Hi There. You are in the correct place to ask about FIRST Robotics. The first thing you should look into is which program you are interested in competing in.
The kits you mentioned above are specifically designed for VEX Robotics Competition. I do not have much experience with those kits and do not tend to see them at FIRST competitions in the united states.
The VEX Robotics Competition is not affiliated with FIRST nor is it a non profit organization.
The two levels of FIRST Robotics that 10th-12th grade students are eligible to participate in are FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and First Robotics Competition (FRC).
The two programs provide similar experiences but on VASTLY different scale. A FTC Program can be ran by one or two mentors on a budget < 5000 USD. A FRC Program can be ran by a team of 5-6 mentors with industrial experience on a budget ranging from 20,000 - 200,000 USD. In addition to the mentor and cost requirements, an FRC program typically requires design/build students to put ~ 15 - 20 hours a week during the on season.
Robot wise FTC robots can be put together by middle school students (Search FIRST In Michigan FTC State Championships on YouTube), FRC Robots require High School students with an above average interest and ability in mechanical design, electronics, and programming.
Only you know the nature of your resources. If you believe that you can…
raise at minimum of 20,000 USD
have access to industrial tools (bandsaw, drill press, lathe, and CNC)
find at least 10 students who are willing to commit time outside of school
find at least 2 other mentors who are willing to donate more than 20 hours of their time per week
You might be able to start an FRC program.
If you are unsure if you will be able to meet every requirement above (minus the lathe and CNC) FRC is probably not the best option.
Should you decide that FRC is not for you…
FTC is an excellent alternative.
FTC robots are smaller than FRC robots (18in by 18 in by 18 in VS. 30 in by 30 in by 48 in) and weight approx. 18%.
They also cost much less. A competitive FTC Robot can be built for 3000-5000 USD.
The time commitment for FTC is also much smaller than FRC. You might be able to build a competitive FTC robot without meeting outside the school day.
FTC does not require the Industrial equipment that FRC does… Any FTC team can build a robot with a cordless drill, a hammer, some hex keys, and a hand saw.
In addition to this the options for FTC kits are much more extensive and competitive than those for FRC. The advantage of building within a build system is that everything just “fits”. Gear spacing is already done for you as well as many pre built linear motion devices.
I highly recommend the Go BILDA build system. Other Alternatives such as Pitsco Tetrix MAX and the REV Robotic Duo Platform exist and are used by many teams. Andymark also supplies many useful FTC products.
If you were to ask me for my personal recommendation I would tell you to order two Go BILDA Kit’s.
Strafer Chassis Kit V4 - goBILDA
Master FTC Kit (8mm REX Shaft, 2021-2022 Season) - goBILDA
In addition to these mechanical kits you will need a REV Robotics Control Hub, a REV Robotics Expansion hub, and a REV Robotics Driver Hub. Note that these items are highly sought after and sell out very quickly. They are estimated to be back in stock late AUG 2022
After selecting a build system it is typically a good idea to buy most of your parts from that supplier so you don’t run into compatibility issues.
Many FTC games make use of some sort of linear motion (Typically vertical) - DO NOT under any circumstances buy a linear motion kit if it does not run on Ball Bearings. The “Slider” kits, specifically REV’s extrusion sliders will jam in anything less than the ideal conditions (lubricated with absolutely no side load and no damage to the rails).
The best LM kits I have seen also come from Go Bilda.
You will want to buy a good multi port NI-MH battery charger as well as 4-6 of https://www.revrobotics.com/rev-31-1302/
You will need two of https://www.revrobotics.com/rev-39-1865/ controllers to drive your robot.
You will also want to have a dedicated NON-School laptop to program the robot. The laptop should be “newer”, run Windows 10, be durable enough to survive drops, and have an extremely long battery life.
A good 3D printer is not a must but is nice and relatively easy to get funding for (Schools like “STEM Technology”)
A Cheep one
A Good one - Buy the factory assembled one the 300 dollars is not worth your time pain and suffering and extra packs of haribo gummy bears (satire) putting this printer together.
That should cover most of the Basics to build an FTC robot.
Please note that there are kit options for FRC robots but a low level analysis of every component would take me ~ 5 hours to write. VEXpro - VEX Robotics and the WCP Competitive Concepts – WestCoast Products are your best bet.
This thread is already the longest I have ever written, if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask them. I have many years of experience participating in both FTC and FRC as well as 1 year of experience as a Co-Head Coach of a successful FTC Team. The members of this forum all have similar if not more experience than me, rest assured your questions will be answered by someone should they be posted here
2834 CAD Lead | FTC 18474 Coach | FiM Volunteer