Ftc Kick off 2008

FTC Kickoff Information

Greetings teams! It’s that time of year again, when the FTC community starts buzzing about the new game. The FIRST Tech Challenge 2008 Season Kickoff will take place on Saturday, September 13, 2008 @ 5 pm EST. Some areas will be hosting live kickoff events, while others will be celebrating with their teams and supporters. Please contact your local Affiliate Partner for kickoff information.

New Award Announced!

One of the exciting changes to FTC this season is the addition of the Design Award. Teams will be allowed to use aluminum and polycarbonate sheet to design and fabricate elements for their robots. The Design Award will be given to teams who come up with creative ways to use this material in functional and aesthetic ways. This allows team to incorporate elements of industrial design into their bots. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

this is from http://usfirst.org/community/ftc/content.aspx?id=10302

Lets go ftc teams

This suddenly has me getting much more interested in FTC, but I’m curious how it will affect teams that run out of “the physics lab” rather than the shop class.

One of the great things about FTC (and now VEX) is that you could build a robot on the kitchen table that could go head to head with one built in a machine shop. (Okay, you might have to scoot out the back yard and use a hack saw and file every now and then, but you didn’t need more than about $10.00 worth of hand tools to compete on an even keel with everyone.)

While I await seeing what the limitations on the use of polycarbonate and aluminum sheet are (if any), I can certainly see how teams with access to shears, box and pan brakes, drill presses, english wheels, vaccuum formers, water jet cutters, TIG welders, etc. would have significant opportunities to advance their design over their less well-equipped competitors/colleagues.

Given that we make our FTC bots in the same shops we make our FRC bot, this design flexibilty offers some definite advantages to my students… but I wonder if we might loose some of the teams running out of the Physics labs and home schools. (My “completely unbiased” answer is those kids need to take some shop classes anyways, but I know they aren’t always available…)

Another factor is that having specifically crafted components will reduce the design flexibility of the robot… with generic parts it was always possible to pull a robot apart and re-build or replace a component in fairly short order. With custom-built parts, you have a much greater committment to your design whether it is working well or not… mid-competition upgrades are far more difficult. Sure it happens in FRC all the time… but over a much longer period of time. On the other hand, I always rather disliked seeing students buy something that they could build.

I also wonder whether this was an intentionally planned addition to the rule book or an afterthought to compensate for a lack of available parts… it will be interesting to see what, exactly, the rules say. In any case it should allow for some creative applications of the sheet metal functions of 3D cadd programs… and some pretty cool looking robots.

As far as I am concerned this is even a more interesting and signficant announcement than the change in the controller. Software types may choose to disagree on that, but breaking away from 100% off-the-shelf components is undeniably a significant change.


Our FTC teams will gladly bring extra polycarb and aluminum to events for teams who wish to try new things or need replacements.

Any details in regards to what type of polycarb and aluminum we can use? Specifications?

That is a generous offer on the spares… it wasn’t the raw materials that I was alluding to, however, it was the machining and manufacturing that may be difficult to do within the confines of an FTC pit and timeline that is my concern.

I wasn’t able to find any specs, but I suspect all will be revealed on Saturday. Trust FIRST to drop a little tid-bit of info to build the excitement… they excel at that!


I would like to applaud DTE’s comments; and add even more emphasis to the ones that express concerns about the potential problems that can take root in an FTC competition that opens the “custom parts” door too far.

Here are the sentiments I expressed in a similar on line conversation a while ago (back when Vex Kits were being used):

Access to moderately sophisticated machine tools and/or human expertise on a “have” team will mean that they can replace many of the bulky, frustrating parts in the Vex (change that to Tetrix now) product line with high strength, light-weight, precisely-crafted, small parts.

Oh so many times, when building a machine using the Vex parts, I have wished for a small latch, or a small pulley, or crown gear (available now), or a small distance sensor, or an rotation encoder that measured direction [available now], or a… What has kept me from pulling out my remaining few hairs is knowing that every other team on the planet is in exactly the same boat as me and “mine”, except for getting to use our team’s unique set of brainpower.

If you open FTC up to handcrafted and non-Vex commercial parts, you will start seeing robots that are as complicated as mechanical watches and as sophisticated as compact interplanetary probes. Those will come from the “haves”, and will be marvelous to study and see in action; but I doubt the “have nots” will feel inspired…

Once the rules are announced, if you Tetrix kit users out there see a need for concern, let your FTC Affiliate Partner know how you feel so that they can get the message to the people who need to hear it (CD discussions are great, but they aren’t an official channel into FIRST HQ).


My questions/concern, is that these metal/polycarbonate are for robot aesthetics, which is basically looks, so will these parts be able to come “out” of the footprint? Which is interesting.


Team 1261 has been psyched and prepared for 2009 season since we got eliminated from the GA tournament’s semi finals.

Like the OP said, the announcement on the FIRST web page says the new Award will recognize “teams who come up with creative ways to use this material in functional and aesthetic ways”.

To me, that says the parts may be used in ways that improve the robots’ game-playing. That is far different from “basically looks”.


I don’t think it’d be that big a deal. If they feel they can’t keep up with everyone else, they probably switch to IFI and VEX. FIRST loses a team, but at least there’s another program they can join to be equally inspired.

When comparing this to FRC, look at all the teams that build a simple reliable machine and do well year after year. Then look at the teams with money that over complicate and do poorly each year. Same thing will happen with FTC. Teams will waste time designing and building complicated metal/poly assemblies, while the teams that build simple and strong will cruise on by come competition.

I am excited about the expanded use of raw materials in FTC and hope FIRST lets us weld the aluminum.

My team 478 for ftc is thinking about doing FTC this year. We are already signed up for IFI or the vex competition. This year. Were thinking about the ftc competition because this year is only 450 dollars for last year teams to buy the new kit and we need to learn the kit.

Something tells me the sheet aluminum/polycarb is a solution to the expensive structural components provided by Tetrix. You’ll still need some Tetrix to provide the structure, but sheet aluminum is great for the small stuff.

If this is truly going to be an un-restricted use of aluminum and polycarbonate, why would teams even bother with the tetrix stuff?

Since weight has never been a consideration for FTC you could just cut your whole chassis out of a single flat plate of aluminum. and then make all custom mounting brackets that are ideal for your application. There have already been reports of the aluminum gears skipping teeth based on bad center to center distances, this problem could be totally avoided, now that teams could make their own custom gearboxes for FTC.

The possibilities are nearly endless and that’s where I see a problem with this. Just like many other people in this thread I think that FTC should have stayed the “whats in the kit only.” While it is true that some teams would always have an advantage over others, it was from a cost perspective (which accessories you could afford). Now it is a matter of machining and tools in addition to the cost of accessories.

At the same time that I think this could be a step backwards for FTC it makes sense that we should wait to see what the limitations are placed on using these components before we jump to conclusions.

I would be ok with the addition of simple pieces of Al or Poly sheeting (not stock). I think they would need to limit the machining to simple tools and no welding. One of the great things about FTC in the past was the “kit only” rule and being able to build a successful robot with nothing but the kit and a Dremel. I would hate to see this turn into just a small version of FRC.

we hope there is not open machining and things like welding allowed. our school can’t afford to do FRC and we don’t have the machine shop access to fabricate or make our own parts out of stock metal, which is why we are hoping to do either vex or ftc this year. We already got our vex classroom kit, which the students love so far, and are thinking of ordering a ftc kit if there is an event in this area and we like the game. I guess we’ll know tomorrow. But I do hope it’s just the parts we get and no major modifying or machining allowed, that’s one of the main reasons we want to do ftc and vex.

You’re missing the point. Just because machining parts is/may be allowed does not mean your team or any team actually has to. Use the suggestions above and just build simple and effective robots.

actually, I think you are missing the point. The entire point of ftc and vex is to have a program that doesn’t require all the resources of FRC. If we had the ability to machine parts, weld aluminum and had those facilities (and tons of money) we’d do FRC. We don’t.
But my students want to do ftc and vex so they are on a pretty even playing field with the other teams and can build all their robots in our classroom - if some schools are able to weld and machine parts for ftc, then we can’t make and use many parts they will be able to. To say “just build a simple robot” is missing the point. We don’t want to build a simple robot, we want to challenge ourselves with the parts available, we just don’t have the resources to machine or weld parts.

I was also speaking of FTC not FRC. Don’t get me wrong, its great to challenge yourself but in the end I think many people will agree that it will be the teams that don’t spend time trying to use polycarb and aluminum who will come out on top.

If you actually really want to do this then seek help from machine shops or your local highschool that might have a machine shop. Just go out there and make it happen. Finding machining resources is actually easier than finding people willing to sponsor teams. You can even open your yellow pages and search for “Machining” and I guarantee you will find something.

You are totally are missing the point. The reason I even have an FTC team is that it gives my small school a chance to play on a more even playing field than when we play in a FRC event. If FIRST allows complex machining, the teams with those abilities and the mentors to guide them will have a significant advantage to those teams who just have good mentors. FTC will have the same flaw as FRC. There will be two camps in competition: the haves and have-nots.


Heated conversation. I must say, FTC is simple, and not havving the ability to weld and machine in major ways is what makes FTC amazing. An even playing field in more ways than you would know.

And if you look at the FTC mission statement, " The ultimate goal of FTC is to reach more young people with a lower-cost, more accessible opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of science, technology, and engineering.".

I know for a fact that our machine shop has over $10,000 worth of saws, tools, and other things. and that’s NOT including any welding equipment.

This is what I love about the FRC program; it more or less doesn’t limit what you can accomplish. If you want to have a professionally machined robot, go ahead and call up the local industry, you can make it happen.

However, I loved the FTC program for an entirely different reason. I loved it because with the exception of funding to buy parts, there really wasn’t a huge resource gap between the have and have-nots. Team YYY had a full machine available and you didn’t? No big deal, if anything the only advantage they gained was a few minutes time shearing/bandsawing rather than hacksawing. This fact made FTC the FIRST program that could be in every school in my opinion. The way our nation is, a FRC team simply can’t happen in every high school, but a FTC team easily can.

By changing up FTC so much, I think a lot of teams will be alienated. Yes, the teams that were building in classrooms and living rooms still can compete and probably be competitive, but it simply won’t be the same. I think it stems back to the FIRST Board of Directors being out of teach with what being on a team is really like.