IMHO the age gap issue is more down to how individual teams are operated, rather than the program as a whole. FTC teams should be trying to recruit new members continuously (often from FLL teams), and keeping most of the existing members from season to season, resulting in the team having a natural mixture of younger and older students. I understand there will always be some degree of turnover, and not everyone will stay through their senior year, but if everyone is leaving when they hit high school, that seems like some sort of a red flag to me.
One of my gripes, if FTC and FRC are to Coexist, is the overlapping season.
We tried running FTC and FRC simultaneously for two years, but as soon as FRC season started up, all the high school kids jumped shipped ship and wanted to focus on the FRC bot. Not proud of that fact at all, but the reality is if given the option, students would rather work on the bigger, more exciting bots (the is a perception issue - not making judgment on the reality).
I also completely agree with the age disparity issue. This is manifested not only in experience, but also in the social aspect. Having 7th graders trying to work along high school seniors can be an issue.
We ended up dropping FTC for now, but would definitely consider rejoining if the seasons were completely separate.
This is the goal I think Michigan is going for. They run FTC as middle school only and the season ends in December to make way for FRC in January. This separates middle school vs high school disparity as well as separates FTC from FRC overlap.
This is certainly one problem Michigan’s system doesn’t have. I think it would be difficult to separate MS teams from HS teams completely as you’d have to run more events to give both leagues a full experience, but in areas where it’s feasible I think there should be events for MS teams and events for HS teams. If there’s any teams that have mixed HS/MS they can go the the HS events.
I don’t think FiM’s mission statement needs changing wrt interaction of the FTC and FRC programs. My view is Michigan-centric; that said, I think what’s needed is fundamental changes to both programs, to make progression of students from FTC to FRC work even better. To be very clear, Michigan FIRSTers think it works pretty well now. But status quo is not our goal.
As an old boss of mine liked to say, Better is the enemy of Good Enough.
I am on the side of Better.
My specific recommendation for FRC is not new, nor complicated. 100 lb weight limit and 100 inch frame perimeter.
However, that means FLL and FTC are running concurrently, sometimes to the detriment of FLL. The other problem is that just as the FLL teams are getting good, they age out into FTC, since FLL is in elementary schools only.
Yeah that makes sense, it’s probably something I glossed over but I can see how confusing it is to have 2 slots for champs, it seems low in comparison to FRC worlds too.
We’ve found that generally our FLL kids start getting bored of FLL after doing it for a few years and are eager to jump into FTC.
Another Michigander here, honestly if you look at the budgets of traditional athletics, I don’t think FRC should be assumed to be too expensive for the majority of schools, especially when some of those costs can be shifted to private funding. Obviously it’s going to take awhile to for FRC to be given similar funding as football, but I see no reason not to have FRC in every high school as a goal. The Michigan system may have its problems, but we don’t have age disparities within programs we have made a lot of progress toward getting FRC in most high schools.
All that said it doesn’t seem like we are on the verge of being able to eliminate HS FTC, so I’d be happy to see separate high school divisions of FTC and FLL. I think it would be better for teams who feed into FRC, or even HS FTC teams.
Devil’s-advocating for a moment here: should there even be a “progression” from FTC to FRC? Is being a feeder program even the point of FTC?
Interesting thought. FTC is being used as a feeder for some people/teams/areas and as the pinnacle in other situations. Then these two groups compete against each other. It seems FIRST has an identity crisis with FTC that FIRST doesn’t address well…
Options that can potentially be used in tandem:
- Middle School Feeder to FRC?
-Seems like the way FTC is getting treated by focus given at champs
- Middle & Highschool program combined teams?
-I don’t like this personally, caps learnign for long time members imho
-Potential YPP Problems
- Middle School & High School Divided leagues, playing the same game?
-Needs some changes in certain regions and champs
-Seems equitable and valuable
-Don’t let the Middle School robot outshine the HS one
- A separate low cost High School Program?
-Could work, is the goal to build to FRC?
-Should FRC programs also take part FTC then?
That’s a local choice. We do FLL elem (K-5) & MS (6-8), then kids chose FTC or FRC as high schoolers (9-12). We do not look at FTC as a feeder for FRC – we see FTC as an opportunity to “do robots” without “robots take over your life for 4 months” (FRC).
That scares the crap out of me. We felt super proud to get a decent robot in 28x28 and we just made the 125lb limit last year. No idea how we could have possibly made 25x25 and 25lbs less. Unless the game got a whole lot simpler, I think those kinds of limits would be really hard on teams w/o huge resources and experience.
We built a 25x27 robot this year. In order to go smaller games would have to be simpler and control system parts would need to be smaller. Also:
If it’s a choice to switch from FLL to FTC, and a choice to switch from FTC to FRC, that’s a good thing. My daughter’s FLL team in 8th grade might have made the choice to go to FVC if it was available then.
But forcing all MS teams to be FTC and all HS teams to be FRC is something altogether different.
As I was on a FRC and FTC team last year, there are many things that make FTC different than FRC, and many of which led to issues with coexistence. Some of these points might have already been mentioned, but I will cover them anyways. I won’t bother to quote messages as I’m not super familiar with CD.
Honestly, having used the android control system from FTC and the develop environment from FRC, the FTC android system is much more seamless to set up and easy to get code working.
The FRC official libraries are much more in-depth, but that is because FTC is much more of a “design it yourself challenge” than FRC is (As made clear by the COTS rules as well). FTC however has top tier libraries FTCLib and RoadRunner to allow widespread access like WPILib does.
I also like how FTC allows teams to even skip the step of an IDE, use block coding, but also allows FRC-style code management. This is much easier for rookie teams to use, but a clear advantage is provided by taking the more advanced route of using Java over Blocks or using Android Studio.
As this pertains to the two programs coexisting, I feel like FTCLib is a great resource (many FTC teams with FRC members use FTCLib to help with consistency. Personally, I wrote my own command-based library, but the end effect was the same).
The FTC Inferiority Complex:
This one really bothers me. I have talked to so many FRC alumni, and so many thought that FTC was just a middle school program or a poor-man’s FRC. There are a few factors mainly contributing this:
Complexity of FTC. Many people do not understand all that can go into a top-level FTC robot. When people think of FTC robots, they often think of the FTC robots they built in their middle school program. Though this characterization has some merits when it comes to the average team, but just having access to the resources of an FRC team can boost a team immediately above average.
Feeder program mindset. This one is not necessarily bad in premise but leaves a stereotype of the program as a whole. The problem here stems from a few things, one being that some top FRC teams have feeder FTC teams, and another being that FRC has tons of high school teams, but top-level FTC teams are almost entirely community teams. The easy access of FTC school teams disappears once one leaves middle school for many kids, and their high school has a FRC team, leading to FRC being seen as a “step forward” rather than an alternative option.
The robots being smaller. I have heard FTC been characterized as a “small robot competition” so much that it really diminishes the engineering value of the robots as mentioned in the first point. While the robots are smaller, that does not mean they are less engineered. Smaller FRC robots aren’t considered less complex at all (heck they are arguably better designed).
In many regions, the FTC season and the FRC season’s completely overlap, leaving kids with a choice between the two programs. This leads to kid’s “picking a program”, and resultingly staying loyal to their program throughout high school.
Some regions (Like Washington) have very little overlap and have really solid FTC/FRC coexistence. Me personally, I was able to qualify for FTC Worlds and only lost 3 weeks of FRC build season. There are many other FIRST organizations in Washington that run FRC and FTC teams under the same umbrella (4089, 2412) and many other FRC teams in the area have tons of the members also on community-based FTC teams. Maybe if other regions adopted this model, the programs would get along better because people wouldn’t have to choose.
Concurrent FTC and FRC tournaments. As a person who qualified for both FRC and FTC worlds, it was painful to choose what team to root for, as the events are concurrent, but in different parts of the building. This also caused our FTC team to lose the spotlight because FRC was competing and draws more attention (which maybe needs to change but that is a much larger conversation). Some other regions even have concurrent state championships for FRC and FTC which doesn’t help either.
Cost of FTC:
FTC is cheaper, but there are more restrictive COTS rules so there has to be more custom parts. However, you can get started competitively in FTC with the purchase of 4 kits and some parts (Rev electronics kit, expansion hub, goBILDA strafer, goBILDA master kit, goBILDA 4 stage slide kit), register, pay for extra parts, and team expenses for well less than it costs to even register a FRC team. Add in a cnc router and a basic FRC shop, and you got a World’s level FTC team (see 16750). There are some other FTC + FRC orgs that run world’s level FTC teams that spend a bit more (1619+11260) that do extremely well.
The only problem is supply chain shortages, which affects FRC as well. Currently, it’s hard to get your hands on the FTC control system, but REV is doing their best to get it to teams.
More Personal Experiences:
For me, the small-team aspect of FTC was fun.
FTC provided my FRC team with experience for every challenge FRC imposes
Though I have my disagreement in many ways with how FTC is run, it still is a fun competition just like FRC. FIRST is doing their best to keep the competition how they believe follows the intent of the program, and while this is slightly different than FRC, it has enough similarities to see the programs as equal.
I have nothing against feeder teams, but they do shape the FRC impression of FTC in a way that doesn’t reflect the program’s true potential.
Fun fact, FTC was originally intended to be scaled down FRC, but that didn’t go well.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, wants to start a FTC team, or differing personal experience that you do not want to share here, please shoot me a dm and I will answer eventually
I threw this post together fairly quickly, so some things I said might not be factual, but are the best I can remember
I didn’t cover possible improvements to be made, but the biggest one would have to be dealing with all the overlap. If we begin to see more kids who do FTC and FRC, it will naturally help both programs’ standing.
Just some context on the Michigan FTC teams, Before FiM moved to middle school FTC, there were 10 total FTC registered. 3 of which were from the same school.
Not saying they should not allow high school teams, but I can see why they made the decision they did.
Open question for FiM folks: Is “FRC in every high school” sustainably achievable?
It probably is financially. American schools spend a ton on football, and FiM has its own special funding situation. FRC teams are also pocket change for corporate budgets.
But from a mentorship and organizational perspective, can it really fit everyone? Not every school is willing to invest the people to make a solvent FRC experience, whereas other programs are able to get away with more absent mentor figures. My own high school barely invested any effort into their Vex program as is. How can we expect every high school to be able to provide FRC?
For a worked example, consider 8380 — themselves a FiM team. It’s a cute story, but their 12 kids and 1 teacher folded down into one student and his mother under the pressure. If their story had gone slightly differently at their district events, their team would’ve been overlooked and they would’ve likely been forgotten. And really, their program should’ve never ended up in this position in the first place, down to one student.
While FTC and Vex teams still benefit from mentor figures, they are able to operate effectively without them. Having known people who did Vex in Michigan, it’s one of the key reasons why they stick with that program over FRC.
Southeast Michigan pretty much fits the “every FRC team in a school”. In the few schools that don’t have an FRC team, there is usually one within 15 miles (Southeast Michigan). Obviously things change as you get into more rural areas.
How accessible are other teams’ programs are for students that don’t go to their respective school? A good number of FTC teams exist for mostly homeschooled students — precisely because they wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in local school teams. I’d imagine it would vary from school to school.
Logistically, travelling to other places also makes barriers. A team 15 minutes away is 30 minutes per meeting day that could’ve been done doing anything else. A team within a school can meet right after classes.