Smart Field Control for Teams

Initial Setup for Teams

  • Open VEXcode
  • Connect robot brain directly to computer
  • Turn on robot brain
  • Ensure controller and robot are running the latest VEXos firmware 
  • Set team number on robot brain (with no spaces between team number and letter)

If using a Smart Field Controller, an EP should communicate the above mentioned steps to coaches prior to the event. These must be checked at inspection for proper connection to the control system at an event.

Before a Match

  • Teams must connect controllers to the Smart Field Controller
     
    • For V5RC, VAIRC, and VURC head-to-head matches, each driver station will have two smart cables. It does not matter which cable you use. Blue team cables will be at the blue team’s driver station and the red teams' cables will be at the red teams' driver station. You can connect one of the smart cables to either of the two smart ports on your V5 controller. Do not connect to the middle/legacy port on the controller.
  • Check indicators on Field Queue Display
     
    • If Red - Field connection lost, Field Fault
    • If Yellow - Radio not Linked, Program Not Running, Wrong Firmware Field Standby (not active field)
    • If Gray - No Controller Connected
    • If Light Blue - Waiting for Field Activation
    • If Green - Ready for Match/Field Active

Best Practices

  • You should always connect the field control cable to the V5 controller that has the radio connection to the robot. So if you are using a dual controller setup make sure you plug the field’s smart cable into the controller that is paired with the robot. Once you connect the cable to your controller you will see the field symbol show up on the status bar of the controller and you are officially connected to the field.
  • For Skills Challenge attempts, there will be one smart cable in each alliance station allowed by the game manual. Based on the chosen starting position the team can use the closest smart cable to connect their V5 controller to the field control system. Once connected the field control icon should show on the controller screen and the robot is ready to start the skills run.
  • Cover legacy field control port on team controller.

Smart Field Control FAQs

How do the new Smart Field controllers work?

The old field control system uses discrete digital logic to signal the states of the field. A single pin on the RJ45 connector would toggle from high to low to signal that the field was changing from “Disabled” to “Enabled”. There was no real data passed between the robots and the field.

The new Smart Field controllers use special software running on a V5 brain. The field brain connects to the smart port on the V5 controllers to pass not only the same field state information as the old system but also additional data like the match clock time. The V5 controller can also pass information to the field controller about that state of the robot (radio link info, battery levels, is the user app running…). This information can be used to quickly troubleshoot issues with robots on the field. The field brain also connects to the Tournament Manager software so all this information can now be displayed on the field monitor to allow the referees to know if all systems are good to go before the match starts.

How do I connect my V5 controller to the new Smart Field controllers?

For V5RC, VAIRC, and VURC matches, each driver's station will have two smart cables. It does not matter which cable you use. Blue team cables will be at the blue team’s driver station and the red team’s cables will be at the red team’s driver station. You can connect one of the smart cables to either of the two smart ports on your V5 controller.

NOTE: Make sure not to plug the cable into the legacy field controller port. This could damage your controller.

You should always connect the field control cable to the V5 controller that has the radio connection to the robot. So if you are using a dual controller setup make sure you plug the field’s smart cable into the controller that is paired with the robot. Once you connect the cable to your controller you will see the field symbol show up on the status bar of the controller and you are officially connected to the field.

For VEX V5 Robotics Competition Skills attempts, there will be one smart cable in each legal alliance station (VAIRC and VURC will have two smart cables in each legal driver's station). Once connected the field control icon should show on the controller screen and the robot is ready to start the skills run.

Will my robot act differently with the Smart Field system?

As far as the control of your robot and how the match goes, no there will be no difference. The only thing that you will notice is how the radio connections work with the new system. With the legacy system, as soon as you connect your controller to the field the controller jumps to a competitions channel and then reconnects to the robot. With the new system that will not be the case. When you first connect the Smart Field cable to your controller you may see a radio drop but it will connect on a pit channel instead of a competition channel. We do this to make sure we do not have too many robots on the competition channels at any one time. Once the field operator is ready, they will “activate” your field. The activation will only happen once all other matches in your division are complete. When your field is activated your V5 controller will jump to a specific competition channel and reconnect with your robot. So, it is possible that your radio link will drop a couple times before the match starts. But don’t worry, the field operator will not start the match until every robot is connected on the correct channel and all teams are set and
ready to go.

Also, shortly after the match completes, the field will be deactivated by the operator. This will cause your controller to jump off of the competition channel and jump back to a pit channel, freeing up the channel for the next match. When this happens, your robot will no longer link to your controller, and you will need to power cycle the brain on the robot to regain link.

How do I make sure my V5 brain and electronics are up to date?

You can quickly check the version of VEXos on the V5 brain by clicking on the “Devices” icon on the home screen. Then click on the brain icon. The version of VEXos will be displayed on the image of the brain on that screen. If the version is 1.1.2 (or higher) then you are good to go. If the brain dashboard does not show that your brain is up to date then you will need to either download VEXcode or the V5 Firmware Utility. Either of these apps will be able to update your V5 brain to the latest version of VEXos. Here is a link to an article about how to update firmware with VEXcode.

  • Once you have performed the update, make sure you follow all the prompts on the brain screen once it reboots. In many cases the brain will want to update multiple devices (power chip, radio, controller, and controller assets). Make sure you click OK on all these prompts and allow them time to complete.
  • Make sure to tether all of your controllers to the brain that has been updated. This will allow the brain to update the controller’s firmware. Once the controller is tethered to the brain you will see the controller screen briefly turn red and then the controller will reboot. Make sure to leave the controller plugged in to the brain after the reboot so that the brain can update the assets on the controller. Once the brain and controller connect after the reboot the brain will show a prompt asking to update the controller’s assets. Click “OK” and then allow the download to complete.
  • For the current firmware version, click here.

What happens if I had to switch out the brain on my robot before the match and I don’t get it updated?

Once you connect your controller to the field control system, your team’s status will show on the monitor at your field. If your robot’s controller, radio, or brain is out of date, the monitor will show your status as “Invalid Firmware”. When that happens, a referee or field tech may come over and help troubleshoot with you.

Will updating the firmware on my robot affect how my user program works?

In most cases it will not. But depending on how old the firmware was on the robot you have been testing with there may be some slight differences. That is why it is always a good idea to update well before an event so that you can test to make sure everything is working properly.

World Championship Operation

Bluetooth Mode for Skills

Controlling the quality of VEX radio links is always a challenge for large competitions like VEX Worlds. In order to make sure our division matches and skills attempts work as smoothly as possible, Robot Skills Challenge matches will be operated using the VEX radio in Bluetooth mode instead of VEXnet mode. This will allow the event to accommodate more skills fields and more time for skills runs. Bluetooth has commonly been used with V5 in classrooms. It allows the brain to communicate with tablets and mobile devices for remote user app downloads. But the V5 controller also supports Bluetooth and functions exactly the same as VEXnet. This year every team will have to switch both their V5 brain and V5 controller to Bluetooth mode before they can start a skills attempt.

VEX World Championship Smart Field Control FAQs

How do I change my robot from VEXnet to Bluetooth mode?

Changing the brain
From the home screen select “Settings."

If the “Radio Type” box says “VEXnet” click the box to change it to “Bluetooth.”

A confirmation dialog will be presented to verify your choice. Click “Ok.” NOTE: You can tether your controller to the brain at this point and the brain will change the radio mode of your controller for you. But if you do not tether your controller at this step, you can either tether it later or manually change the radio mode using the controller’s menu.

Once you click “Ok” verify your “Radio Type” now says “Bluetooth.”

NOTE: You do NOT have to turn on “Radio Data” to use the controller in Bluetooth mode for
your skills attempts.

Changing the V5 Controller

  • Once you have configured the V5 Brain to Bluetooth mode, you can then tether your V5
    Controller to the brain, and it will configure the Controller for you
  • You can also manually change the radio mode on the settings screen of the controller
     
    • Select “Settings” from the main menu on the controller
    • Scroll down to “Radio: VEXnet” and select that row
    • The text should change from “Radio:VEXnet” to “Radio: Bluetooth”
    • NOTE: You do not have to pair the controller with the brain again. As long as both the brain and the controller are set to Bluetooth mode they will connect

Will my robot function the same with the radios in Bluetooth mode as it does when they are in  VEXnet mode?

Yes. Bluetooth and VEXnet share the same feature set. They both pass the same controller data to the brain at almost the same interval (VEXnet updates every 25 milliseconds and Bluetooth updates about every 15ms). Both radio modes allow for field control states to be passed via the radio link.

The only difference you may notice is that Bluetooth mode takes a little longer to connect than VEXnet. This is because of the overhead of the Bluetooth connection. Also, there have been some reports of Bluetooth connections taking a long time to connect. If you see this happening, try power cycling your controller.

What happens when I get to the skills field, and I forget to set my robot to Bluetooth mode?

When you plug your controller into the Smart Field controls at the skills field, the field controller will show an error message saying that you need to change your radio mode to Bluetooth. Once you change the settings on your robot the field controller will allow you to start your skills run.

What happens when I forget to change my robot back to VEXnet mode before I get to a divisional field for a division match?

When you plug your controller into the Smart Field controls at the division field, the controller will
show an error message that you need to change your radio mode to VEXnet. You can change
the mode at the field and once done the field control system will allow the match to proceed.
The field techs will be there to help if needed.