FTC: is the official FIRST competition. it will be using a new custom kit based on the lego NXT brain, with metal and motors from Lynxmotion. Teams who competed this past year will be able to get discounted kits for about $450. And then each team will pay a ~$275 registration for each event they attend. These events will be qualifiers for the FIRST championship in atlanta.
VEX: is a competition run by Innovation FIRST which will use the vex robotics design system. All past vex components are legal and teams can buy any of the new accessories which are coming up. Each event costs $75 per team and $25 for each additional team from the same high school. There will be ~40 regional events, 4 major events with 100+ teams all leading up to the world championship next spring. Also there are new initiatives under vex including an online only challenge which will encompass middle school through college.
FTC = FIRST Tech Challenge - The official intermediate program from FIRST to handle the bridge between FLL (FIRST Lego League) and FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition).
FVC = FIRST Vex Challenge - The original name of the pilot program that FIRST ran as the intermediate program that was changed in 2007.
VEX = The Vex robotics system made by IFI (Innovation First, Inc.) and originally marketed by Radio Shack. IFI bought the rights back from Radio Shack when they decided to dump the line.
VEX in this context can also mean the VEX World Championship run by IFI that was recently held in Northridge, California, USA.
Now, the confusion can come due to the robotic platform that is being used. For the last 3-4 years, all programs used the Vex robotics system. In 2008-09, the FTC will be using a new platform (called the FTC robotics kit for now) that is made by Pitsco, HiTechnic and other vendors. It will be a complete kit of parts for teams that compete in the 2008 (and beyond) FTC competitions. The game for FTC for 2008-09 has not been designed yet.
The Vex robotics system is still viable and available and IFI is sponsoring their own robotics competition. This past year (2007-08), the Vex World Championship game was called Bridge Battle. In future years, there will be different games (probably) but still using the Vex robotics system by IFI.
I am the adviser/teacher for a Rookie Team at our High School. I feel like I am in the same boat as you. We bought some VEX kits this year. We used them for prototyping and education team.
I think I am going to go with the FTC for the future for a few reasons. We are mentoring three FLL teams in our district and hope to expand that to 8 teams eventually (one at each of our feeder elementary and middle schools). The FTC platform will be an extension of the platform they use in FLL. This will require more of an investment up front from what I understand.
As of right now, no VEX tournaments or events are located in a relatively short travel distance.
I will keep VEX in mind for future. The headquarters for the company is in Texas. I will want to offer more opportunities for contest in the future for additional students to participate in.
First of all, I don’t think the new FTC kits are available yet and I am not sure what the ETA is.
A few tips for VEX stuff from past experience:
The VEX joysticks are not allowed in the country and were confiscated (this might be negotiable: it was probably a frequency issue but that can easily be changed with different crystals). There are usually no problems for bringing in individual kits for home use but you may want to get that cleared for official school business. If you buy the kits from Robogroup they will replace the joystick with a legal Sanwa joystick (which is actually more advanced IMO).
Second…import whatever you can by yourself if the school permits that. Robogroup (the official importer) will have no problem ripping you off and charging 2-3X the original price which is already pretty high.
Having competed in both this years FTC World Championship and this years VEX World Championship I might be able to offer some insight.
FTC World Championship:
A very well run event, people were helpful and kind. One thing that sticks out is that when problems arose, robots not acting how they were supposed to etc., the field Techs did not seem to have any satisfying answers. For the amount of problems that were encountered I find it hard to believe that all problems were the fault of the teams competing. As is somewhat typical of a FIRST event by the second day matches were almost an hour and half behind schedule, this is mostly due to the FRC opening ceremonies.
VEX World Championship:**
Got off to a somewhat rough start but by the time the Qualification matches were up and running everything was going smoothly. Everything ran on time for the most part. Very few technical problems or robot control problems. Only several teams had consistent problems. After talking to these teams and listening to their conversations with IFI engineers and EasyC tech support people it seems that no one has an answer and everyone is just as baffled as the teams. It seemed like nothing would solve the problems, not new hardware or code. The refing could have been a little better. It seemed that it wasn’t until the finals that the refs started really calling anything. Not to be mean to them I know they volunteered and I’m thankful for that, could have been a little more harsh. AN example: a robot drove up onto another robot and proceeded to sit there for 30sec and the refs did not call anything. Overall IFI put on a great event and plans to expand the program even more.
$275 Registration fee and then $450 kit fee. There will also be fees for Regionals and the World event. It sounds like the kit is pretty much all teams should need. There might be more add ons available. More Kit info: here.
$75 for the first team and $25 for each team after that.(NOTE: They seemed to indicate that the $25 fee for each additional team was only available for Schools) You can get by with the kit but will most likely want to purchase more in order to build a better robot. More kit info: here
A few more thoughts:**
I can say that the VEX competition seems to be more international. The VEX competition will also allow for involvement at the middle school, high school, and college level. There will also be an Executive Advisory Council made up of Teachers, Mentors, Event organizers, and Volunteers. Student Advisory Council mad up of Students from teams in all regions. Then there will also be Forums, Team Surveys and Team Polls. IFI wants the students who participate in the competition to be happy.
The FTC doesn’t seem quite as international and has had trouble getting started in certain places inside of the US. The switch to the new kit has confused many teams as to what FIRST is up to.
Here is all that I can think of. I might add more later if I feel it’s needed/relevant.
While this may be true of the current vex system, it is the crystals which are the illegal things in Israel as the frequencies are restricted there. IFI announced new wi-fi controls for vex a few months ago which would be legal in israel. http://www.vexrobotics.com/docs/VEX-Mini-and-802.11.pdf
I can tell you now that for my new team and western TN, I will be supporting vex and not FTC. As far as I am concerned, having seen that new FTC kit in atlanta it is going to be easier for my kids to design using vex then that new platform. Also the costs and my previous investment in vex hardware seal the deal.
That is what I tried to say. Our team had all the VEX joysticks confiscated which I found very weird since the crystals can be replaced with legal frequencies (and there are a lot of legal hobby-RC frequencies). It might have just been a misunderstanding.
Also…the new wifi controls may not be an option depending on when the team wants to get started since it may be a while before the new controls are available.
From what I was told, there was too much of a demand to accomodate many teams that wanted to come to CMP in Atlanta. Thus, VEX sponsored by Innovation FIRST eventually “broke away” and hosted their own tournament this past weekend in California for the World Championship. correct me if I’m wrong. Just what I heard.
However, there is another “World” Festival being hosted in Hawaii from December 4-6, 2008 which will feature many international teams also.
My assumption is that it gives flexibility for teams that could not make this past weekends one and that it allows more teams to compete at an international level.
As an FRC team that plans on doing FRC for years to come, if we considered to do VEX, we would probably choose the fall schedule so that the build seasons dont overlap. Plus, its in Hawaii!
The FTC world championships and the IFI world championships that happened this weekend are not connected in anyway. Also Vex is not sponsored by IFI, IFI makes the VEX kit and parts. They are the same company.
IFI hosted the VEX World Championship because there was interest throughout the world in the Bridge Battle game. Thus they decided to open BB up to everyone. Many local tournaments were held and teams competed there for spots to the VEX World Championship. Teams who competed in other games and tournaments also received invitations to the VEX World Championship.
The event being held in Hawaii is the Pan-Pacific Championship(December 2008), a tournament on the scale of the of the recent World Championship. There will also be The Asian Robotics Championship(November 2008) and the Championship of the Americas(March 2009) both on the same scale as the Pan-Pacific Championship. These will all feed into the World Championship which is of unknown scale.
We must keep in mind that Overdrive (Lowfategg’s team) had two functioning robots for FTC at the same time. Also keep in mind that parts can be reused, and as to what Overdrive bought with $2000 worth of parts plus past kits, I can only wonder.
Can FTC kits be reused from year to year, or will it be like FRC, where a new kit needs to be bought each year?