There are FIRST sponsored vendors where you can buy most of the major mechanical components. Andymark is the vendor where you can buy several different types of motors as well as the gearboxes for those motors, but for general parts such a screws, nuts, and bolts you can either go to a local hardware store or you can use Macmaster-Carr where you can get exact dimensions needed for your part and be open to a larger variety of selection. Macmaster is useful for almost all the hardware you will need on your robot. For parts such as motors and gearboxes, remember that FIRST allows you to use only certain brands of motors and sometimes, specific gearboxes. Remember to consult with the rules before buying a specialty part. You can buy pneumatics from Bimba which is another FIRST sponsored company.

Grainger has local stores and a significant online presence. They have a huge selection, but be prepared to spend a fair amount of time at the counter when you order.

Everybody knows about Home Depot, Lowes, and Orchard Supply (OSH). Since the previous version of this document, OSH’s hardware selection significantly declined and its prices have significantly increased. Local ACE and True Value hardware stores, by comparison, have become much better. Many of them have a larger selection than the big box stores, and they are better organized. But if you can, make larger orders of screws & nuts from McMaster.

Although we don’t use them too much, Fastenal carries a large selection of nuts and bolts. They have stores all over the Bay Area, including San Jose, Fremont, and Palo Alto.

For weird & obscure hardware that you need immediately, Olander Hardware is the place to go. Their prices are high, but if you need something, they are likely to have it. Their address is 144 Commercial Street, Sunnyvale, CA 94086-5298. Commercial Street is off Kifer between Fair Oaks and Lawrence Expressway. The small sign near the side door of the warehouse is easy to miss. Their hours are M-F from 8AM -5PM.


We buy our aluminum and steel from either McMaster or Alan Steel. Alan Steel is has excellent prices and an incredible selection. 505 E Bayshore Rd Redwood City, CA 94063 (650) 369-2526. Hours are Mon-Fri 8 am - 4:30 pm.


We end up buying a lot of Lexan polycarbonate plastic sheeting. TAP Plastics carries an excellent selection, and will cut sheets to size for no extra cost. Note: acrylic shatters, so you must use polycarbonate. There are retail locations all around, including San Jose and Fremont. They are closed on Sunday.

Port Plastics has lower prices on full sheets of polycarbonate. They also carry plastic tubing and cable management supplies. 550 E. Trimble Road #A, San Jose, CA 95131. As a normal industrial supplier, they are open M F.


AndyMark the company that hosts FIRST Choice, makes gear boxes and wheels for FIRST robots. It also supplies the miscellaneous electronic parts for FRC robots, such as the power distribution board and the digital sidecar. Their customer service is first-rate. If you decide to buy extra parts, however, order them as soon after kickoff as you can. They may run out.

The Jaguar motor controller is found here. In the past, TI has provided a link for FRC teams to buy Jaguars at discount (through Digi-Key). Remember, you need one controller per electric motor. Some teams prefer the simpler (and some say more robust) Victor 884 motor controllers. Many teams have found that each season they burn out at least one motor controller, so it is worthwhile to have a few spares.

Jameco Electronics runs both a mail order and a retail operation. If you’re desperate, their retail store is open 8AM-5PM M-F. Their address is Jameco Electronics 1355 Shoreway Road, Belmont, CA 94002.

Fry’s has a spotty selection of electronics, so we usually have to try other places for components and connectors. Likewise, RadioShack, but if there’s one near you, it’s open late, and it just might have that resistor or wire you need.

Anchor Electronics is a small store at 2040 Walsh Ave. in Santa Clara, just west of Scott Blvd. They have a large selection of components, switches, and connectors. Their hours are 7:30AM-4PM M-F & 10AM-3PM on Saturday.

If you like browsing surplus equipment, then HSC Electronics is the place for you. Open 8AM-7PM M-F & 9AM-5PM Sat. 3500 Ryder St. Santa Clara. Note that HSC advertises nationally, so presumably their parts are considered COTS parts.

Even stranger surplus electronics can be found at Weird Stuff Warehouse at 384 West Caribbean Drive in Sunnyvale. Open 9:30AM-6PM M-S & 11AM-6PM Sunday.

For mail order, both Mouser Electronics and Allied Electronics have huge selections and will regularly send you their large print catalogs. They ship promptly. Newark electronics and Arrow are also places to look for that special component. Note that priority shipping can be quite expensive.

Chief Delphi Swap—On the Chief Delphi website, a small button near the top says CD-Swap; click on this to see what equipment various teams are willing to swap.

Electrical Components

The wires that go from the digital sidecar to the speed controllers are 3 wire flat cables called PWM cable (or servo wire). Hobby shops that specialize in radio-controlled cars & planes sell them as servo extensions. If you decide to make your own, hobby shops sell servo wire and servo connectors & crimps (get Hitec or universal, not Futaba). You can also get the connectors and pins at Jameco (part# 157383, Connector, 1",1RW,3PIN HSG) for less than the hobby shops sell them. These connectors will also work on miniature pins for connecting extra switches to the Driver Station.

Servo motors

FIRST has relaxed the rules for 2011 and you can now use any servo that does not exceed the power limitations. Our choice has been the Hitec HS-485B. California Hobbies carries them. They are located at 1702 Meridian Ave. Suite I San Jose, CA 95125 (408) 448-1449. Open 7 days a week. It also has a large selection of wires, screws, plastic, and aluminum hobby parts. Another good choice is Aero Micro Located at 2090 Duane Ave Santa Clara, CA 95054 (408) 496-6699. Open Tues. through Sun. Aero Micro specializes in radio controlled airplanes and helicopters, but it does not carry much in the way of general hobby supplies.

The digital sidecars have a more secure connection for PWM cables. If you want to use those, the connector is a Molex 22-01-2037 housing and crimp terminals, also available at Jameco. To connect either type of cables to the metal pins, you’ll need a crimping tool, but you don’t really need the $300 crimping tool listed for Molex.

An excellent description of how to crimp your own PWM cables is from Hansen Hobbies. They sell the wire, the connectors, and crimping tools.

The Sauro CTF040V8 connectors on the power distribution block and the cRIO are available from AndyMark. They also carry the Wago connectors needed for much of the control system components.

If you use the I2C port, for a Lego NXT compass, just buy the cables. You can get them from Lego or HiTechnic.


We go through hundreds (maybe thousands) of zip ties each season. You will be repeatedly cutting them off & reinstalling them. We usually get them from Fry’s Electronics.

We’ve used CPVC piping for prototyping, etc. It’s smaller & lighter than regular PVC pipe, and it doesn’t shatter. OSH and Lowe’s carry it.

You will need lots of double-stick Velcro, both wide and narrow. OSH, Lowe’s, Home Depot, & McMaster carry it. We use it to hold the robot controller, the Speed Controllers, the Spike Relays, and all sorts of other things.

Heat shrink tubing, available at Fry’s & elsewhere, is great for insulating wire connections and providing a bit of extra protection. While you can use a miniature butane torch to heat it, a heat gun is a better bet.

Last year we started using red/black zip cord for robot wiring. The wires are bonded together, which makes routing and identification much easier. We also connect the wire to components with Anderson Powerpole connectors. Our source is Powerwerx in southern California. Shipping is prompt and reliable. Note that priority shipping for wire will cost more than the wire itself.

If you decide to use the window motors shipped in the kit of parts, you may want to know about the power plugs that aren’t included. They are available at Mouser Electronics. They are Delphi Automotive Connectors: (Mouser part# 829-12129847-B) the Secondary lock (Mouser part# 829-12077904-B) and female crimps (Mouser part# 829-1212943). You need all three parts. Use a standard crimping tool for the crimps.

If you are interested in using Bosch aluminum extrusions, the local supplier is Valin. The local office is 555 E. California Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086. (408) 730-9850. For teams interested in using Bosch, we are willing to advise you on ordering a selection of extrusions and connectors to get you started. You can view the online Bosch catalog here.
Note that there can be a 2 week lead time for Bosch orders.

You may need a 6 ft. folding table for competitions. Available at Home Depot, Office Depot, etc. You will also need a heavy-duty extension cord (and many people recommend a GFI as well) and at least 3 or 4 plug strips. You’ll need them for battery chargers, the laptop, soldering irons, and the Operator Station.


12V battery. The kit-of-parts comes with only one battery. You will need two at an absolute minimum, and three would be better. Note that you must use the battery brand and model specified by FIRST. FIRST allows two different brands of batteries MK ES17-12 12VDC non-spillable lead acid battery, OR one EnerSys NP 18-12 (and only those brands and models). They are available through AndyMark.

Quick release battery connectors. The kit-of-parts provides two pairs of quick release connectors, but you will want to buy more, including one for the battery charger. These are Anderson Power Products SB50 power connectors. Part # 6331G1 from Allied Electronics or Powerwerx. You may also want some spare #6 contacts, part # 903G1. It will require soldering or a heavy-duty crimper.


You pretty much have to have a laptop for programming the robot. It’s much easier to get the laptop to the robot than getting a huge robot over to a desktop computer.

Note that the CompactRio has a DB9 serial connector on it for console output. If your laptop does not have a serial port, you’ll need a USB to serial converter and a serial crossover cable. They’re available at Fry’s for about $20.

We do most of our testing through the Wi-Fi interface. Even so, you probably want to have at least one longish Cat 5 Ethernet cable for tethered testing.
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