FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

2018 Beta Teams, Brushless Motors, and More!

Oct 27, 2017 Written by Jonathan Bryant, Kit of Parts Engineer, and Kevin O'Connor, Robotics Engineer.


Beta Teams

The 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition Control System Beta Test is underway and we wanted to share who this year’s teams are so you can keep an eye out for them sharing information about their experience with the Beta software. We sent out 10 Beta invites for each programming language and had 21 of the 30 accept. We had 55 total applications (8 C++, 35 Java, 11 LabVIEW) for the remaining spots with 44 accepted (all of the C++ and LabVIEW + 24 Java). You can find a list of all of the Beta test teams, their assigned language, and their locations (along with a map accessible by clicking the “Map of Location” tab) here.

We also have some information to share on 2 major changes that these Beta teams will be seeing in the software that they are testing: a new brushless motor/controller combo, and a Game Specific data API.


Nidec Dynamo BLDC Motor with Controller

The new brushless motor/controller combo that a small number of Beta teams will be testing is the Nidec Dynamo BLDC Motor with Controller. This small 12V DC Brushless motor/controller will be legal for the 2018 FIRST POWER UP Season, and will be available in FIRST Choice with additional units being sold by AndyMark.

We feel that this low power, integrated motor/controller combo is a great way to introduce brushless technology to FRC and are excited to have Nidec working to bring it to teams this season. Nidec has been working with FIRST to provide a custom cable harness with the motor to make the connection between the controller and the roboRIO as simple for teams as possible. We can’t wait to see what teams will do with this new technology this season!

Note: Teams will need the 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition software to control this motor correctly, so you will have to wait until Kickoff (and pay close attention to the documentation!) to start playing around with it. Until then, check out the datasheet here for more details about the electrical and mechanical specs.

Note 2: Are you unsure about brushless motors? No problem! Since its inception, FIRST Robotics Competition has allowed only brushed motors. However, brushless motors are widely used in many industries! For more information about the difference between the two, check out this link.


Game Data API

The other thing that Beta teams will be seeing is a new software API to provide teams with Game Specific data on the field (though it just looks a lot like an empty box until Kickoff). We’re not quite ready to reveal what this will be used for in 2018 (and beyond!), but we do want to share a bit about the implementation for those who may not keep close tabs on the Beta.

Starting this year, WPILib, in all 3 languages, will have APIs to access a Game Specific data string which will contain information sent from the Field Management System to the Robot (via the Driver Station). There will also be a new text box in the Driver Station which will allow teams to simulate this functionality when testing at home. The implementation has been kept as generic as possible to allow for maximum flexibility as we use this new feature in future years.

Keep your eyes peeled after Kickoff for documentation and examples about what will be contained in this Game Specific Data for 2018 and how to parse it in your Robot Code. Until then, let your imagination run wild about what the Field might have to say to your Robot!

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Python is an unofficial, but growing language for FRC.  It's a really easy language for teaching and iterating and a favorite in industry.    Will FIRST integrate the RobotPy project into the official WPILib?   Or at least, invite some Python teams into the 2018 Beta program?

Hi Brendan, that's a great question! We certainly take a look every year and review whether the current suite of supported languages is appropriate based on all of the pros and cons of adding or removing languages. There are not currently any plans to integrate the RobotPy project into WPILib or to invite Python teams to the Beta Test, as the purpose of the Beta Test is to test the officially supported software.

"Shall we play a game?"

Now that Brushless Motors are finally making their way to FIRST, any chance that Step Motors will be far behind ?  They’ve been used in industry and robotics for decades. 

Thanks for the suggestion about Step Motors. We will consider them for future years!

It would be great to learn that the use of stepper motors would be allowed, and integration of Python!

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