What To Do With Old FRC RIO/Motor Controllers?

I have been looking through an old electrical cabinet and found a bunch of old FRC equipment laying around, such as old cRIO-FRCIIs other old roborios and motor controllers. Nobody in the shop knows how to use them. Is it worth spending time to learn old controllers/boards that nobody uses? Is it better to try selling them? or should we just toss them?

Old motor controllers are still supported in WPILib and also work well with Arduinos and standard RC equipment, so they might be nice to have around if your team wants to build a t-shirt cannon or demo bot or something. On the other hand, the cRIO probably isn’t worth getting working, especially if you have spare roboRIOs available. I’d say either sell it or give it to someone to mess with at home.

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Team 358 has done an amazing job keeping all the documentation available for all the old control system hardware. Team358.org - Robotic Eagles - FIRST® Robotics Competition

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Our team seems to be planning on donating those sorts of parts to other teams, or keeping them as spares to give out at competitions.

Any controller with a PWM input (all of them afaik?) is useful outside of FRC. I still have some tan Jags on projects and motor testers.

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Any of them that have been legal in the last 20 years, anyway. And I recall the pre-Victor controllers were on PWM too, though I haven’t been hands-on with them.

We pack a couple bins of old things for each competition hoping we give them away; this season, we finally managed to clear out our new old-stock BAG motors when a team was asking around for them at Electric City. (The mentor was like “We only need one!” And I was like “we’ve never owned a VersaPlanetary, take them all!”) If you want to maximize the chances the stuff leaves your shop, I’d suggest putting such a bin on the edge of your pit with a sign saying “Go ahead, take it!”

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That is a big deal. One of my concerns in building “demo” bots (I consider a T-shirt shooter in that category) is the software toolchain needed to keep it running for years into the future.

I’m glad that WPILib is updated regularly but it’s not a long term supported platform for non-competition use. It’s better to fall back to simple things like PWM control driven by an Arduino (or whatever the current flavor is in a few years) or leverage COTS radio control stuff like @bobbysq mentioned. PWM is PWM - if you can hit the frequencies and duty cycles (all documented BTW), you can still do stuff with that gear.

I’m worried that more sophisticated stuff runs either the risk of being orphaned, too tied to a particular tool chain, or some sort of upgrade / downgrade horror show once it falls out of competition support. No one wants to keep a “NEVER UPGRADE THIS LAPTOP” system around running some crusty version of Windows, VSCode, WPIlib, vendor libs, and whatever just to be able to build a new version of the T-shirt shooter code.

That older gear will probably be useable on whatever the embedded flavor of the future is easier than newer sexier stuff so it still has some value.

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By old roborios, are you talking about the V1 roboRio released in 2015, the predecessor of the “current” v2 roboRio? Those are still fully supported by WPiLib and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, still legal for use next year.

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Or do you mean the IFI controllers?

This has already happened, too. The Jaguar, DMC-60C, and SD540C all have had software support discontinued, either due to hardware discontinuation, legal action, or poor sales. Luckily none of these motor controllers were particularly common, but we are potentially coming up on mainstream motor controllers getting discontinued seeing as the Talon SRX is nearing 10 years old at this point and the company that makes them has already put out a successor. Hopefully we’ll have some way of having community support once official support ends…

That post-official-support support is “run it on PWM”. Talon SRX, Talon FX, and SPARK MAX can do it, I recall seeing it on the DMC60c at Fight Night in 2020, and I’mma just hope the SD540C baked it in too for the ten people that bought them.

It may not be all the bells and whistles for the most sophisticated robots, but they won’t be paperweights either.

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While that’s true, I just think it would be a good gesture to at least release tools to create custom firmware instead of leaving those controllers half-functional after the official software is no longer updated. The reason to pay $90 for a Talon SRX over $45 for a SPARK is an encoder port and current limiting, not an encoder port and current limiting until it’s not worth CTRE’s time to update the software anymore.

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For the Jags, at least, the interface documentation is public, so you can write your own CAN software if you want to. (Actually, if you dig deep into the internet, you can find the example source code and documentation from Luminary, so you can write your own firmware if you want to.)

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Unless I missed something big, the Talon SRX definitely doesn’t have a successor. I’d expect them to continue to be supported until at least few years after there is a true successor released.

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We have RIOs from the 2000’s and up at least. I haven’t seen any older ones but I guaranty there around here somewhere.

http://www.team358.org/files/programming/

I guess I should have been more specific in what we had. We have a ton of old jaguars (not sure how many work they have been sitting in a box for years), a bunch of Talon SRs, Roborios from 2000 and up (and probably lower as well.), and a bunch of old (now illegal) motors.

Roborio came into existence for the 2015 game. Before that are the Crio family which were first used in 2009? The 8 slot Crio chassis might have some value on the used market. The 4 slot one (Crio II?) are optimized for First and have no identical industrial counter part so probably not much value. The IO cards are NI standard and probably have more value on the used market.

We have several old robots running on Crios. Changing the program is a pain because you have to use old versions of Java and wpilib. I am not sure if even the new version of Labview will run on them since the firmware is no longer being updated. We are converting old robots to run with a Hero if we want to do anything but drive them. I don’t see much value in using them as a teaching aide because they are so much different than current. Maybe they would make nice wall art.

RobotPy’s last release for the cRIO should still work just fine: Release RobotPy 2014.4.2 · robotpy/robotpy-crio · GitHub

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Like it or not, the Talon FX integrated into the Falcon 500 is the successor to the Talon SRX. Brushed motors are quickly falling out of favor among teams, and the SRX doesn’t support the CAN-FD protocol CTRE has been pushing recently. Obviously a Talon FX can’t directly replace a Talon SRX, but it’s clear which one CTRE is going to be putting resources into improving going forward.

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It is still based on the 2014 wpilib. A lot of functionality of the current wpilib would be missing. Fine for someone to play with at home, but I would not use them to train for the current system.