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Documents | Wiring Manual

Wiring Manual

A few simple rules to follow first:

* Check a wire's length BEFORE cutting it.
* Bend wires at right (90 degrees) angles to make the controls board look as professional as possible.
* RED TO RED AND BLACK TO BLACK. Do not forget this rule or you will fry the controls board
(We will all be very "angry" at you).
* If weight allows, use wood as a controls board. Holes do not need to be predrilled and washers are not necessary.
* A "dongle" is required to be attached to the driver station before the robot will work.
* Multiple signal wires mean multiple PWM cables.
* Connectors must be the same size as the receptacle they are being plugged into.
* The amount of sensors and speed controllers/relays is a good indicator of how complex
the robot is. KEEP IT SIMPLE. (Tank drive is the simplest drive system but requires four Victors.
Disregard these when measuring complexity.)
* CUT WIRES AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. Cutting will increase the chance that the wire will fail.
* PWMs are expensive and fragile. They also break easily. If a device fails, check the PWM first.
* CHECK WHICH DIRECTION A PWM IS MEANT TO FACE. Often there will be a small diagram on the device.
much more frequently than solder.
* NEATLY LAYOUT AND LABEL ALL WIRES. Labeling the wire multiple times makes your job much easier.
* KEEP IT SIMPLE (if this point was not made clear earlier).


"Red is hot. Black is not"
Red wires carry the power for the robot. Black is return or ground. Signal wires are white.

Return simply closes the circuit and "returns" current to the battery. Ground is a reference for the signal, ground and return are often the same in FIRST but not always. All grounds should be tied together at some point; multiple grounds lead to "ground loops" producing very noisy signals. They are considered the same for the purposes of this explanation.


Higher numbers=smaller wire. Low numbers have the thickest wire while high numbers have the thinnest. 12 is the common gauge of wire. 6 is used for the battery connections and the circuit breaker connections to the power switch. 16/18/22 and thinner (higher) is used for delicate sensors and specialty items.


Crimps are just metal connections, so use what fits the wire. The color of the crimp tells the gauge. There are ring connectors, male/female connectors, and butt connectors (do not use). Screw size does matter in ring connectors. Smaller is less likely to jar loose and thus fail.
After you have made a crimp, PULL ON THE WIRE AS HARD AS YOU CAN. If the wire comes loose, you did not make a tight enough crimp.


Breakers open and close the circuit based on the amount of current flowing through them.
Fuses break if they are overloaded by the current and must be replaced.

Power in the robot flows:

Circuit breaker
Spike Relay

The circuit breaker is the center of the robot where power is concerned. Every wire runs through it. Every wire loop needs a breaker. 12 gauge wires usually require a 40 amp breaker while 16+ gauge wires require a 20 or 30 amp breaker depending on the power they require. Use a flathead screwdriver to push open the Wago wire connections. The mechanism is spring-loaded.

Speed controllers (Victors and Jaguars) are used for variable speeds. Spike is the brand name for a double relay. Spikes are used for single speed items. It has three settings: on, off, and reverse. Power connections must be unscrewed and physically pulled. They do not pop out.

The CRIO system uses mutiple special Wago power connectors. We receive a small amount of them, do not lose them. Consult mentors for instructions. Power for the camera, wireless, robot light, CRIO, etc will use Wago connectors that will be made and installed by the team either on the Power Distribution board or the Digital Sidecar.


Signal wires are white and use PWM cables.
Where signal is concerned, the CRIO is the brain. A ribbon cable connects one of the I/O blocks to the digital sidecar where PWMs will connect. Another I/O block has an attachment for Analog I/O; this is for specialty devices.

Digital Sidecar

Digital Sidecar

Signal input (ribbon cable) is opposite the power. 1-10 on PWM out is for Victors. Relay I/O is for Spikes. GPIO is for general purpose digital IO. One PWM is used per signal cable. If a wire has multiple signal cables, you will need to strip it and solder to a PWM cable. When connecting a PWM to a device, look for a hard click.


Port 2 on the CRIO Ethernet is reserved for the camera. Port one is for the Linksys wireless or tether. IP Addresses must be correct for it to function properly. On the router, the Ethernet cable plugs into port 1. The gray AC/DC cable is for the router.

Driver Station

The driver station screen should look something like:

Team Number: 1912
System: Enabled
Mode: Teleoperated
Battery: 12.5 V
(If NO CODE, there is a problem on the robot.
If NO COMM, there is a communications problem.)

USB is for joysticks or other driving mechanism. PWMs 1-4 are analog, the NEXT 8 (5-12) are Digital In [switches], and the NEXT 8 (13-20) are Digital Out (feedback lights).


Sensors are either digital or analog. Consult the specifications for details. These will connect to the Digital I/O (GPIO) portion of the digital sidecar or the Analog Input on the CRIO.

These are the notes of Patrick H. under Annie H.'s class. Edited by Wendy H.

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