Electrostatic Discharge, referred to as ESD, is the buildup of an electrical charge on non-conductive surfaces and the eventual discharge, like lightning, to a grounded item. The effects of static electric shocks on electronics vary from processor resets to cumulative silicon component damage and to possible silicon component failure. ESD is significantly worse in the winter when low humidity reduces surface moisture and therefore the conductivity that dissipates electrostatic charges. Mobile robots are susceptible to electrostatic buildup caused by rolling friction of the wheels on non-conductive surfaces.
VEX recommends the following safeguards to minimize ESD and possible component damage:
- The use of anti-static spray on the EDR foam field tiles is a safe and effective method to eliminate static buildup.
- This is already done at VEX Robotics World Championship and other large events. This critically important step ensures ESD protection and a smooth, glitch-free robot operation.
- Spraying field tiles annually is very strongly recommended for all VEX Robotics Competition teams. Foam tiles should be sprayed at the beginning of the winter season and again at any state championship or higher level event. This applies to only the VEX Robotics Competition foam tiles and not the plastic VEX IQ Challenge field tiles.
- Apply static guard to your practice field tiles. Use Heavy Duty Staticide made by ACL Inc. As always, please follow the manufacturer's recommended instructions for use and safety precautions. A one-quart bottle treats four fields. Approx $5 / field or less.
Watch this video to see how much staticide to spray on the field.
- When driving on unprotected surfaces, you can apply static guard directly to your robot wheels and allow the moisture to evaporate. Use Heavy Duty Staticide or the Staticide Wipes made by ACL Inc. As always, please follow the manufacturer's recommended instructions for use and safety precautions.
- Do not allow any cables on your robot to drag on the ground. Keep cable lengths as short as possible.
- Be aware of ESD around you and take precautions. Understand that static buildup is caused by friction between non-conductive parts, like sliding your shoes on carpet, or wheels rolling on a field. When possible avoid static buildup.
- Discharge static from your body prior to working on your robot by touching something conductive and grounded, like a power strip or wall outlet screw.
- Discharge static from your robot by touching your robots' metal frame to the metal field perimeter prior to placing the robot on the tiles.
The RECF and VEX Robotics Competitions will be working diligently during the winter months to apply anti-static spray to fields and practice fields prior to events, but we obviously cannot guarantee that all fields will be static-free.
The use of anti-static wipes or spray on robot wheels is legal, provided it is used in moderation, and it does not leave any sort of residue on the field. See the current season's Game Manual and Field Appendix for further details. To ensure that there is no risk of residue or concerns about over-use, we recommend wiping or spraying your wheels well before the robot is placed on the field.