services on commercial gear (i.e. the hand-me-down stuff we can afford) without being full-time or getting paid is not worth it.

I’m probably forgetting some stuff, but here it is:

We have a pretty beefy (150 down/60 up) connection coming into our shop courtesy of our Mediacom Sponsorship. We just pay $10 for the static WAN IP.

We recently switched from an Untangle Box to an EdgeRouter4 after basically everything on UT went paid. Routing, DHCP, Port Forwards, Content Filter, and Firewall are all handled here.

Catalyst 3560-E Series PoE-48 was found in a recycling box along with 10 AIR-AP1142N-A-K9 APs. Converting APs from LWAP to auto means no need for smarts in the rack. We hung 5 APs.

APs allow 4 team owned laptops and all BYOD phones, lappys, etc. on the network.

Old timers will recognize our security camera as a (re)repurposed Axis cam from the days before Limelight.

There are 2 main computer work areas in our shop “The Cage” and “The Bench”. The Cage has 4 PCs that are pretty dinky, but they run business apps just fine and that’s all we need. The Bench has our 2 CAD PCs (8700k, P4000, 64Gb) and 2 older gaming desktops courtesy of us old timers who built them in '08 and '09 (ahh simpler times). These are multi-use but are generally reserved for developers.

1625-CNC is the brains behind our Omio X8.
1625-TC is an old POS (Mind out of the gutter… Point of Sale) Kiosk which is a thin client for our very custom (and very unnecessary) time keeping / team mgmt. software

We also have a Cage Printer and a Bench Printer (CADPRINT)

Then there is the rack…
1625-AD: Active Directory. Overkill, don’t do it. Handles account permissions, etc.
1625-DFS: 2 something Tb RAID 5 DFS with Shared Drive, Code Repos, etc. Overkill, don’t do it.
1625-Sandbox: A place for us developers to play. This hosts the bulk of our time keeping / team mgmt. software, a few little admin maintenance webpages, network mgmt. scripts, and anything else we’re playing with.
A spare box for when one of these inevitably fails

Everybody runs Windows 10 Pro or some flavor of Windows Server

Just about everything can be managed remotely and if you really have the patience, our dev PCs have dual NICs so you can deploy code onto RoboRIOs (we generally advise against this for safety / code integrity reasons).

Here are some pics (some may be out of date and not reflect the current setup above):

The IT “Department” sans some stuff

Testing the APs before we hung them

The Cage

The Bench

Let me know if you have any questions!

If you want a headache that can sometimes be cool and you have no money, I got you. I’m a lapsed IT geek who took more interest in organization and management… so if you have the dedication to IT, YMMV. Cheers!


I’ve put some thought into this. One thing to bear in mind is that in an FRC network, certain devices should be at certain IPs-- the roboRIO at 10.xx.yy.2, for example. That raises problems if you want multiple testbeds with multiple RIOs. What you’ll need to do is give each “robot network” its own router to NAT to your “main” network (the same principle applies if your “robot networks” are VLANs). Some static NAT translations on the routers will give you the ability to SSH into stuff.

Also, set up a pair of redundant internal DNS servers. Remembering IPs is a pain.

In progress. Last year, we had the school network, but we were solely on wireless guest passes.

A couple months back the school network admin took interest, and has been slowly building out our own network for 5 desktop and wireless AP. He installed wire back to the branch and will put a router & switch & ap in, along with wiring the office. He hit a snag as his free hardware had a failure, so I’m not sure when we’ll be totally up and running. I’m not sure how far his interest will go but I’ll share the above. I’m not sure we need more central computing or storage, at this point anyhow. Our building blocks phones pretty well, so maybe getting them on wifi (which wasn’t possible with the school guest accounts) would be helpful.

The only thing we have beyond the school’s network is commodity router/switch/AP box (NATed into the school network) that we use for something like this: https://www.strykeforce.org/resources/practice-field-network/.

It was more trouble than it’s worth in my opinion, unless you’re interested in it as a learning exercise or challenge. It also only works if you have some legacy AN radios lying around.

We just have our school’s network. I’m sure they would frown upon us creating our own.

I have had good experiences with Ubiquiti’s Unifi gear. It’s very easy to set up and manage, supports enterprise features like VLANs, PoE, DPI, etc., and is reasonably priced. I run it at home (way overkill), and recently installed it at my church (9 APs, 4 switches, 1 gateway).

Our school IT has actually told us not to set up our own wifi hotspots.
We don’t, but the wifi is horrible at times and most of the Ethernet ports don’t work in the first place.

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Our team uses our schools internet going to a TP-Link archer AC1750 to route internet to most of our wireless devices but any wired devices go straight into switches I have setup around the area. School IT is not on greatest terms with us having our own access points and has tried to take them down.

For anyone who hasn’t been to the 1625 bot shop, it is like FRC Magical Christmasland.

At our shop we can’t really use the school internet so we just have to tether/hotspot on a phone when we need to get out to github. At competition we have sometimes set up a switch so that we don’t ahve to keep swapping cables all over the place.

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