FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)
Presented By…
Colton Mehlhoff
Scott McDowell
FTC 4140 – Fish in the Boat
Modeling & Robot Design
University of Minnesota
FTC 4140 – Fish in the Boat
Coach / Mentor
High Tech Kids
Why are we here?
Learn more about FTC
Compare and contrast FTC with FRC
Destroy the Misconceptions
More Robots!!
What is FTC?
• FIRST Robotics program positioned between and
overlapping both FRC and FLL
– 7th – 12th Grade
Up to 10 students on the team
Two-on-Two, Driver Controlled Format
12’ x 12’ Competition Area
Medium Sized Robots (18”x18”x18”)
5-8 Qualification Rounds
Top 4 Qualification Seeds are Alliance Captains
Best 2 out of 3 Elimination Ladder
• Surprise! FTC is not all about the Robot.
• As with all FIRST robotics programs, the robot
is the hook to draw people into the program
• Real-World and Engineering skills are the core
of what participants gain
FTC Misconceptions
• FTC is a JV program
– FRC is the Varsity Sport for the Mind
• So, FTC must be something else?!
• Competition with Erector sets
– All Kit-of-Parts Robots
• Less Engineering
– Bigger Robots must be harder
How is FTC Like FRC?
Design & Build Robot
Program Robot
Alliance Format
Drive Teams - 2 Drivers & 1
Partners vs. Opponents
Qualification Rounds
Elimination Rounds
Competitive Game
Modeling Robot
Web sites
Business Plans / Strategic
Marketing & Team Branding
Corporate Sponsorships
Work with Engineering
High Energy Tournaments
How is FTC Different than FRC?
Robots are smaller – 18”x18”x18”
Limited by size and electronics vs. cost, weight and size
Robots are slower than FRC – No Bumpers
FTC Robots tend to be more Complex & less Sophisticated
Components are more restricted
Build and Tournament Season combined
Iterative Design – don’t have to guess right the first time
No Human Player
No Video Navigation Systems
Engineering Notebook
Advantages of FRC over FTC
Cool Factor – Robots are bigger & go faster
FRC more recognized program
Longer History – Team & Program Legacy
More sophisticated robot systems available – Pneumatics,
Electronics & COTS
• Large competition arena & easier for audience to see robot game
• More Programming options
• More Awards
– Deans List
– Woodie Flowers Award vs. Compass Award
• Better representation at the World Championships
– FRC 400/2600 = 15%
– FTC 128/3000 = 4%
– FLL 70/24,000 = 0.3%
Advantages of FTC over FRC
• Longer combined build and tournaments season
– Iterative Design
– No Bag & Tag
Smaller teams – students can work on all parts of program
Favors development of Generalists over Specialists
Scales with number of students
Robot is more transportable to demos & tournaments
Learning curve is lower on the front end
Cost - $2000 team startup costs
Less space required
More student driven with guidance from mentors
More use of sensors and autonomous programming
Why Start FTC teams?
• Scales with student population
– Team size limit up to 10
• Cost $2000 for a startup team
• Different engineering skills than FRC
– Generalists more than specialists
• Progression of Programs
– Transition from FLL to FTC to FRC
– Allows for a new system of challenges every 3-5 years
• Iterative design
• Boys vs. Girls vs. Coed teams
• $500 Rookie Grants!
Tetrix Building Systems
Developed by LEGO and Pitsco Education
35% discount to FTC Teams
32mm repeating pattern aluminum system
Reusable for multiple seasons
Single 12VDC Battery based
Up to 8 DC Motors
Up to 12 Servos (4 varieties)
Servo & Motor Controllers
Matrix Building Systems
• Matrix Building System
– Geared to international teams
• Tetrix system outside the US is very expensive
– HiTechnic is the US distributor
– Closer to VEX building system
– Reusable for multiple seasons
– Single 9VDC Battery based
LEGO Building Systems
• LEGO Mindstorms NXT
– EV3 not legal for 2013-2014 season
• LEGO Manufactured Sensors
• LEGO Motors
• Any LEGO Part
– Duplo Parts are not legal
Communications System
• Samantha WiFi Communications
• Replaced Bluetooth four years ago
• Provides all communication
between the Field Control System
(FCS) and the Robot
• Limited Security & Susceptible to
LEGO & HiTechnic Sensors
Electro-Optical Position
Detector (EOPD)
• Magnetic
Motor/Axle Encoders
Touch Sensor MUX
Sensor MUX
Custom Developed Sensors
• HiTechnic NXT Super-Pro Prototype Board
– Must only connect to the named ports on the board
– Must be powered by the voltage available through the
– Additional circuit boards may be connected to the
Prototype board
– On board processor may not be re-programmed
Legal Raw Materials
a. Raw materials may be used in any dimension and quantity. Teams may use these
raw materials to make any type of finished part.
b. A Raw material can be any type of commonly available material including steel,
aluminum, plastic (of any kind), fiberglass, carbon fiber, stone, wood (including
paper, plywood, etc.). Also included are castable materials such as polymer resins,
rubber, cement, etc.
c. To be legal a Raw Material must be readily available to the majority of teams from
standard distributors (e.g. McMaster-Carr, Home Depot, Grainger, etc.). Materials
that are found in only one region or can only be obtained from a team’s sponsor
are not allowed.
d. Materials in the form of angle, channel, tubing, sheet, film, blocks, etc. are allowed
but these same shapes with post machined features (holes, slots, etc.) are
considered to be Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS)
Legal COTS
Linear Slides
Non-motorized Turntables and Lazy Susans.
Lead Screws and threaded rod plus compatible nuts.
Servo blocks (e.g. ServoCity Part # SB608SH and SB609SH), shaft adaptors, servo arms, ball links, shaft
e. #25 or #35 chain with associated links.
f. Timing belts of any size and pitch.
g. Gears of any size and pitch, including non-circular gears such as rack, worm, bevel, etc.
h. Sprockets of any size and pitch.
i. Pulleys including sheaves, timing belt, etc.
j. Springs of any type and material (coil, extension, compression, leaf, etc.) that are used in a safe manner.
k. Fasteners of any size, including nuts, bolts, screws, shoulder screws, washers, spacers, shaft collars, shaft
couplers, rivets, Velcro, etc.
l. Bearings of any type and material. Including bushings, roller bearings, etc.
m. PVC, CPVC, PEX piping and fittings.
n. Extruded
o. T-slot aluminum construction material along with all compatible brackets and fittings (i.e. 80-20, Macron
Dynamics, etc.).
p. Wheels of any type up to 4” diameter. Wheels that have exposed features likely to cause damage to field
and/or game elements are not allowed.
Beyond the Building Systems
a. Rope, cord, cable, monofilament, etc. These can be made from natural
(cotton, wool, etc.), polymers (nylon, polyester, etc.), or metal materials.
b. Rubber bands.
c. Surgical or Latex Tubing.
d. Non-metallic cable ties (also known as Zip Ties).
e. Non-Slip Pad (e.g. McMaster-Carr Part #69275T54 or Home Depot SKU
#134555). Packaging material must list the product as Non-Slip Pad.
f. Adhesive backed tape of any type.
g. Glue, cement, adhesives.
<R07> Welding, brazing, and soldering are legal methods for assembling a
Programming Options
• 3 LabView licenses provide free with paid FTC
team registration
– Icon based programming language
• 6 RobotC licenses can be purchased for $100
– Text based programming language
Judged Awards
• Inspire Award
– Top Award in FTC. Similar to FRC Chairman's Award. Winning team is
competitive in all judged categories and performance.
• Think Award
– Judging how well teams documented their engineering journey. Engineering
design process and Engineering Notebook central.
• Connect Award
– Judging how well teams connect with the engineering community. Business
Plan, Strategic Plan & Outreach are central.
• Rockwell Collins Innovate Award
– Judging creativity in robot design and game strategy. Performance is a factor.
• PTC Design Award
– Judging teams use of CAD in their robot design. Unique robot design also key.
• Motivate Award
– Teams Spirit, Team Branding, Community Outreach
Judged Awards (continued)
• Control Award (Optional)
– Use of Sensors and Software to improve robots reliability
and performance.
• Promote Award (Optional)
– 1 minute Public Service Announcement (PSA) video on
FIRST. New theme each year.
• Compass Award (Optional)
– 1 minute video recognizing an adult coach or mentor.
• Future Innovator Award
– Sponsored by the Abbott Fund. Judged at the national
level. Work on solving one of several real-world issues.
Performance Awards
• Winning Alliance
– Captain
– 1st Pick
– 2nd Pick
• Finalist Alliance
– Captain
– 1st Pick
– 2nd Pick
• Qualification Round Seeding
– Top 4 Seeds are Alliance Captains
Tournament Hierarchy
• Scrimmages
– Put on and run by teams
• Regional Qualifiers (4-6x 16-24 Teams)
– 1-2 Regional Qualifiers per team
– 5-8 teams advance per Regional Qualifier
• Championship Tournament (24-36 Teams)
– MN Snow Drift
– 5-6 teams advance
• Super-Regional (4x 72 Teams)
– North Super-Regional (Iowa City, IA)
– 13 States in the North Super-Regional
– 20-25 teams advance per Super-Regional
• FTC World Championships (128 Teams)
– St. Louis, MO
Advancement Criteria
Qualifier Host Team
Inspire Award Winner
Winning Alliance Captain
Inspire Award 2nd place
Winning Alliance, 1st team selected
Inspire Award 3rd place
Winning Alliance, 2nd team selected
Think Award Winner
Finalist Alliance Captain
Connect Award Winner
Finalist Alliance, 1st team selected
Rockwell Collins Innovate Award Winner
Finalist Alliance, 2nd team selected
PTC Design Award Winner
Highest Ranked Team not previously advanced
Motivate Award Winner
Highest Ranked Team not previously advanced
Minnesota FTC Affiliate Partner
• High Tech Kids
– 501(c)(3) Non-Profit
– Run FIRST LEGO League (FLL) in MN
• FLL Affiliate Partner since Pilot Year 1998
• 509 FLL teams in 2012
Renewable Energy Challenge (REC)
Cheryl Moeller, Executive Director
Vicki Coaty, Programs Manager
Vacancy, Programs Assistant
Vacancy, Americorps FIRST Vista
FTC Growth in Minnesota
5 Teams
10 Teams
17 Teams
23 Teams
36 Teams
60-75 Teams
5 Rookies
6 Rookies
11 Rookies
9 Rookies
18 Rookies
25-40 Rookies
Starting a Team
• Build a Team
– Find interested Students
• Register Team
– Use TIMS to Register with FIRST
• $500 FTC Rookie Grants
• Attend Kickoff on September 7th!
Team Startup Costs
FIRST Registration
Robot Kit of Parts
Tetrix Resource Kit
Samantha WiFi Module
Regional Qualifier
State Championship
North Super-Regional
World Championship
Spare Parts
Team Uniforms
Give Away / Promotional / Marking Items
FTC Season Timeline
Registration Open
May 10th - Full
Saturday September 7th
Regional Qualifiers
State Championship
February 23rd
North Super-Regional
April 3rd-5th
World Championship
April 23rd-26th
Minnesota FTC Kickoff
Lakeville North High School
September 7th
Ring It Up! Scrimmage
Round Table Discussions
Panel Sessions
Information Booths
Game Reveal
Strategy Session
• With the explosive growth of the program in MN
we are moving to a Regional Qualifier Model
• We need 3 to 4 times the number of Volunteers
as last season
Score Keepers
Future FTC Trends
• FRC started out with 18” Robots, a standard Kitof-Parts and a 2-on-2 format - Sound familiar?
– As parts were added and restrictions lifted, costs
– Cost and sustainability are serious issues for FRC
– Competition strongly favors teams with long histories
• FTC is essentially a reboot of FRC
– FTC is following the same path, but with more caution
towards cost and balance to competition
Where to Find More Info
Official FIRST FTC web page
MN FTC Affiliate Partner web page
Chief Delphi FTC forums
FTC Blog
Tetrix Building System
Matrix Building System
Fish in the Boat Team Page
Video credit to Lancer Robotics FTC 3415

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