Volunteers wanted for North Texas FTC Regional Championship

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 .

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.


North Texas FTC Regional Championship

February 25 @ 8:00am - 5:00pm, Ford Middle School

The Regional FTC Championship for North Texas will be held on February 25, 2017 at W E Pete Ford Middle School (630 Park Place Dr., 75002) in Allen, TX. Forty-eight teams will be competing for awards and a chance to attend the FTC South Super Regional Championship on March 23-25 in Athens, Georgia.

Event format: This year’s regional championship will be a dual-division event.  All teams will compete for the same set of event-wide judged awards.  The robot game will be organized into two divisions of 24 teams each.  Each division will separately play five rounds of qualification matches, then go through alliance selection and elimination rounds to produce a Winning Alliance for each division.  The two division Winning Alliances will then play against each other to determine the Championship Winning Alliance and Championship Finalist Alliance.

Promote / Compass Awards: If your team is wanting to submit a Promote and/or Compass Award video for competition, please upload the videos to YouTube or some other public video service and forward the URL link to the video(s) to <seec@utdallas.edu> with a subject line of “Promote Award Video for team ###” and/or “Compass Award Video for team ###”.   Be sure the judges will have permissions to view the video.  If you’re unable or do not wish to use a public service to upload your videos, contact Patrick directly at <patrick.michaud@utdallas.edu> and we’ll make arrangements.

Team registration:  Teams that have registered for the Regional Championship:

127 Fighting Pickles, Mansfield
3899 Terror Bytes, Pittsburg
4705 Adamas Robotics, Fort Worth
4707 R2-DCrew, Woodway
4745 Thorn’s Army, Bedford
5443 Synergy, Fort Worth
5970 Ambassadors, Fort Worth
6566 Circuit Breakers, Aledo
6832 Iron Reign, Dallas
7172 Technical Difficulties, Plano
8114 EFFoRT, Lewisville
8130 Vikings, Arlington
8204 Wylie East Robotics, Wylie
8242 Steerminatorz, Fort Worth
8406 Filthy Horde, Hughes Springs
8418 The League of Legendary Scientists, Plano
8514 Circuit Breakers, Dallas
8565 TechnicBots, Plano
8626 The Prototypes, Dallas
8811 RoboBison Amistad, Dallas
9010 Robotic Rangers, Carrollton
9038 Mission Control, Plano
9054 Viridian, Addison
9161 Overload, Aledo
9167 Robosapiens, Dallas
9256 RoboBison Esfuerzo, Dallas
9386 Elmer & Elsie Robotics, Frisco
9403 Hive of Steel, Stephenville
10044 Mecha men, Richardson
10143 Gear Force, Fort Worth
10577 ThunderChicks, Dallas
10579 Lazy 8, Dallas
10985 Cosmo, Fort Worth
10992 Arsenal, Fort Worth
11085 Mad Hackers, Mansfield
11097 Cyber Surge, Dallas
11185 Robotic Revolution, Plano
11366 The Smarty Party, Plano
11419 Jasper Jaguars Robotics, Plano
11745 Robocats I, Dallas
11761 Robocats II, Dallas
11793 Tricerabots, Allen
12048 BoSCo SRRT Alpha, Waco
12167 FABOO/minies, Carrollton

Volunteer! We’re also looking for volunteers for the event… please consider volunteering!

Notes for teams

This is a Championship Event, which means that teams are expected to be prepared and perform at a higher level than at a League or Qualifying event.  Teams should arrive at the event with their robots completely ready for inspection, having already completed the Robot Self-Inspection Checklist .  Matches may also run at a somewhat quicker pace than at earlier tournaments.


FTC Scrimmage at Hedrick Middle School

2016-11-19 @ 8:00am - 5:00pm

Please register for this event:  https://goo.gl/forms/8mkHV7HlMBk7AIGb2

Hello FIRST Tech Challenge teams!

FTC teams 11563 “Hedrick Garage” and 7172 “Technical Difficulties” are pleased to announce a robot workshop and scrimmage for this Saturday, November 19, at Hedrick Middle School in Lewisville. The purpose of the workshop/scrimmage is to allow teams to share ideas and help prepare for upcoming competitions. The tentative schedule for the day is:

10:00 Doors open, robot building, testing, and workshop
12:00 Lunch (teams may need to bring their own lunches)
1:00 Scrimmage matches (and more building)
4:00 Load-out

Even if you don’t have a working or complete robot, we encourage you to attend the event. There will be veteran team members and experts available to help you with your robot and share ideas and suggestions! And yes, we will have scrimmage matches so that people (teams, referees, officials) can become more familiar with the game dynamics, but our main focus for the day is having a fun day with robots and helping everyone get prepared for competitions.

The scrimmage is free of charge, but we ask that you pre-register for the event so we know how many to expect and can send further scrimmage details.  If you are bringing multiple teams, please register once for each team.  Please register if you are coming, even if you don’t have a robot or don’t intend to participate in scrimmage matches.

For more information, contact Patrick Michaud (pmichaud@pobox.com).  We hope to see you on Saturday!

FTC 11563 and FTC 7172

FLL 2016 Scrimmage at Cross Timbers Middle School

2016-11-12 @ 8:00am - 1:00pm, Cross Timbers Middle School

The collective FLL Robotics Teams of Grapevine-Colleyville ISD are hosting a Scrimmage on November 12th from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can begin reserving spots on October 22th at 9:00 a.m. by clicking on the SignUp Genius link found below. There will be slots open to 20 FLL Teams outside of the GCISD District teams and a total of 26-28 teams competing.

This will be a Robot Games only Scrimmage- there will be no judging sessions for Project, Core Values, etc..

To register for 2nd Annual GCISD Sponsored Scrimmage at Cross Timbers Middle School:


Registration opens Sat. 10/22 @ 9 a.m. and closes Mon. 10/24 @ 5 p.m. or when all 20 available slots are filled (which ever comes first).

Anyone, including teams and coaches who do not want to compete but want to see how competitions work and what other teams are doing, are welcome to attend, if you would like to attend in this non-competitive capacity, please contact us directly for planning purposes.

Additionally, if you have any other questions or concerns, or want to come and observe but not compete, please contact our Scrimmage Site Coordinator:

Nate Dunn

FTC Coaches Webinar – League Play for Coaches and Organizers

2016-10-12 @ 7:30pm - 9:00pm

Presentation slides (PDF)

This is a webinar (online conferencing) session intended for coaches who will be involved with FTC League Play in North Texas.  In the webinar we will work through the details of organizing and implementing a League, including the resources and planning needed for League Meets and a League Tournament.  The primary audience for this webinar is coaches, mentors, and others who are working on organizing a league, although other coaches and team members are welcome to participate.

Further questions about the webinar can be sent to Patrick Michaud at pmichaud@pobox.com .



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.