The ChapR

The ChapR is a patented remote for controlling FTC, FLL, and FRC robots without a PC. It allows teams to easily set up drive practices and run autonomous programs without bothering the programmer(s) or fighting over the few PCs available. Created in 2013, it has been “sold” to hundreds of teams all over the world, using the “profits” to fund free ChapRs for teams in need. Below is a brief history of the project. However, more information on sales and usage of the device can be found here on the project website!

ChapR Collage Project Lead: Rachel Gardner

Date Completed: June 2014
Link to Code: GitHub Repository

  • Software
    • Arduino
    • C/C++
  • Hardware
    • PCB design
    • Soldering
      • Surface mount
      • Through-hole
  • Marketing
    • Website creation
    • Pitching an idea

Inspiration and Initial Creation

Inspiration Collage The ChapR was inspired by an NXT that had been modified to be a Bluetooth controller for FTC robots (FIRST Tech Challenge). The ChapR (and its inspiration) were designed to circumvent the incredibly slow PC Bluetooth that made everything take significantly longer than necessary. The whiteboard planning stage was quite a bit off from all of the later functionality of the ChapR, but its core tenets of Bluetooth connection and joystick support were present.

First Prototype

The first prototype of the ChapR was a custom shield on top of an Arduino Pro (a widely available microcontroller), and it worked like a charm! The only problem was its huge size (as demonstrated by our lovely model in the picture). From here, we knew that the idea was one that we could continue to improve upon, both in size and in features. As you can see, this was a work of art, with a separate USB port (since the VDIP1 only has 1 port and FTC robots usually have 2 controllers) and even a belt clip for handy transportation. That red module you see on the shield was actually the Bluetooth module we used at that stage. It would later be replaced by the RN42. First Prototype Collage

Early Promotion

Early Promotion Collage Early marketing for the ChapR consisted of taking the device to the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis! There we aggressively bothered teams into trying our device and telling us how they liked it. The response was (almost) completely overwhelming! Everyone loved it, and one guy even wanted to help out on the project. We took this enthusiasm as a very positive sign and went right back to work once we returned from St. Louis.

Second and Third Prototype

Our second prototype consisted of a real PCB! Designed by us! We used Eagle (an open source PCB layout software) to design the printed circuit board. It took a lot of time to cut down on the number of vias (holes that allow connections between both sides of the PCB) we needed and to fit everything inside of the perfectly sized case we wanted, but the end result was definitely worth it, as the ChapR became pocket sized! New features added during this era included a program kill switch (immediately stopping the program in case of emergency), entertaining noises, and ProgramChooser (being able to start a pre-selected program from the ChapR instead of selecting the program on your brick) support! Second & Third Prototype Collage


Patent Collage We thought our idea was pretty cool and very unique, so we decided to take it to a patent attorney to have a look. We met with Mr. Tucker who was very enthusiastic about the product and thought there was definitely potential for a patent. He ended up doing all the very expensive legwork for us pro bono (for free!), and one year later, we received US Pat. No. 9043031 for the ChapR!


The production of the ChapR was a multi-step process. The first step was receiving the PCBs from OSHpark (a PCB manufacturing company). Next, the soldering experts (Ben and Coach Eric) soldered the RN42 (Bluetooth module) on, since surface mount soldering is easy to mess up (and costs $15 per screw-up). Then we enlisted a crew of students to learn soldering as they soldered the through-hole components of the ChapR into place. This was followed by software bringup and then by LED fixing (destroying the LEDs on the Arduino and VDIP to save battery life). Next, we cased up the finalized board and packaged the ChapRs for shipping! Production Collage

Changes in Compatibility

Compatibility Collage The ChapR ended up being such a hit that we were asked to convert it to support NXT-G programming as well as LabVIEW programming on FTC bots, a departure from the RobotC only days. This required the creation of “personalities” that dictated the behavior of the ChapR. It was set on software bringup during manufacturing, but it could be changed using a USB. The ChapR’s success in the FTC field led us to investigate the possibility of a ChapR for FRC, which is currently a project that is in-progress!


The ChapR was an incredibly informative and formative experience for us three students as well as our mentor. We enjoyed the process of design, manufacturing (kinda), marketing and management so much that we decided to share it with others, and so Chap Research was born! Over 150 ChapRs have been shipped throughout the world, and we couldn’t be more proud of the impact it has had on all the teams that have received one. Reflections Collage