Extension cords for VEX.net field controllers?

Are there any extension cords that I can use to lengthen either the:

  1. USB cable from the computer to Driver interface, or…
  2. Cables from the main driver interface coming out of the computer, then to the driver interface where students connect their controls to.

I tried a USB extension(2.0, 50ft), but it did not work. I have 2 fields in my classroom and I want to run the cables on the truss above the room instead of having them run on the floor. Let me know if this is possible, thank you.

These are just standard cat5 cables with RJ45 ends, so you can purchase or manufacture new cables that are as long as you want (within reason; I’m sure if you run the cables hundreds of feet at some point the field control signals aren’t going to make it).

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another approach is to use an rPi at each field that is connected to the school network.

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Raspberry Pis are another option, though I wouldn’t recommend connecting them directly to the school network; many school networks have security techniques in place that would make getting the raspis talking to TM a nightmare.

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absolutely, work with your IT department - our district has become quite accepting of appliances I install on the network because I work with them to let them know the why it is needed, what alternatives exist etc.

Installing random hardware without working with your IT department can lead to long term ill will.

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I believe the cables that come in the VEX kits are 50ft… So I only need them a little more, maybe like 65-70ft.

What about the USB cable that goes into the main computer, is that a 3.0 USB? This would probably be the easiest one to extend.

No, this is quite an old device, I believe it’s only USB 1.1 (12MBit).
Theoretical limitation for USB 1.1 is 5m, but you can buy extenders that will extend over Cat5 cable for perhaps 40m, I have not personally tried any.

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I used a 50ft USB 2.0 extender and it did not work. So I assumed I needed something faster. Are you suggesting I get an older USB 1.0 extender cable?

Your best bet is probably to get longer Cat5 cables to run from the match controller to each driver station.

In my experience extending USB can be difficult and inconsistent. At a minimum you would need an active USB extender to go that far. An active cable will have a booster built into it and will draw power from the USB port on the computer.

If you do add Raspberry Pis to your fields, you would also be able to have field timer monitors. You would also be better setup for upgrading to the new smart field controllers if that is a direction you might go.

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I was looking on the vexrobotics.com website and I couldn’t find the new smart field controllers, but yes I would be interested in those.

Nothing available on the website yet, but lots of info in this thread: New Field Control sytem for VEX Worlds 2022

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USB can become especially flaky when using long extenders in my experience. The communication that happens over the cat5 cables by contrast is extremely basic (literally just pulling pins high and low a couple time per match vs proper serial communication over USB) and I would be surprised to hear if a 100ft passive cable would work fine.

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