NewBie transitioning from FLL: Vex or FTC

I have been running an FLL team for the last 7 yrs and looking to transition to either FTC or Vex. I have read the posting on this topic from Jul 2011. I want to find out if 2011 posting is still accurate in 2017.
I live in Illinois and plan to run this program (starting with 8th graders) unaffiliated with any school.

Your guidance is greatly appreciated.

Is thisthe thread you’re referring to? If not, please provide a link so everyone answering is on the same page.

I think a lot of what’s in that linked 2011 thread is still basically valid. The competition structures for the two programs haven’t really changed in the last 5 years, relevant to this discussion. There are small changes; 3D printing has expanded parts options in both programs, though FTC still allows a wider set of parts overall, etc.

I’m personally way more familiar with FTC, and know a bunch of the teams and people who run the program in the Midwest. One thing I know is true in FTC there, is there’s a strong community of teams in the IL/WI/IN area, and basically everyone I’ve met out there is fantastic. I don’t know about VEX in that region, but if this sense of community is important to you, I recommend exploring it.

The Illinois FTC site has info on grants for teams, and REC’s site has info for all states, and each of their programs you can filter down. I know the cost situation is complex, but these should help whichever way you opt to go.

Not necessarily on the VEX side.

3D printed parts are only allowed as non functional decorations in the High School and Middle School levels of the VEX Robotics Competition.

You can 3D print an entire robot on the FTC side of things, and there are multiple FTC teams that have done this.

I stand corrected. It looks like 3d printed parts are only allowed in the college-level VEX U program, and then with size limits, not VRC.

tl;dr: Don’t care, inspire roboteers is the goal, both are great programs.

As a long term VEX metal mentor (10 years!!) and VEXIQ for the last two, I’m a VEX fan. Program costs are lower for:

  • Initial registration
  • Event registration
  • Cost of building a robot

and at least in my area (DE, Southeast PA) there are a ton more events for roboteers to go to. There are almost 20 in the hour drive from my house. (6 of them in Delaware) And that point is the big decision point for you. It’s competition robotics, how many events can your team go to?

The initial registration for teams are $75 for the first one and then $50 for each associated team after that. Because you are starting a team and you know from your FFL days there is a HUGE DEMAND for this. So your question should be around on going growth.

Events are about $50 in my area. In Delaware if you bring a field or some extra parents to help out, we will give you a free registration.

Cost to build a robot. You are building a World Champ Robot you are going to spend about $1500-$1800. If you start out you can build a pretty good robot for $1300 (Classroom kit). Next years costs will be about $200-300 for replacement parts.

But you can’t 3D print, weld, etc. It’s a engineering design box. VEX corrals the build costs by limiting parts. If you have $4K to spend on a 3D printer then FTC is for you. Constrained on costs? VEX

The huge downside of VEX is the growth. Tons of teams compete. The VEX Worlds have been split to have Metal the first 4 days, IQ the next 4 days. So there is more room this year, but as the program grows it’s [Strike]dog eat dog [/Strike] more competitive.

Good luck, let us know what you decide!

(Full disclosure, upfront: I work for AndyMark, which supplies both FTC field components and a pretty big variety of robot parts designed expressly for FTC.)

Both programs have their pros and cons, but I’ll say that a lot has changed for FTC since 2011. Of note:

  1. Tetrix remains the most common choice for building systems far as I’ve seen, but several companies (AndyMark, Matrix, Actobotics, REV, others) have brought FTC-specific parts to market with varying degrees of compatibility to the norms Tetrix created.
  2. Most of the motor options (AndyMark’s NeveRest, Matrix 12V, REV Hex HD) come with integrated encoders for feedback. The former two also come terminated with PowerPole connectors as used on the legal motor controllers.
  3. NXTs and Samanthas are dead. You’re now using cheap Android phones as both driver station and robot controller. (This year, vision processing was added to take advantage of the robot controller phones’ cameras.)
  4. Starting with 2014-2015 (Cascade Effect), official FTC events use fields that are distributed through AndyMark. There’s always some variation from field to field, but this removes a lot of it.

I’m sure there are others some will add, but I think there have been a lot of positive changes since 2011. :slight_smile:

If I may suggest… don’t concern yourself too much with the robots.

Meet the people involved and check out the calibre of events in your area. How many times will you be able to compete? Do you feel welcomed and supported?

Consider your team’s budget… what are your start up and operating expenses for each competition. Consider equipment, entry fees and - if necessary - travel for local events.

And without getting TOO hopeful, consider your vision of a World Championship event. There are differences between the VEX Championship (one event, all VEX), and the FIRST Championships (two events, with other, larger robots playing, too.)

For all we like to geek out over the technology - it’s not that big of a deal. Both VEX and FTC offer excellent platforms that are more than sufficient to challenge your team in both mechanical design and coding. A much bigger impact will come from the people - in your area - who make the events happen.

The longer you play robots, the more you realize that it’s not about the robots.


Nominated for spotlight post.