New FTC Platform Blog:

Posted after the Atlanta unveiling of the new FTC kit:

We have seen the new FTC kit, but do not possess one for full evaluation.  The most important thing - we have pictures!  Our photos are posted in smaller web scale (900x600 72dpi, accessed from thumbnails) and full-size (3072x2048 300dpi, also accessed from thumbnails).  Our photos were taken at the new kit showcase area in the pits, at a LEGO Education presentation, and at the demonstration on the field.

For the upcoming 2008-9 FTC season, FIRST has committed donated funds to defraying half of the expense of a new $900 competition kit for each of this seasons registered teams, leaving a total of $450 to acquire this equipment.  In addition, another 250 rookie teams will be eligible for a $450 grant on the basis of financial need.  Each state FTC partner will receive $5000 toward their program expenses.

As it stands currently, the new FTC kit consists of a LEGO NXT controller, a custom secondary controller (for motors and sensors), 11 motors (4 substantial 12V gear motors, 4 servomotors & 3 LEGO NXT motors), 10 sensors (standard NXT touch, light, ultrasonic and sound, plus compass, acceleration, gyroscope and color), 2 NiMH 7.2v 3000mAh rechargeable batteries, aluminum building components (beams, gears, brackets, tubes, etc), multiple wheels, a Bluetooth game controller, various wires and mounting hardware and three coding environments (NXT-G, LabView and RobotC. LEGO components come in the form of a full Mindstorms NXT kit, complete with LEGO building pieces.

Small image gallery:

Large image gallery:

Posted after 3 weeks of the blog (03-28-08):

We feel that the FTC blog is being intentionally vague in many respects, especially in the lack of images that have significant resolution to see what is supposed to be portrayed.  If we were in Ken Johnson's place, we would show full specs and detailed images and diagrams, to let folks know what they are to be dealing with.  This teasing is not helpful to the team leaders that must plan their future course and secure funding, and is not being taken very well in many of the blog comment postings.

Now it seems that this system is to replace the Vex controller with the LEGO NXT controller - made by LEGO but, of course, not a toy.  It is indicated that an FTC Controller terminal block supplied by HiTechnic will be the key to expanded capabilities - we have watched the HiTechnic website for years, and wonder at their ability to supply in a timely fashion.  Their products have been unavailable on-line for many months at a time in the past.

We have followed the MIT 6.270 robotics course for years - a January mini-course/competition.  We bring our FLLers to see MIT students competing with robots they have made from LEGO parts.  Note - they do not use the LEGO Mindstorms electronics, just the structural components.

We have yet to see compelling improvements specified.  Coming up with creative ways to meet design challenges is part of the fun!  Our answer to gear issues has always been to double up - plastic gears are very cheap, and wider surfaces align more easily.  The metals in the Vex kit are strong enough for our uses - and the aluminum pieces are stronger and lighter.  Stronger motors would be useful, and certainly could be supplied as an upgrade to the Vex system, but design limitations will always be part of every challenge.

It seems an open secret that the replacement of the Vex platform has little to do with it's technical merits - we would appreciate candor from FIRST on this issue.

Posted before we have seen the new kit: It is a fact that the Vex Robotic Development System is being replaced for the 2008-9 FTC competition season.  The new system will be comprised of components from several different sources, integrated by Pitsco (the same organization that sources Mindstorms equipment as LEGO Education).

The composition of the new system is still subject to a comment period, so follow the blog.  Ken J is Ken Johnson, the new director of the FTC program.  A number of teams from various backgrounds are being supplied with a kit of parts, to meet a demonstration challenge and show their results in the pits at the World Championship in Atlanta.  We will report on what we see in Atlanta, and post details and photos on this website.

The new controller is based on the NXT brick, with enhancements.  Metal components will be aluminum, 1/4" for gears, 13 gauge for structural components.  It is expected that Vex metal components (only) will still be allowed.  A kit for a "competitive Team" is expected to run around $1000.

Last modified: 12/05/14     All Rights Reserved, 2013 by Team Unlimited [FTC 0001]