ftc

Volunteers wanted for FTC 2017 events

We are always looking for volunteers for FIRST Tech Challenge events in the North Texas Region.  Volunteers can take a variety of roles, including Judges, Referees, Score Trackers, Inspectors, Hospitality, and more.

Judges select team award recipients through interaction with teams. Documentation regarding team background information is provided to familiarize judges with teams. • Interview and observe teams in the judging rooms, the pit, and on the playing field.  Judging is generally an all-day commitment; the morning is spent interviewing teams and after that the judges deliberate and visit individually with teams to determine event winners.

Robot Inspectors and Field Inspectors are responsible to ensure every robot follows the guidelines outlined in FIRST Tech Challenge Game Manual Part 1 and are ready to compete on the field. The inspection process involves filling out a checklist for every robot and placing a label or other unique tag on the robot after it passes inspection.   Inspections generally take place in the early morning and are finished before matches begin (usually around 10:30am), which means that Inspectors can also volunteer to be Referees or Score Trackers.

Referees observe team matches, identifies rule violations, and “calls” them. Referees help the competitors to avoid breaking the rules of the Game. Referees participate in deliberations regarding contested calls, working directly through the Head Referee.  Referees are needed when matches start (usually around 10:30am) and for the remainder of the event.  Referees can also volunteer as Inspectors.

Score Trackers monitor the status of the game and scoring elements during match play. Score Trackers may track the status of the field on paper, using Score Sheets. For events that use live scoring, the Score Tracker will use an app installed on either a phone or tablet to track the status of the field.  Score Trackers are needed when matches start (usually around 10:30am) and for the remainder of the event.  Score Trackers can also volunteer as Inspectors.

There are many more roles available, including Announcers, Queuers, Runners, Registration / Checkin, Hospitalit, and more.

To volunteer at a North Texas FTC event, see the guide at https://www.firstinspires.org/sites/default/files/uploads/resource_library/volunteer/volunteer-registration-step-by-step-guide.pdf .  Essentially the steps are to create a FIRST account at https://www.firstinspires.org/ways-to-help/volunteer/event-volunteers.

For convenience, you can directly apply for an event by following one of the links below.

 

FTC 2017 Qualifying Tournaments Information

Note:  This information is for FIRST TECH Challenge (FTC) teams in North Texas.  FIRST LEGO League teams should get qualifier information from the Perot Museum FLL website .

2017 Qualifying Tournaments

Qualifier Event Waitlists

The pre-registration survey has closed and teams are being sent event reservations.  If your team didn’t get into an event that you want you can request to be added to the event’s waitlist using the form at http://roboplex.org/ftc/waitlist-form .

In general waitlisted teams for an event will receive slots according to priority:

– Teams without any events
– Teams with an early season (Nov) event obtaining a second event
– Teams obtaining a second event
– Teams with an early season (Nov) event obtaining a third event
– All other teams

Within any of the above groups teams will be given slots first-come-first-served in order of request.

Latest published registration stats:

ftc2017-regstats

Registration Process

This season North Texas is taking a somewhat different approach to Qualifying Tournament scheduling for FIRST Tech Challenge. Whereas previous seasons have had all qualifiers held in January/February, this season will also have qualifiers available in November and December. This is consistent with what happens in other FTC regions, and also more akin to the scheduling of events in League Play. It also opens up the possibility for some teams to be attending as many as three qualifiers in a season (to provide a more league-like experience for teams unable to join a league).

We’re also expecting to substantially lower the costs of qualifier events this year — somewhere in the range of $150-$200 per event, and possibly/hopefully less. We’re still working out the event registration/payment details. (Note that leagues have a different payment structure altogether, specific to each league.)

And we’re also changing the event signup process. We started with a “soft” pre-registration phase, where teams can apply to reserve registration slots at the events they wish to compete at. No payment is needed — preregistration simply gives a team priority claim on available registration slots at the event. Then later this month when registration officially opens, teams that participated in the soft registration will be given their selections before other teams can register for the event.

The (pre)registration form is now closed — see “waitlist” options above.

With more events available they’re also likely to have smaller capacities — we’re trying to avoid large “mega-qualifier marathons” from previous seasons — so (pre)register soon to get a preferred slot before they’re all taken. And don’t write off the earlier events just because you think your team won’t be ready in time — often it’s a good strategy to push a little to compete in an early event, if only to get some early, direct on-field experience in preparation for a later event.

 

Volunteers wanted for 2017 North Texas FTC Regional Championship

Note:  Information on this page was for the 2017 North Texas Regional Championship, held in February 2017.  For updated information on volunteering in current events, see http://roboplex.org/ftc/volunteer .

 

Hello everyone!

We are looking for volunteers for the North Texas FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Regional Championship.  The Regional Championship will be held on Saturday February 25th at Ford Middle School in Allen.  Forty eight (48!) of the top teams in North Texas will compete to determine regional winners and opportunities to advance to the next level of competition.

We’re planning this to be a showcase event for the year, and we’re looking for volunteers to help with the event in all areas.  Due to the expanded size of this event we need more judges, referees, and inspectors than in previous qualifier or league events.  Of course there are many other roles that we will be filling, including scorekeepers, runners, queuers, announcers, and the like. Don’t worry if you haven’t done this before or feel like you might not be qualified… training is available and we have experts to help guide you.  And if you’re looking at coaching or mentoring a team in future competitions, then volunteering (e.g. as a judge) is an outstanding way to see what the top teams are doing and understand how things work “behind the scenes”.

Judging is an all-day commitment consisting of panel interviews and observations of teams and robots in action.  Ideally, judging panels are comprised of people with a technical background along with those with skills in communication and outreach. No one will judge alone.

Referees observe team matches to observe rule violations and “call” them.  They also keep track of which elements have been scored and record these items on scoresheets.  There is online training to become a referee and a certification exam (which usually isn’t very hard). Refereeing also gives you “the best seats in the house” for watching the matches take place.  :)

Inspectors meet with teams in the morning to check robot designs for safety and compliance with build rules and restrictions.  This involves going through a short checklist of items for each robot, informing teams of any infractions that will prevent the robot from competing or certifying the robots as being compliant with the game requirements.  This also has training materials and a short certification exam for the role.

To learn more about FIRST Tech Challenge, check out http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc .

[ To volunteer for current events, see http://roboplex.org/ftc/volunteer .]

Registering as an event volunteer is a two-step process.  First go to the Volunteer Registration System site, https://my.usfirst.org/FIRSTPortal/Login/VIMS_Login.aspx .  It can be a bit confusing, so here is a video about how to create a new VIMS account: http://www.screencast.com/t/pTL7rCsb   If you already have a VIMS account from volunteering in a previous event or season, you should use that account.

Then select “Apply for an event” tab, select “FTC” as the program, select “Texas” as the state/province, and enter “North Texas” in the “Search event by name” field.  You can also search by ZIP code by entering “75002” as the ZIP code. You can then select the event and add any event roles you would like to have.   We’re always happy to have “Assign Me as Needed” volunteers, but we also encourage you to indicate your preference for any other roles you would like to have at the event.  We will want an array of volunteers: concessions, referees, judges, inspection, load in, load out, queuers, etc… so please feel free to forward this information to any friends or colleagues who may be interested in helping.

Please contact Patrick Michaud at <patrick.michaud@utdallas.edu> if you have any questions.  Thank you so much and we hope to see you soon.

 

FTC League play with 4 advancing teams

Last updated: 2016.10.13

In each of the seminars, workshops, and kickoffs I’ve attended someone has asked the (very reasonable) question: “How many teams advance from League Tournaments to the Regional Championship?” This can be an important question, as the answer can directly impact a team’s overall robot design and competition strategy for the season.

The standard response to this question is that there’s no way to precisely determine the advancing teams until event registration, and that it’s all based on dividing the available Championship slots proportionally based on the size of the events leading to the Championship. Dr. Tiernan has additionally said that league teams will have a larger number of opportunities to advance relative to teams competing only in Qualifier Tournaments.

But if the answer affects a team’s strategy and planning early in the season, how do we figure out what will happen in real, practical terms?

I thought I’d take a crack at breaking this question down into some hard numbers to give coaches and teams an idea of what we might expect. This article begins by first presenting my “bottom line” conclusions, and then providing the assumptions and reasoning I used to arrive at those conclusions.

The bottom line, at the top

I should first make a big disclaimer:  I have no official capacity in the region, so nothing I say here is determinative of how things will turn out.  It’s just my best guesses based on analysis of available evidence.

Assuming the region has five leagues of approximately 12 teams each, and a Regional Championship supporting 36 teams, I conclude that each league will likely advance four teams to the Championship. Furthermore, I speculate there will be three or four Qualifying Tournaments, each of which will advance 4-6 teams to the Regional Championship.

I think this conclusion is valid even if the number of leagues or teams per league varies a bit.

My reasons for arriving at this conclusion are detailed below, but the short summary is that 20 or so teams will end up advancing from leagues (5 leagues * 4 teams each), and a total of 16 teams will advance from qualifiers. There could be a tweak of a slot here or there due to event size differences, but 4 teams advancing from each league event seems to be the most reasonable expectation.

The practical outcome of 4 advancement slots

What does “four advancing teams” really mean in practical terms at a League Tournament? The official advancement criteria for FTC are given in Section 4.8.2 of Game Manual Part I. The practical outcomes of advancing four teams are:

  • The Inspire Award Winner, Inspire Award 2nd place, and the two teams of the Winning Alliance are guaranteed to advance to the Regional Championship. (Since League Tournaments have less than 20 teams, playoff Alliances have only 2 teams each.)
  • The Inspire Award 3rd place team will advance only if at least one of the Winning Alliance teams also received Inspire 1st or Inspire 2nd. There’s a reasonably good chance of this occurring, but it’s not guaranteed and I’ve seen many events where it does not happen.
  • The Think Award Winner will advance only if both of the Winning Alliance teams received Inspire Awards. It’s possible, but not very likely.
  • The Finalist Alliance Captain will advance only if both of the Winning Alliance teams received Inspire Awards AND one of them also won the Think Award. It happens, but it’s very unlikely.
  • The Connect Award Winner will advance only if the Finalist Alliance Captain had already advanced due to receiving one of the previous Inspire or Think awards.
  • The Finalist Alliance 1st pick has a very small mathematical possibility of advancing. This happens only when the Finalist Captain advances AND both the Think and Connect award winners also won Inspire 2nd and Inspire 3rd in some combination.
  • None of the other awards at the event advance unless there are teams that had already advanced prior to the tournament.

To summarize this into a single sentence: ftc2016-advchart-3 For an event advancing four teams, the two Winning Alliance teams and Inspire 1st/2nd teams definitely advance, Inspire 3rd has a plausible chance of advancing, and teams after that (including the Finalist Alliance teams) have to hope that the awards somehow break “just right” in order to advance.

The seasonal implication is that in order to advance from an event with 4 teams advancing, you really need to be on the Winning Alliance at the end of the tournament or receive one of the Inspire awards. Focusing efforts into a single award category is unlikely to advance.

How I arrived at the 4-team advancement figure — assumptions

To arrive at the “four teams will advance” result, I’ve made three basic assumptions:

A1: The North Texas FTC Regional Championship ends up with 36 teams this season, as in previous years. Logistically speaking, 36 teams is the largest size that can be accommodated in a single-day, single-division competition. More teams than 36 requires either a two-day event (more time), two divisions (more space, more fields, more volunteers), or both. I’m always hopeful for a larger Regional Championship event, but the official information I have thus far still indicates a 36-team championship. The size of the championship has the greatest impact on the calculations of advancing teams.

A2: There will be five leagues. As of Oct 13 I’m aware of five draft leagues for 2016-2017 (Amethyst, Emerald, Garnet, Sapphire, and Topaz), but those only seem to cover areas east of Fort Worth so there may be a sixth league somewhere (west of Fort Worth, or in the Killeen/Waco area). And as far as I can tell, the calculation of advancing teams works out about the same whether the region ends up with four, five, or six leagues.

A3: Each league will have around 12 teams. Last year’s Emerald League had 11-12 teams. Most leagues in 2016 seem to have been drafted with 18-20 “teams” assigned to the league, but some entries appear to be duplicates of existing teams or teams are from previous years that are no longer competing this season.  There will also be some teams in each draft that cannot participate in their assigned league because of resource or scheduling issues. So from this and discussions I’ve had with other coaches it looks to me like most leagues will end up on the smaller side, with 10-13 teams.  The exact number doesn’t seem to be important — the end result (four teams advance) doesn’t seem closely connected to the outcome.

The base calculation

The standard in FTC is that advancement slots to a championship event are to be divided proportionally among the events feeding that championship event. So, if there are 100 team entries across events collectively competing for 20 advancement slots, each event should be allocated 20% of the slots. In such a scenario a 20-team event would advance 4 teams, a 30-team event would advance 6 teams, and so on.

For the FTC 2015-2016 Res-Q Season, our region ended up with around 144 entries across six events:

    Event   Teams  Advanced    Percent
    Killeen   20       5         25%
    Wylie E   30       7         23%
    Tyler     20       4         20%
    Emerald   11       4         33%
    Nolan     32       8         25%
    Summit    31       8         25%
    ----------------------------------
    Totals   144      36         25%

That 144 total is greater than the number of teams in the region because some teams chose to compete in more than one advancing event (e.g., two qualifiers). Still, it’s reasonable to expect that teams in the region will want at least as many opportunities to compete/advance in this season as were requested in last season.

So, with a base of 144 team entries in the region competing for 36 advancement slots to the championship, the standard proportional calculation would have each event advance 25% (36/144) of the teams competing in that event.

For a 12-team league, a 25% advancement percentage would indicate that three teams would advance from the league to the regional championship. However, Dr. Tiernan has said that league teams will have “greater opportunity” to advance than teams that compete only in qualifiers, which means that a 12-team league should receive four advancement slots. QED.

Adjusting for different league sizes

There’s an argument to be made that a larger 16-team league ought to receive more advancing slots as compared to a smaller 10-team or 12-team leagues.  But the 36 available advancement slots makes everything a bit of a zero-sum game: if a larger league is to have five advancement slots instead of four, then some other event must lose one to enable that to happen. In theory the needed slot could come from a league having only 10 or 11 teams, but an event with only 3 advancement slots is particularly unsatisfactory.  That result actually ends up being quite disadvantageous to teams that end up in smaller leagues; the percentage “looks” higher (~30%), but in reality the paths to advancement are quite narrow.  (I think most veteran teams would choose a 20-team event with 4 or 5 advancing over a 10-team event with 3 advancing slots, even though the 20-team event advances a smaller percentage of teams.)

The better answer is to guarantee each league at least four advancement slots, and balance any needed “extras” needed for larger leagues from the Qualifying Tournaments.

(The still better answer a larger regional championship with more advancement slots… but see item “A1″ above.)

Oh yeah — what about those Qualifying Tournaments?

Based the above assumptions and calculations, it appears to me that the region will likely need three or four Qualifying Tournaments, and each Qualifier will advance 4-6 teams.

Assuming a Regional Championship of 36 teams, and five qualifiers advancing four teams each, that leaves 16 advancement slots to be divided among any Qualifying Tournaments in the region. If the region has demand for 144 entries (as indicated by previous seasons), 60 of those are provided by the five leagues of 12-teams each.  This leaves 84 competition slots to be covered by Qualifying Tournaments. At least three tournaments will be needed for that, and four tournaments would be better to keep each to reasonable sizes (and maximize teams’ opportunities to participate).

Assuming each of the four qualifiers have roughly the same number of teams competing for the 16 advancement slots available to qualifiers, each qualifier would end up with 4 advancing teams. If there are only three qualifiers, each would have between 4 and 6 advancing teams.  QED.

Note that this also assumes that there are no “Qualifier Host Team” advancements (which are optional).  If a host advancement opportunity is offered by the Affiliate Partner, that would consume one of the qualifier’s advancement slots available to competing teams.

It’s important to recognize that 4-team advancements from a qualifier can be quite different from what happens in a league with 4 team advancements. Qualifying Tournaments — especially those late in the season — often have teams competing that have already advanced at a prior event. This can significantly increase the “depth” of the advancement chart. As an extreme example, at last year’s Summit Qualifier the calculations needed to advance eight teams went all the way down to position #21 on the advancement chart, encompassing all of the teams of the finalist alliances, all of the Think / Connect / Innovate / Design / Motivate award winners, and the Think Award 2nd place and Connect Award 2nd place teams.

Another difference is that a Qualifying Tournament with 21 or more teams will have three teams in each of its playoff alliances, which also affects the advancement calculations.

Do we really need 80+ Qualifying Tournament slots?

I think so. Last season the region had around 100 teams competing in FTC. This season the number is likely to be larger — from my ISD contacts I’m aware of at least 14 new teams starting this season. So 120 teams in the region seems like a reasonable (minimum) estimate. If 60 of the region’s teams are in league play, then the remaining 60 teams will need at least one slot at a qualifier event. Since there will be teams (both qualifier and league) that are likely to want more than one opportunity to advance, having 80+ slots available at Qualifying Tournaments seems like a reasonable expectation.

Another shortcut method of arriving at similar conclusions

As a quick-and-dirty shortcut to all of the above: It seems reasonable to expect that the region is likely to have approximately eight or nine League and/or Qualifying Tournaments this season. There may be fewer than five leagues, in which case there will likely be an additional qualifier, or there may be six or more leagues, in which case there could be fewer qualifiers. No matter how it’s sliced, it feels like eight or nine advancing events is the likely result for the region this season.  So if the Regional Championship remains with its 36-team limit, then each of those advancing events is going to end up with an average of four to five advancing teams.

FTC League Play with 3 advancing teams

Last updated: 2016.10.01

In another article I gave an analysis regarding League Tournaments having four advancing teams; this article looks at events having only three advancing teams,  It ends up looking very different to me.

An event with only three advancing teams can arise with from small events such as a 12-team league advancing its “top 25%”, or even the “top 30%” of a 10-team league.  In each of these cases the league is slated to receive only three advancement slots.  However, the “25%” and “30%” advancement figures mask what truly happens in a League Tournament where only three teams end up advancing.

The 3-team advancement outcome

As in my other article, this analysis is based on the official FTC advancement criteria as given in Section 4.8.2 of Game Manual Part I. It all ends up being fairly straightforward:

* The Inspire Award Winner, Inspire Award 2nd place, and Winning Alliance Captain all advance.

* The Winning Alliance 1st team selected advances only if the Winning Alliance Captain also receives Inspire 1st or Inspire 2nd. It happens, but it’s by no means certain.

* The Inspire 3rd team advances only if both of the Winning Alliance teams received Inspire 1st and Inspire 2nd. Count your lucky stars if this ends up being you.

* None of the other awards advance.

Yes, a 3-advancing team event means that a team can be on the Winning Alliance — even undefeated through all matches — and still not advance.

Impact on Alliance Selection

An event where only three teams advance can have a very definite impact on Alliance Selection.

If your team is in line to be an Alliance Captain (i.e., it is one of the top four ranked teams), and a higher-ranked team asks you to join their alliance, you may very well want to consider declining the invitation so you can become the captain of your own alliance.

If you accept the other team’s invitation and they don’t win Inspire 1st or Inspire 2nd, then you don’t advance even if your alliance ends up winning the tournament.

If you think by declining and forming your own alliance you may beat whatever alliances they and other higher-ranked teams come up with (remember, they all get to pick before you do), then being (Winning) Alliance Captain means you get to advance.

And if you’re not in line to be an Alliance Captain when Alliance Selection rolls around, then your only path to advancement is to win the Inspire Award or Inspire 2nd place yourself, or lobby to end up on the Winning Alliance with an Alliance Captain that does win one of those awards.

The bottom line

Advancement opportunities are extremely limited in an event advancing only three teams.  At first glance advancing 3 teams from a 10-team event may seem better “percentage-wise” (30%), but a 20-team event advancing 5 teams (25%) or even just 4 teams (20%) has many many more opportunities for advancement.

2016-2017 League Play FAQ

Author: Patrick R. Michaud, pmichaud@pobox.com
Last updated: 2016.10.13

Overview of this document

This page attempts to document what is known (and not known) about League Play in the North Texas FTC Region for the 2016-2017 season.  This page is not an official document; the statements below are simply citations and analysis I’ve obtained from various sources.

Draft league assignments went out to many coaches on September 30.  Coaches in each draft league are to coordinate with each other and Dr. Tiernan at UT-Arlington to determine locations and dates for holding at least three league meets and a League Tournament.

I’m currently aware of five leagues being worked on in North Texas:  Amethyst, Emerald, Garnet, Sapphire, and Topaz.  If you know of other draft leagues, please let me know so I can add them to my list.

The main source of information regarding league play comes from the 2016-2017 FTC League Meet Guide (LMG), available from http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/ftc/volunteer-resources .

On October 12th we held a League Play Webinar and the slides from that webinar are available.

Patrick Michaud (Pm) is the primary maintainer for this page.  If you have further questions, suggestions, additions, corrections, or alterations for this page, please send them to pmichaud@pobox.com or post them to the NorthTexasFTC Google Group. (more…)

FIRST in Texas grants – Oct 15 deadline

From the October 2015 issue of the FIRST in Texas Newsletter:

Just Two Weeks to Apply

The final deadline is almost here! Submit your completed applications by October 15 at 5pm CST.

What is a completed application? Make sure you:

  • Submit our Team Grant Application
  • Upload Photo Release forms for each team member
  • Upload an Eligibility Form for Texas high school teams

Mark your calendars and ask your questions now! For other details on the grant process, like a timeline on notifications and awards, visit our Grant Calendar.

FTC hardware, tools, and tips

[last updated: 2015-11-03]

This page contains recommendations on tools and hardware components to consider when building a FTC robot.  To simplify ordering, items are organized by vendor/source, with explanations and other tips in the notes at the bottom.

Suggestions for improving this page are greatly welcomed.

AndyMark

McMaster-Carr

ServoCity.com / Actobotics

Powerwerx.com

TETRIX Robotics

Modern Robotics

Amazon.com

Monoprice.com

Commonly available hardware and materials

(Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon.com, etc.)

BDCS40G

Popular Vendors

Notes

1. Many teams highly recommend the AndyMark NeveRest motors over the TETRIX motors.  They cost about the same ($25), but the NeveRest motors have an integrated encoder ($5 cable versus the $80 TETRIX encoder kit and $3 motor power cable) and do not burn out as quickly if stalled (2.9 minutes versus 7 seconds).  Motor stall burnouts can be a common problem with the TETRIX motors, especially for new teams.

2. For each motor you plan to add to a robot, don’t forget all of the other components you’re likely to need that go along with it.  In general, just plan that every motor added to the robot will require a motor ($25), motor mount ($16), motor hub (2 for $6), encoder cable ($5), and a port on a motor controller (2 ports for $80).  Also, it’s a good idea to plan spare capacity if you can: some parts go out of stock during a season, and rush shipping can get expensive when the team decides it really needs another motorized attachment on the robot in the week before a competition.

2a. The TETRIX W39376 motor mount is the same price as the W39089 mount that comes in the standard TETRIX kits, but is much more versatile and easier to use.

3. In some seasons it’s feasible to do without the official game elements, for the 2015-2016 Res-Q game it would seem that ordering at least a half-field set is required to adequately test and plan a robot.

4. The surface on which the robot travels can be a significant factor in navigation, especially during autonomous mode.  We recommend obtaining the official gray SoftTiles flooring that is used in competition.  Some teams elect to use foam tiles available from local hardware stores, but these are often subtly different (usually thinner) than the SoftTile flooring, can cause the robot to drive differently, and aren’t substantially less expensive than the official SoftTiles.  Also, gray SoftTiles can be ordered directly from the manufacturer for less than the AndyMark set; a full field requires 36 tiles, but some teams order a few spare tiles in case some tiles get damaged with use.

5. The official field perimeter walls are really expensive ($659 + shipping), so teams looking to save some money can potentially do without these.  The FTC Team Resources page has instruction for building lower-cost versions of the border walls.

6. The “KEP nuts” that come with the TETRIX kits are okay for getting started and for quickly attaching components together when prototyping, but they often come loose in competition. Nylon insert lock nuts (“nyloc”) are a good investment, and cost approximately $5 per box of 100.  A typical robot build should have 200 to 300 nuts available for building.

7. Hex power bits and hex insert bits fit powered screwdrivers and other bit screwdrivers, which can greatly speed assembly/disassembly of components.

img_20150930_125253-003 7a. Use colored tape, paint pens, or nail polish in the center of hex keys to make it easy to quickly identify their size.  Many teams adopt the color convention used in the FTC Robotics book:  red = 7/64″ (socket cap screws), green = 3/32″ (hub set screws), blue = 5/64″ (button cap screws and newer collars).  The mnemonic phrase is “Red socks, green hubs, blue buttons”.

8. The battery power connectors that come with the Tetrix batteries eventually wear out with usage (connecting/disconnecting), causing power resets or outages during matches.  FTC recommends replacing these connectors with Anderson Powerpole connectors.  Powerpoles are available in 15-amp, 30-amp, and 45-amp ratings; the connectors are the physically same (and interchangeable), the difference is in the size of the contact barrel that holds the wire.  TETRIX batteries and module power cables typically have 14 gauge wire that require the 30-amp contacts, battery chargers and motor cables usually have smaller wires that use the 15-amp contacts.

9. The TRIcrimp tool works really well for crimping Anderson Powerpole contacts, but it’s also possible to get other crimp tools to work.  If you don’t want to invest in the TRIcrimp tool to do your own connections, there are several teams in the region that will be glad to help you with Powerpole connections.  Just ask on the NorthTexasFTC forum.

10. You just know that one battery pack isn’t going to last a full day at competition.  Some teams swap batteries after every match, others after every 2 or 3 matches, going more than that can be risky.  And if your team is on an alliance in elimination matches, you definitely want fresh batteries for that.

11.  It’s a good idea to have a fully-charged backup phone available too (with the team’s robot controller app installed), in case a phone is damaged or runs out of battery just before or during a competition.  The spare phone could be used as either a robot controller or driver station phone.  In a pinch, it’s also likely you could borrow a driver station phone from another team, since all driver station setups are essentially the same (the main difference is which robot controller phone they are paired with).

[wpanchor id=’otg’} 12. The OTG cables that Modern Robotics supplies (to go between the robot controller phone and the Core Power Distribution Module) have proven to be very unreliable.  After just a few insertions and removals the pins no longer made a solid connection, leading to dropouts and disconnections during game play.  FTC recommends replacing these cables with higher quality USB cables, such as the ones listed above from Amazon.com and Monoprice.com.

New sensors from Modern Robotics

In the past week Modern Robotics has announced two new sensors to its lineup, a color sensor and an integrating gyro.

The color sensor claims to support a passive mode, which allows it to detect color from an external light source (such as the LEDs of the Res-Q game beacons).  It also supports an active mode, where the sensor has its own light emitter to detect the color of a reflected target (similar to how the LEGO Mindstorms and HiTechnic color sensors work).  The color sensor is available now, but as of Sep 21, 2015 the FTC Robot Controller App doesn’t have libraries to support the sensor.

 

The gyro sensor is a 3-axis gyro that does onboard integration of the z-axis, thus it can be used to calculate heading with greater accuracy than if the calculation is performed on an Android or PC host.  The gyro is slated to be available for sale by mid October 2015.