[FTC]: FTC Game Platform for 2009-2010

Suggestions for changes to the robot/software platform for next year?

Here’s one: go back to the Vex platform. www.vexrobotics.com and http://www.vexforum.com/wiki/index.php/VEXnet_Upgrade. The Vex platform certainly isn’t perfect, but IFI has made huge strides in improving it every year.

Why does FIRST want to struggle making the LEGO/Pitsco platform full-featured and reliable when they already have a system like that available, that is more reliable and cheaper to boot? Just wondering…

If FIRST is locked into a partnership with LEGO, how about

  1. Smaller, more reliable drive motors (the current motors are too powerful for the size of the field, and their failures are well known)
  2. Tank treads
  3. Rack and pinion gears
  4. Chains and sprockets
  5. Better shaft encoders
  6. More reliable motor speed controllers
  7. Longer axles
  8. More chassis/stuctural material choices
  9. Omniwheels
  10. Some sort of linear sliding system


A reliable robot control system. I’m afraid Bluetooth will never be adequate to the task.

Coming from a rookie team, I would be very dissapointed if FIRST switched back to VEX next year. Regardless of which platform is “better” the cost of having to buy another complete kit next year would be too much. The program will be expenxive either way, and I know that the only way I managed to convince my school to let us have a team was by showing them that the high cost only applied for the first year, and that there would be very little additional cost next year.

That said, our team coulld always implement our ideas, and although we sometimes had to make workarounds to accoplish what we wanted we never had to abandon an idea because we couldn’t do it with the parts we had. Could it use some improvements? Definately. Was it so bad that it should be completely abandoned? Definately not.

I can very confidently say that FIRST will not switch back to VEX, and there are a number of reasons.

  1. FIRST has realized that some teams have put in thousands of dollars into these kits, and now that they’ve made the switch, they have to roll with it.

  2. FIRST has a partnership/contract with LEGO. This contract cannot simply be thrown out the window. FIRST will stick with the kit for a while, so there are no issues about that.

Furthermore, this year, the game rules specifically said not to use linear slide packs because they would be definitely useful. Rick, you asking for treads and more variety of gears is understandable, I want them too. But what if FIRST trying to lead us away from the comfort of VEX? What if FIRST wants us to stop relying on Tank Treads to get the job done or stop relying on part “x”?

I just think that this kit is really unique. Agreed that the bluetooth is sort of a pain, and I think that kit upgrades are sort of a given.

My teacher ordered 26 VEX kits.


Let’s see, would that be VRC teams 3033A to 3033Z for next season? :slight_smile:
If they don’t raise prices, you could register all 26 teams for $726.

We’re sticking with FTC more than likely, though we’ll probably have to scale back the # of teams. The only major change we’ve talked about is swapping to RobotC from Labview so we can better integrate sensors. We gave Labview a good run, but we’re not satisfied with the Lego brick’s inability to process our autonomous routine in that language.

I second the omni wheels and linear slide system. Perhaps a secondary supplier could be introduced to give us the more complicated items.

…That seems a little…extremely.

I mean even if you were doing VRC. You would only need like 2 kits to start out and then everything after that can be bought out individually…26 kits…

Actually, I think that is for her school curriculum.

weeps in corner wishing I had that much vex

My teacher ordered 26 VEX kits.

Well you know what my grandfather used to say, “You can’t be too handsome, too rich or have too many robot parts.”

I agree with Rick, it’s a good start on 26 teams. And it isn’t much more than the FRC KoP

School Curriculum makes more sense. :D.

Could you elaborate on the problems you had with labview this year? We were able to use various senor applications with the brick last year without too much difficulty and after a bit of a jump start from the awesome gals from Twisted Bots we were running Auto like mad.

As for adding other specialized parts, I would be hesitant to add them to the kit. When you add complex parts to a kit like this, you become reliant on that part and set limitations on yourself. Take a look at the robots you saw this year. Did the kit limit the designs? I don’t think so.

What I would add is more of the basic metal and gears at a reduced price. The cost of extra parts is the limiting factor for my team.

One of my biggest concerns is about the cost of the system. Compared to Vex it has much less parts variety, much higher cost, and the parts failure rate is higher. After three years I have a pretty good grasp on the costs. A really competitive Vex robot costs us $600-700. Our two-and-half team FTC program (we built two competitive bots and one minimally functioning robot out of three kits and a bunch of extra parts) would have cost about $3,600 if we hadn’t had the returning team discount. Starting from scratch, competitive FTC robots are $1,200-1,500 each. That’s way too expensive. Burning out or breaking a dozen 12-volt drive motors didn’t help much, either. The Vex components, on the other hand, have been pretty reliable. After three years and a collection of about 60 Vex motors, we still haven’t had to replace one, although we do have two dead Vex servos.

I’m not factoring in team registration costs, by the way. This is just hardware. An FTC program using Vex parts would be a much more affordable way to deliver a mid-sized robot STEM program, even with the $275 FIRST registration fee. IMO. YMMV.

Quirky encoder feedback, where it seemed the encoder would stop responding. At UVA I heard of teams using some loop to get around this (like a heartbeat check), but why add that overhead when there seems to be an underlying problem? We had 5 sensors integrated into autonomous – 2 encoders, 2 bump switches, and a sonic range finder. Yet the robot kept either bumping into the wall, or stopping too soon or too late. The reason we believe it’s the brick and not the code is that the results would change in between tests even when the code did not change. We will program Atlanta’s autonomous in RobotC sometime in the next couple of weeks, so we’ll know if it’s just our lack of knowledge or if it really is the brick’s inability to process everything.

Aye, but first you have to believe in how your school system implements a STEM program. Around here, usually classroom-based STEM programs are put in gifted programs. To me, closing robotics off to a select few ‘gifted’ students is not something I believe in, so everything we do is based upon the broader scope of students in the county. That’s just around this area though.

I’m going to have to disagree with this one. We used the base kit plus about 150 dollars worth of parts and had a very competitive robot, seeding third and placing second at our tournament.

We burnt out exactly one motor, then we got smarter and didn’t burn any more. The only part that I would say is absolutely necessary to buy in addition to the base kit is an extra motor controller.

These requests sound familiar to VEX’s product line … I wonder if FIRST can at least make a partnership to get VEX mechanical parts involved in the FTC challenge.

Guys, comon… I attempted a 3-point-arm with this new kit. This is something we’ve done MANY times with Vex.

With Vex we used to be able to build arms that were very slender, but robust, light and fast!

FTC, just no… You cannot build anything smaller than the U pieces that are about 1.5" x 1.5."’ With Vex our build scale is .5" x .5." And soon they’ll have the even smaller Vex mini parts out that should allow us to really build smaller details.

Vex is up to speed and continuing to accelerate, Lego’s new FTC kit went ten feet from the starting line then blew up. The engineers are still attempting to figure out what happened and pick up the mess.

ON THE COST ISSUE: It is not fair to say that “oh our FTC team just paid x amount for FTC kit so we have to keep it.” Bull crap, ALL of the established teams before this year had to spend a great deal on Vex parts which they should still have. Furthermore, what you paid (that everyone is complaining about) was discounted. The real kit costs $400 more.

FIRST destroyed FTC and I am very disappointed. But on a lighter note, my team (which has an FRC team, two FTC teams and a VRC team) will be going to Dallas to compete with good old Vex, internationally.


  1. I still stand by the fact that we were all too comfortable with VEX so FIRST presented a challenge.

  2. FIRST may seem like a downer at times but they’re not heartless. They HAVE seen how much we’ve put into it and they won’t change the platform. Agreed teams have poured thousands of dollars into VEX, heck my team did too, but FIRST was confident that the parts wouldn’t go to waste with VRC going strong.

  3. I do not believe that the Tetrix kit “destroyed” FTC. I strongly believe that it simply redefined it.

  4. For the teams using LabView, I was wondering where you guys got your support material. I went to the first tech challenge website but I found that to be little or no help at all…

I very much agree with all your points. Vex was making things too easy. I’m not saying that the new kit doesn’t need better or more varied parts, I’m saying that there were too many easy solutions the old way. Case in point: tank tread conveyor belts. Designing a conveyor belt this year took lots more creativity and engineering than did last year, and I’m absolutely sure that FIRST did that on purpose.

Also something to keep in mind is that this is the kit’s first year. FIRST is going to listen to our complaints and they’re going to try to make things better. The contents and cost of the kits are not going to stay the same; the cost was one of the biggest complaints this year and I’m sure FIRST is going to try and reduce it rather than lose teams. It’s a pity they couldn’t get everything perfect on the first try, but who can?

I honestly wouldn’t give up on FTC yet. Just give it some time.

Carrying this argument to its logical conclusion, FRC is the worst of all because of its almost unlimited parts choices. You want tank treads? Just buy a set meant for a snow blower. You want a chain? Just buy one out of the McMaster catalog. Building an FRC robot is way too boring – all the parts are out there just waiting to be bought.

I reject this argument. I prefer the kit to offer a selection of the sorts of parts available in the real mechanical and electrical worlds so that our students get to experience typical mechanisms scaled for the competition.

…Yeah, maybe I didn’t think that all the way through. I’m not sure if it’s entirely fair to apply this argument to FRC (there’s many other rules to take into account regarding parts there that don’t exist in FTC, such as cost and weight) but I certainly see where my logic failed and I thank you for pointing that out before I made an even bigger idiot out of myself. :yikes:

I do agree that the kits need more part variety. I really miss rack and pinion gears, linear sliders, and sprockets. If I ever implied that we didn’t need those, I am really really really sorry.

I think what I said at the end still applies though - this is the kit’s first season. I wouldn’t expect FIRST to get everything perfect on the first try. This season may not have been the greatest, but it’s too early to start saying that FTC has been ruined - we really need to see what happens next season before we can even start to say that.