Mar 18, 2008

NXT in FLL... now also in FTC!

The news is out - the NXT will be part of a new robot platform/product to be used in the FIRST Technical Challenge (FTC). Previously using the VEX platform, recent changes have been made that will allow teams to use the NXT Brick plus some very special hardware being developed just for the kit - read about it here.

7 comments:

Dave Parker said...

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Based on the comments in the linked blog, many existing FTC teams are understandably pretty upset with the changes, given that they have already spend money on Vex. Perhaps both kits will be allowed for a while as in FLL with RCX and NXT.

I bought a Vex at Radio Shack's fire sale and have built with it, and although I think it is an appropriate platform for High School level builders and programmers, I also think that it is not that far beyond NXT, and in several ways not as good as NXT.

I think that perhaps FIRST has overestimated the need to have big and strong robots that are capable of making large physical changes to the playing area (that's what FRC is for). You could have a perfectly great high school level competition at the FTC level with lightweight competition pieces that full LEGO/NXT bots were perfectly capable of handling...

If I were FIRST and felt forced to change away from Vex, I would have been thinking seriously about turning FTC into a program based on an expanded version of the NXT system, taken up several levels from FLL, such as:

1. Higher limits on motors and sensors allowed, including multiplexors and some 3rd party sensors, up to specified limits.
2. RobotC or similar
3. All parts must be LEGO, but only certain types of parts allowed (more restrictive than FLL), but any amounts up to specified overall bot size and weight limits.
4. Head to head competition (shared competition pieces, bocking and tackling allowed, etc.)
5. Wireless remote control after a significant and doable autonomous postion.

Then there would also be the added benefit of a continuity story for individuals and clubs that have invested in NXT as their members outgrow FLL. And FIRST already has an excellent relationship with LEGO and Pitsco (LegoEducation).

Matthias Paul Scholz said...

Maybe someone could drop some general notes on the relation between NXT and "The new platform" for FTC?
I'm unfamiliar with FTC and I do not think that I fully understand the FTC blog's entries on that topic.
Most of the information there sounds like a description of the NXT kit, but there are metal gears also - is the NXT a sub set of "the new platform"?

Jim Kelly said...

As I understand it, the Brick is the brains for the FTC robot - the rest of the robot can use Technic, I guess, but they're looking at developing completely different parts/sensors/components for use with the Brick.

I can certainly understand teams being upset who have a large investment in VEX stuff - but I'm betting (hoping) that FTC is going to release something that tells teams that VEX will still be allowed in competition... it just makes sense financially.

Ethan Steckmann said...

WOW this is sweet I have wanted to start a VEX team for some time now, but couldn't because of financial reasons, but if this is just the NXT then my FLL team already has 4 for those!!!!!!!!!!

I feel sorry for any teams that bought VEX kits as I know how expensive they are.

Also this sounds like NXT version 2 to me!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave Parker said...

It sounds like the structural parts will be all metal, not Technic/LEGO. Vex was lightweight metal with plastic gears, assembled with screws and nuts (see http://www.vexlabs.com/vex-robotics-standard-parts.shtml, and a few pictures of typical Vex bots at http://www.firstwa.org/FTC/default.htm), the gears being a weak point for many teams apparently. The new system is said to be all alluminum beams (likely hole-compatible with the old Vex metal parts) and 1/4" thick (!) aluminum gears.

The brain is said to be based on and packaged like the NXT, but it sounds like maybe it has more memory and other changes. Bottom line is that probably almost none of your standard NXT parts would be usable...

Eric D. Burdo said...

I've been looking around online, and haven't found anything else about the new brain.

If it is an enhanced NXT brick, then there is a good possibility that 3rd party adapters will be made so you can use LEGO parts with the new brain.

I'll post if I find anything more useful.

Eric D. Burdo said...

Ok. Found a bit more... read through this (lots of speculation though):

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?p=714088

Supposedly, it's a NXT brain with 10x more memory, and about 40% faster than the VEX processor. Estimated kit price is $1000.

Now, if it does have more memory, that means it *should* run the .NET Micro Framework... which is something I'd like to see.

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