FTC:About

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FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is a youth robotics competition created by FIRST. The goal of the program is to teach kids engineering and teamwork skills. Every year FIRST releases a new challenge theme. Teams create robots every year to compete in new challenges.

The Season

The FTC season typically starts in early September, and tournaments occur in November/December. Teams that earn the highest awards advance to the World Championship, which is usually in April.

Event Date
Kickoff Event Early-September
Competitions November/December

(scheduled by local FIRST Partners)

The Game

Every year, the FTC game is played on a 12’ x 12’ playing field made up of foam tiles. There are two alliances composed of two teams playing on a field at once. Each team creates a robot that cannot exceed 18” x 18” x 18” before a match starts. After the match begins, robots are allowed to grow to any size.

FTC-Field.jpg


Rules

The rules for each FTC season are defined by the Game Manual, which comes in two parts. Game Manual Part 1 contains information about what parts are allowed and lays out how the season works. Game Manual Part 2 contains information that pertains specifically to the challenge that year. It explains the tasks that are on the field for that year and any specific rules that involve those challenges.

Release Date
Game Manual Part 1 Mid-July
Game Manual Part 2 Early-September

Tournaments

Teams create their robot to compete in tournaments. In FTC, there are two types of tournament formats: leagues and qualifiers. In leagues, teams compete in events called meets every other week until they compete in a Qualifier. In Qualifiers, teams compete with their robot and also have a Judging session. In Judging, teams explain to the judges their robot design process and what they did during the season.

Leagues

  • Many competitions
  • Only one chance to qualify
  • Competitions start in October and happen every other week

Qualifiers

  • Two competitions
  • Two chances to qualify
  • Tournaments take place from November until January

Hardware

In FTC, Hardware refers to what the robot is made of. Teams can use motors, servos, and structural components to build their robot. Teams can also use any part from a hardware store as long as it only has one degree of freedom, which means that it can only move in one direction (ie. a drawer slide). One of the most reliable ways to have a successful robot is to strategize and brainstorm the best way to complete the challenges of that season. The hardware team will have to create several different subsystems to complete the different challenges of the year.

Software

Software is the programming side of the robot. Teams can program using the Block Programming Tool, Java, or OnBot Java.[1]

  • Block Programming Tool - allows users to edit code using a block-based editor similar to Scratch and is considered the easiest program to learn
  • Java - text-based programming language and is used by software developers in the industry to develop applications
  • OnBot Java - a method of programming using Java directly on the robot controller

Outreach

Besides working on the hardware and software aspects of the robot, many teams also do outreach throughout the FTC season. There are two different types of outreach: Engineering Outreach and Community Outreach.

  • Engineering Outreach - teams reach out to engineers in their local area to show them their robot, get feedback, and learn from the professionals.
  • Community Outreach -teams demo their robot at community events, such as fairs, company demos, mentoring other teams, or volunteering at tournaments.

Outreach is a critical part of the program and many judges appreciate teams who are active in their community.

Engineering Portfolio/Notebook

In FTC, teams are required to document their season journey in an Engineering Portfolio and optionally, an Engineering Notebook.

  • The Engineering Portfolio - a 15 page document that contains the reasoning behind a team’s robot and information about their season. This document is required to be turned in to the judges.
  • The Engineering Notebook - similar to the Engineering Portfolio except that it has no page limit, which allows teams to go more in-depth about their season.

Cost

First Year Costs

There are several things teams have to buy to compete in FTC. If a field is not available at their school or sponsor organization, teams have to buy a field made up of a field perimeter and foam tiles. Many teams also buy a starter kit that is used to build their robot. Kits can be bought from different companies, and each kit has different parts. Teams will have to do research to find which kit suits them best.

Part Cost Description
Field Perimeter ~$700[2] Perimeter of the playing field
Field Tiles ~$250[3] Foam tiles for the playing field
Robot Starter Kit
  • REV ~$650[4]
  • Tetrix ~$710[5]
  • Actobotics ~$660[6]
  • GoBilda $773[7]
A basic starter kit from different companies
REV Control and Communications Bundle $210[8] A kit that has controllers, phone, and REV Control Hub
REV Electronics Set $239[8] A kit that has basic electronics and sensors
Extra Expansion Hub $175[9] A kit that contains REV Expansion Hub that allows for connecting more motors to a robot

Annual Costs

There are some costs teams have to pay every year. This includes registration with FIRST, a field kit (if a team doesn’t have access to one from their school or organization), and additional parts for a robot. Additional parts can cost anywhere from $50 for an extra motor to $175 for an extra REV Expansion Hub. These parts are optional and are not required to build a successful robot.

Part Cost Description
Registration $275[10] Registration with FIRST
Field Kit[11]
  • Half field kit: ~$250
  • Full field kit: ~$450
Parts for this years playing field
Extra Parts Varies Extra parts for the robot

Funding A Team

There are three main ways of funding teams:

  • Sponsorship
    • Money or in-kind donations from companies
  • Fundraising
    • GoFundMe for friends and family to donate
    • Events held by teams
    • Can be hosted at restaurants where teams will get a portion of the profit
  • Grants
    • Fill out applications to receive money from companies

Time Commitment

Rookie teams typically meet once or twice a week for several hours to work on their robot. More advanced teams can meet up every day to work on their robot and other projects. Sometimes team members also work outside of meetings to research designs for their robot. If teams do outreach they will also have to meet outside their standard meeting times to do outreach in their communities. In the end it is up to the team to decide how often and how long they want to meet for. Many teams will take a break during the offseason, but some still do work to improve their team during this time. You can learn more about offseason in the Offseason page.

Comparison to FLL

For those familiar with FLL Challenge there will be some similarities and differences to FTC. In both, team members learn how to problem solve, program a robot, and work as a team. However, FTC’s robots use real mechanical and electrical systems, doesn’t have a project, and has more required documentation.

Additional Resources

References

  1. "FTC Programming Resources". firstinspires.org. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  2. "FTC Field Perimeter". andymark.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  3. "FTC Field Tiles". andymark.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  4. "REV FTC Starter Kit v3". revrobotics.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  5. "TETRIX® FIRST® Tech Challenge Competition Set". pitsco.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  6. "Actobotics FTC Competition Kit". servocity.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  7. "GoBilda Master FTC Kit". gobilda.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "FTC Choose Your Kit of Parts" (pdf). firstinspires.org. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  9. "REV Expansion Hub". revrobotics.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  10. "FTC Cost and Registration". firstinspires.org. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  11. "AndyMark FTC Parts". andymark.com. Retrieved 22 July 2021.