The entire FTC season leads up to the tournaments, which ultimately show how well a team performs. A FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) tournament is usually a day-long event, with some events lasting multiple days, where a team participates in the judges' interview, pit judging, and competes with their robot in five or six Qualifying Matches.
Most tournaments will follow the same schedule of events:
- Robot Inspection
- Opening Ceremony
- Driver's Meeting
- Qualifying Matches
- Alliance Selection
- Elimination Matches
- Dance Party
- Awards/Closing Ceremony
After a team arrives at a tournament they go through robot inspection. During robot inspection, referees make sure that robots are following all of the rules as stated in Game Manual Part 1. This includes, but is not limited to, parts used for the robot, robot attachments, and safety of the robot. Teams should use the robot inspection checklist to make sure their robot passes inspection.
Judging is split into two sections: the Judges Interview and Pit Judging. During the Judges Interview, teams will have 15 minutes to show off their team’s achievements. The first 5 minutes is uninterrupted time for a team to talk about their season and what they accomplished. This can be in the form of a presentation if the team so chooses. The rest of the time is given to the judges to ask questions. The Judges’ Interview is a great place to show how a team strategizes for awards.
After Qualifying Matches start, a pair or group of judges may come by a team’s pit to interview a team further. It is always a good idea to keep some team members at their pit because judges could come at any time. The questions the judges ask during a pit visit will relate to a specific award, but they will not explicitly tell a team which award they are evaluating for. Remember to focus on the questions the judges are asking and what other team members are saying.
The judges from the judges interview and the pit judging work together to determine the award winners as well as which teams will advance to the next level.
During the Opening Ceremony, the teams are welcomed to the tournament, last-minute announcements are made, and the national anthem is sung. This is when the tournament has officially begun.
Before FTC Qualifying Matches start, the drive team is required to go to the Driver’s Meeting. At the Driver’s Meeting, the head referee and a tournament coordinator go through the rules of the game and clarify any changes for the tournament. They also go through the process of preparing for matches and when to leave the playing field once they end. Drive team badges are also handed out to show who the drivers, coach, and human player (depending on the game) are on each team. They send the teams off with a match schedule to prepare for Qualifying Matches. The match schedule is a completely randomized list of alliance partners and matches.
One of the most important events during an FTC tournament is the Qualifying Matches. Every match has two opposing sides known as alliances. These alliances are made up of two teams working together to score the most amount of points. The alliances are known as the Red Alliance and the Blue Alliance. The alliances for these matches are decided randomly before the tournament starts. The match schedule that was handed out during the Driver’s Meeting details when each team is competing in Qualifying Matches as well as what Alliance they are on. It’s always good to talk to your Alliance Partners to figure out a strategy for your match. Matches follow all game rules as specified in Game Manual Part 2. Every team participates in five or six Qualifying Matches to determine their place on the leaderboard.
A team’s ‘score’, or place on the leaderboard, is based on two main factors: Ranking Points and TieBreaker Points. After a Qualifying Match finishes, both Ranking and TieBreaker Points are distributed to each team competing.
Ranking Points (RP)
Ranking Points (RP) are the main way that teams are placed on the leaderboard. After a match, all teams get Ranking Points equal to how many points their alliance scored. If an alliance scores negative points, the teams on that alliance get 0 Ranking Points. If two teams are tied based on total ranking points, then each team’s TieBreaker Points are taken into account.
TieBreaker Points (TBP1, TBP2)
TieBreaker Points are split into two separate points, TieBreaker Points 1 (TBP1) and TieBreaker Points 2 (TBP2). A team’s TBP1 score is taken into account first and in the event of a tie after that, a team’s TBP2 is taken into account. In the unlikely scenario that a tie still exists, a team is chosen at random by the Scoring software. The scoring software handles the scoring automatically throughout the tournament.
TieBreaker Points 1 is equal to the number of points scored by a team's alliance in autonomous.
TieBreaker Points 2 is equal to the number of points scored by a team's alliance in endgame.
After Qualifying Matches have finished for the day, Alliance Selection begins. Each FTC team chooses one team member to send forward as their representative. The top 4 teams on the leaderboard after Qualifying Matches are deemed the Alliance Captains. These Alliance Captains take turns inviting other teams to join their Alliance so that they have the best chance to win. The order of inviting teams follows the ranking of the Alliance Captains. If a team declines the invitation they cannot be invited to another Alliance, but they can still invite other teams to their Alliance if they are an Alliance Captain. Alliance Captains can invite the other Alliance Captains onto their Alliance which will not allow the invited team to lead an Alliance if they accept. If they accept, the teams on the leaderboard all move up a spot to allow the next highest-ranked team to become an Alliance Captain.
Each Alliance Captain invites 1 or 2 other teams to join their Alliance to create 4 Alliances with 2 to 3 teams each. The size of each Alliance will depend on the number of teams at the tournament. Once chosen, these Alliances face off against each other in Elimination Matches to determine who is the best Alliance at a tournament.
Elimination Matches are the semi-finals and finals played by the Alliances made during Alliance Selection to determine the best teams at a tournament. These matches are best of three and the Alliance Captain gets to choose which teams compete in each match if there are 3 teams on the Alliance. In this case, the team that doesn’t compete in the first match has to play in the second match. Semi-finals and finals follow the same game rules as Qualifying Matches.
- 1st seed alliance competes against the 4th seed (1st seed is the red alliance, 4th seed is the blue alliance)
- 2nd seed competes against 3rd seed (2nd seed is the red alliance, 3rd seed is the blue alliance)
- The winner of the first semi-finals match is the red alliance
- The winner of the second semi-finals match is the blue alliance
In some regions, all of the teams at a tournament gather together, before the award ceremony, and have a massive dance party! The most popular songs in the U.S that teams dance to are The Cha Cha Slide, YMCA, and The Cupid Shuffle. Each song has a unique dance so make sure to come prepared!
During the Awards/Closing Ceremony, everyone celebrates the teams participating and their achievements throughout the season, as well as an extra thanks to volunteers at the tournament. Then the award-winning teams are announced. After awards are handed out, the teams advancing to the next level are announced.
- Inspire Award - The Inspire Award winner is an inspiration to other teams, acting with Gracious Professionalism both on and off the playing field. This team shares their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge with other teams, sponsors, their community, and the judges. Working as a unit, this team will have showed success in performing the task of designing and building a robot
- Think Award - This judged award is given to the team that best reflects the journey the team took as they experienced the engineering design process during the build season
- Connect Award - This judged award is given to the team that most connects with their local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) community
- Innovate Award - This judged award is given to the team that has the most innovative and creative robot design solution to any specific components in the FIRST Tech Challenge game
- Control Award - This award is given to the team that demonstrates innovative thinking to solve game challenges such as autonomous operation, improving mechanical systems with intelligent control, or using sensors to achieve better results
- Motivate Award - This Judged award is given to the team who makes a collective effort to make FIRST known throughout their school and community, and sparks others to embrace the culture of FIRST
- Design Award - The Design Award is presented to teams that incorporate industrial design elements into their solution. Their robot should be durable, efficiently designed, and effectively address the game challenge
The awards listed below do not factor into advancement to the next level of tournaments
- Promote Award - The Promote Award is given to the team that is most successful in creating a compelling video message for the public designed to change our culture and celebrate science, technology, engineering and math
- Compass Award - The Compass Award recognizes an adult coach or mentor who has given outstanding guidance and support to a team throughout the year and demonstrates to the team what it means to be a Gracious Professional
- Judges Choice Award- The judging panel may select a team to be honored, as well as the name of the Judges’ Choice Award. The Judges Choice Award recognizes a team for their outstanding efforts
Advancement is based on the awards given out to teams from their performance during the tournament. Only a select number of teams can advance from a tournament to the next level. The number of teams advancing can vary (check with your FIRST Partner for more information). The order of advancement is as follows:
- 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
- Collins Aerospace Innovate Award Winner
- Finalist Alliance, 2nd Team selected
- Control Award sponsored by Arm, Inc. Winner
- Motivate Award Winner
- Design Award Winner
Please note that the host team of a Qualifying Tournament can be chosen as the first team to advance. This all depends on their local FIRST Partner.
The Regional Championship is the highest level of advancement for a specific region when it comes to FTC. These tournaments will be very similar to Qualifying Tournaments except some states may host Judging the day before the Qualifying Matches.
The World Championships are multi-day competitions where the best teams from around the world compete. There are two World Championships held each year which will include international teams from around the world. One competition combines U.S. teams from the south and west in addition to teams from certain countries whereas the other competition combines U.S. teams from the north and east and other countries that didn’t participate in the first. They are similar to regular tournaments, with qualifying matches and judging, but there are also many other fun events happening as well. The World competitions are a good place to talk with other teams and exchange ideas regarding the season.
There are also seminars that you and/or your team can attend where experts in various fields and teams teach you about their expertise. Sponsor booths are also set up at Worlds, so take the opportunity to try to gain some new sponsors for next season.
Another great place to plan for the future is Scholarship Row where colleges are looking for students and might give you a sponsorship if you meet the requirements. 60 million USD per year are given out by FIRST through scholarships to FIRST alumni. Worlds is a great experience with plenty of other things to enjoy if you make it there.
Things to Do Before the Tournament
All of the following things can be done before the tournament:
- Turn in documents for tournament e.g. Roster, Consent and Release Forms (Check with local partner for specific document requirements)
- Plan how everyone is getting to the tournament
- Plan what team members should wear (ie: team shirts)
- Plan for food for the team (ie: concessions stand or arranging for delivery)
What to Bring to a Tournament
- Extra parts
- Metal parts
- 3d printed parts
- Extra motors & servos
- Specialty items used by your robot such as tubing, string, springs, etc.
- Robot repair
- Hex keys, wrench, screwdriver, etc.
- Screws, nuts, zip ties
- Anti-static spray, lubricant, etc.
- Duct tape, hot glue gun, super glue
- Anything else that may be needed to fix the robot
- Extra electronics
- Driver Hub
- Computer containing
- CAD images/files
- EN entries
- EN Portfolio
- Pit Materials
- Pit copy of the EN Portfolio
- Shortened version of the EN for more detailed descriptions
- Charging station
- Extension cord(s)
- Pit decoration/display items
- Prototypes of subsystems to show judges
- Scouting sheets
- Permanent markers, pens & highlighters
- Regular tape
- Post it note pad
- Business card holders
- Giveaways such as stickers, buttons & business cards
- Robot cart or wagon