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.
- NeveRest motors (am-2964, am-3102, am-3103, $25-$28) [note 1, note 2]
- NeveRest encoder cable (am-2992, $5) [note 1]
- Res-Q field set: Full Field ($450) or Half Field ($235) [note 3]
- SoftTiles for FTC field (am-2499-36, $230, also available directly from SoftTiles.com) [note 4]
- FIeld perimeter [note 5]
- Nylon-insert lock nuts (“Nyloc”), #6-32, (thin) [note 6] ($4.63 /100 pack)
- Ball-end hex drivers, 5/64″, 3/32″, and 7/64″
- Ball-point hex power bit, 7/64″ [note 7]
- Socket Head Cap Screw, #6-32 thread zinc-plated alloy steel ($8.41 / 50 pack depending on length)
- #10-32 set screw, 5/16″ length
- Socket Head Cap Screw, #6-32 thread zinc-plated alloy steel ($2.00 / 25 pack depending on length)
- Nylon-insert lock nuts (“Nyloc”) #6-32 ($1.59 / 25 pack)
- Anderson Powerpole connectors (15 amp, 30 amp) [note 8]
- TRIcrimp crimping tool for Anderson Powerpole contacts [note 9]
- DC motor mount [note 2, note 2a]
- Motor shaft hubs [note 2]
- Rack and pinion linear slide pack
- Axle set collars
- 12v NiMH battery pack [note 10]
- NiMH battery pack charger
- Cable Matters Micro-USB 2.0 On-The Go (OTG) Adapter, 2-pack [note 12]
- Stanley 014725 25-Removable Compartment Organizer
- ZTE Speed phone (also available from area Best Buy locations) [note 11]
Commonly available hardware and materials
(Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon.com, etc.)
- 5/16″ combination wrench (Home Depot)
- Nylon zip ties
- Wire cutters / wire strippers
- Mini pocket screwdriver (Home Depot)
- Gyroscopic screwdriver (BDCS40G, DCF682N1)
- AndyMark – FTC fields, motors, wheels
- Modern Robotics – controllers, sensors, Matrix parts
- Tetrix Robotics – TETRIX parts, linear slides
- ServoCity – servos, wheels, Actobotics, linear slides
- McMaster Carr – general-purpose hardware and tools
- Powerwerx.com – power distribution hubs, connectors, and accessories
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.
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.
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.