Getting Started in FTC

Welcome to FIRST Tech Challenge! As a new team, you may be slightly overwhelmed and disoriented, wondering where to start. No fear! This guide is meant to help navigate you through your beginning year in FTC.

After registration and going through the STIMS process in the FIRST website, you’ll likely have to purchase a starter kit (which we highly recommend for new teams) and electronics kit in order to build your robot. The electronics kit is standard for all teams, but please read our kit guide to find out which kit is right for your team.

The physical components of a robot are split into the hardware and electronics section. On the hardware side, you have your drivetrain, linear extension mechanisms, a claw or intake to pick up game elements, as well as any other mechanisms specific to the game. On the electronics side, there are the two REV Expansion Hubs (or one Control Hub and one Expansion Hub), the Android phone(s), and controllers.

The kit guide provides information on selecting the right kit for your team. Along with this, we have included a list of tools that may be necessary or beneficial for your team to purchase. The building guides for drivetrain, linear extension, and intake go over the different routes teams can take, as well as providing advice on which to choose. However, our personal experience is that trial and error through designing your own robot is the best teacher. We want your team to have the full learning experience, so we don’t provide specific instructions for building mechanisms. Instead we have provided general and specific recommendations and best practices to follow.

Here’s an overview of how FTC works. Each season, Game Manual Part 1 will be updated sometime in the summer. Game Manual Part 1 contains the general rules of FTC, competition and advancement, as well as hardware and software restrictions. Game Manual Part 2 is released on kickoff day. It provides the game rules about the specific game that your team will be participating in this year, such as how to score points, what autonomous should do, penalties, etc. Every year, teams are required to build a robot following restrictions in Game Manual Part 1 and document what they have done in an Engineering Notebook. The Engineering Notebook describes your team’s journey through the engineering design process in an organized and cohesive way.

Each team will have at least one chance to compete, either at Qualifier Events or League Meets. At Qualifier tournaments, every team will play 5 to 6 matches. The top 4 teams are captains and form four alliances of three teams each. As for League Meets, the meet process varies greatly among regions, but generally teams will compete at low-stress League Meets, and have a culminating League Championship. More information on the selection process is in Game Manual Part 1. The top teams in both events will advance to the next level, generally the State or Regional Championship.

Game Manual Part 2 is published when the season officially starts, and provides game specific rules that change from year to year. While we cannot provide any help for Game Manual Part 2, here are some rules in Game Manual Part 1 for teams to be aware of, as many new teams run into problems during their tournament because of it.

  • All teams MUST bring the Consent and Release forms to every competition. Teams will not be allowed to compete if the forms are not signed.

  • The maximum starting size up the robot is an 18 inch cube. Technically, the robot may not touch the sizing cube, which usually is not a perfect cube. The robot may expand after the match starts. This sizing limit has been in place since the start of FTC.

  • Sharp corners, liquids, and certain wheels are not permitted. Be sure to file down all sharp edges for your safety (sticking your hand into the robot can result in a gash otherwise) and so that your robot won’t damage the field or other robots. We advise you to use the wheels that are listed in this guide only, since you risk unknowingly using illegal wheels otherwise.

  • Any wheels that the inspectors think will damage the field tiles are not legal. This includes any wheels with ridges or bumps, such as RC wheels, as they can dig into the floor tiles and rip them up.

  • If the inspectors are uncertain about the legality of your wheels, they will have you do the Wheel/Tread Playing Field Damage Test, where the robot is run into an immovable surface (wall) for up to 60 seconds to see if there is any damage to the field tiles.

  • Hydraulic and pneumatic devices are prohibited. Sorry, only the FRC kids get nice toys.

  • Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) parts are allowed as long as they only have one degree of freedom.

  • One degree of freedom generally means that the mechanism can only move along one axis. Typically, one DoF = one joint. Multiple joints allow movement in 2 or more planes.

  • Each team must have a robot power button next to the robot power switch.

  • Each team must have a secure battery and phone mount.

  • The recommended batteries are the REV slim battery and Modern Robotics Battery (sold on goBILDA). The Tetrix battery is fine, however, Tamiya connectors are fragile and unreliable.

  • Only 8 DC motors and 12 servos are allowed. The VEX 393 EDR counts as a servo.

  • Modifying servos and replacing fuses are not allowed.