FRC Blog

Next Generation Control System -- Update

Sep 10, 2020 Written by Kate Pilotte, Senior Kit of Parts Manager, FIRST Robotics Competition.




While probably not front and center in your mind in September in a pandemic… the team working on the deployment of the next generation FIRST Robotics Competition control system wanted to provide an update to our February, 2020 pre-pandemic blog on the matter. The whole team is excited about getting these new devices to the community, but the roll out needs a bit of revision. Shocker, right?  

Here’s the latest and greatest of where we are as of this moment…

  • NI will provide the next generation roboRIO 
    • Similar functionality (improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary) 
    • NI has made targeted changes to improve the user experience with roboRIO 2.0 including increased memory, increased on-board storage, and increased processor speed.  
    • roboRIO 2.0 is designed to be backwards-compatible with hardware and software from the original roboRIO   
    • NI will donate 1 roboRIO 2.0 per Rookie Kickoff Kit in FRC seasons 2022-2026 (in addition to other important support of FIRST that emphasizes ED&I)
  • REV Robotics will provide brand-new support modules 
    • Power Distribution Hub 
      • 20 power distribution channels 
      • 40A load capability on all channels 
      • 2 software switchable channels 
      • All toolless & connectorless terminals 
      • USB & CAN interfaces 
    • Pneumatic Hub 
      • 12 solenoid channels (6 double solenoids) 
      • Analog and digital pressure sensing 
      • Regulated 12V & 24V modes 
      • USB & CAN interfaces 
    • Voltage Regulation Hub 
      • 12v or 5v module options 
      • 3 individually protected output channels 

Due to Covid-19 impacts (overall cost considerations and no off-season events available for testing brand-new products), FIRST is delaying rollout of the new REV boards in Kickoff Kits until the 2023 FRC season.  

REV is on track with the new support modules, getting ready for a launch in 2021 for the 2022 Season. FIRST may make these new products competition legal in 2022 for teams who choose to adopt these products on their own. 

  • For the 2022 Season, rookie teams will receive the existing CTRE products and these products will continue to remain competition legal in future years. 
  • WPI and the WPILib development team will provide software in support of the new devices. 
  • The wireless solution will continue to be the Open Mesh radio for the foreseeable future, and we will continue to pursue a solution to succeed these radios.

We emphasize that this is our plan as of today and encourage absorbing this with a Jupiter-sized grain of salt given that we all face so much uncertainty regarding the pandemic. We commit to providing updates though, so please stay tuned!  


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When could teams apply for alpha/beta testing?

Great to hear you’re interested. Details about beta testing (including when and how to let us know you’re interested) haven’t been defined yet. Stay tuned to this FRC blog for when more information is released. 

From reading the blog, I understand that existing code written for the original roboRIO will run on the new roboRIO 2. What about code written for 2022-2026? If a team has an investment in the original roboRIO for a training kit, will it run on the original roboRIO?

The intent is to continue to support roboRIO hardware for newly developed programs, however there may be technical reasons that individual programs may not be able to run on the older hardware (e.g. use more RAM than is available on roboRIO). I wouldn't feel comfortable making a definitive promise today that roboRIO support will 100% continue for the entire duration of roboRIO 2 lifespan, but we will be working very hard to maintain that as an option.

In what season do we expect R57 (and others) to be revised to require teams to use the roborio 2.0 and other new components, if that is known yet? Just curious to plan our budget.

Also, I'm really excited about the pneumatics manifold and integrated solenoid, having fewer wires to manage between Solenoids + PCM will be great. Just a single CAN and power to PDP.

The intent is for robot rules to allow the option of using the current roboRIO/CTR Electronics boards or the new roboRIO 2.0/REV Robotics boards (or a combination of new and existing). There are no plans at this time to exclusively require the new devices only. Please take this comment as the state of where we are today and not a commitment to a particular policy as 2022 is still a ways away! (also, we think there might be a misunderstanding re: the feature set of the new Pneumatics Control Module and read “solenoid channels” as actual solenoids; it doesn’t process compressed air. Sorry if we were unclear above!)

Always happy to see improvements/upgrades to existing equipment, it proves we're moving in the right direction.  I am curious, however, to hear more about the issues that arose last year - prior to the shutdown - with the RIO locking up. (It happened to us, week one, during competition - robot was totally inoperative, but indicators said we were still connected).  I saw this first hand, had several mentors on our team trying to chase it down after the event, even followed the thread over at NI.  Yet since the COVID outbreak, this discussion seems to have gotten lost.  Does anyone have info on this?  Has this problem been resolved?  If so, could you please point me in the right direction?  While the possibility of incorporating a "used" RIO in future builds exists, I would like to eliminate as many potential failures as possible - be it a result of programming (firmware/software) or the hardware attached to the RIO.  Thanks in advance - Coach M.

Glad to see NI is releasing an "improved" control system, but I really, really hope they've located the source of the problem that first began occurring right before the shutdown. With considerable time perusing the NI website, Delphi, and Google searches, I have been unable to find any further information for the issue discussed here 

If I have missed it, please point me in the right direction as our team has experienced this failure during a match in week one, and we don't want to replicate it regardless of which version of RIO we're using.  This may have slipped between the cracks, but it was enough of a problem across the FIRST community that the NI engineering team was addressing it, but as I mentioned, I have been unable to find ANY info regarding the root cause OR a solution.

We are a small-market team, with limited finances, and will continue to use the RoboRIO controllers we currently have on hand, and hopefully when we do finally decide to make the transition, this problem will no longer be one to worry about.  Thanks!


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