Apr 22, 2008

Details of FTC Kit


Special thanks to Dave Parker for taking some great closeup photos of the new FTC kit (I'm a very poor photographer - just not my thing) that I'm including here. My one photo of the kit was too blurry for use. Be sure to read Dave Parker's post (right below this one) for more details about the kit and the competition design.

Anyway, as you can see, you get about 100+ aluminum parts (I believe the name they are giving to these components is Tetrix, but don't hold me to that). In addition, you get the NXT Education Base Set, 3 software packages (NXT-G, RobotC, and NI LabView), 2 Li-Ion battery packs, 8 wheels (2 different sizes), numerous gears (some about 1/4" thick), remote control, 8 motors (2 distinct types), 5 NXT sensors, special connectors for connecting Technic to Aluminum (see photo), and 2 special devices from HiTechnic that connect the electronics to the Brick.

The price that I was given is $900 and I was told orders would be taken starting in May and deliveries of kits in September.

Regarding use of VEX kits - there were LOTS of conversation in the pit area and the LEGO Ed booth, but I was not able to get an official answer from LEGO or FIRST on this issue; I heard from other sources, but I would prefer to get an official answer on that issue and will try and do so this week.

The Tetrix pieces are very strong - and the variety is awesome. They've developed a really nice little hole pattern that gives a LOT of flexibility for connecting Tetrix AND Technic pieces as many angles. They have a special name for the little piece that allows connection between the two but I cannot seem to recall it (another item for my To Do list). This piece is required because, as I understand it, the law of the land is "LEGO pieces shalt not touch its unpure metal brethren" (Yes, that's the exact words of the loud voice I heard booming in the LEGO booth - jk).

Speed? Well, Steve Hassenplug has a video that I hope he'll be sharing soon but if not I've got the low-quality video that I'll see about posting that shows some of its maneuverability and speed. It'll go.

I have to say, it's very cool to see an NXT Brick sitting on top of a medium sized metal robot - and the various robot designs I saw (about 10 or so) were all different and demonstrated that designers aren't going to get stuck with a limited range of chassis forms.

Finally, I did see a small picture of the version of the kit that will be available to the general public - it doesn't come with the NXT Ed Base Set and it has fewer Tetrix parts, but the price is also lower, I believe. Software is also not included now that I think about it. (It truly was information overload and this blogger will try and get better about taking notes in a notebook in the future - but it really does feel like being a kid in a candy store and attention spans go to zero with all the displays and conversations going on.)

Some of my questions which I don't have answered yet but will try and get some:

1. Will the HiTechnic Prototype Board be allowed so students can create their own sensors? (Probably not, but it would bridge the gap between FLL and FRC, you think?)

2. Will VEX be phased out slowly or discontinued in FTC altogether?

3. What types of expansion packs will be available and costs? (I am 95% certain I saw and heard about an expansion pack but let me confirm.)

Got more questions? Post them as comments here and I'll see about finding some answers this week.

Jim

21 comments:

David Levy said...

Thanks Jim/Dave This is the most useful rundown I've seen so far.
-dl

L Giskard V0.1 said...

Yeah, FTC's Blog doesn't even have as much up - Thanks!
So is this a new, improved NXT brick or the same one? Initial reports were that this was a "souped-up", "hyper" brick, but reading over they could have just meant there was more memory than and option than Vex...
Either way - I want one!!

Jim Kelly said...

L,

Good question! I'll add it to the list - I'm going to take all the questions submitted by tomorrow noon EST (April 23) and email them to someone I think will be able (and willing) to provide the answers.

Jim

Chris Anderson said...

Are those Li-Ion batteries or NiCad (or NiMh)? The ones I saw in Atlanta looked like NiCads...

Jim Kelly said...

Chris,

Thanks for Question #5 - you may be correct. I'll find out.

BTW, seeing the UAV in person was awesome. I know a lot of kids and adults were suitably impressed.

Jonathan Daudelin said...

I'm almost certain it's just a regular brick... I think I heard that from the HiTechnic people, and the FTC kit simply includes the Edu Base Kit, which is the regular NXT.

-Jonathan

Anonymous said...

What's the annual cost after the $900 investment?

Here in Statesboro GA, we only were able to start three first-year FLL teams by loaning them kits.
In other words $250 was a show-stopper.

Of course, there are fewer high schools than middle schools but $900 is still a lot.

Jim Kelly said...

Not sure what you mean by annual cost? I don't think there's any additional costs in terms of hardware or software - there's always the team-based costs such as travel expenses, food, PC/laptop, etc, but the $900 is supposed to provide everything a team needs to compete in the FTC competition. The beta-test teams at World Fest this year did a fairly nice job with just the one kit!

Regarding your other comments - Yes, I'm always stunned (but not shocked, really) when I hear about teams not being able to participate due to funding. It's a real issue and I know a lot of teams face this obstacle... I know grants exist, but they're not always easy to find or easy to apply for... and they're limited in number, too.

Anonymous said...

In FLL, you pay $250 once then pay $65 per year for the mat and parts.

Is there an equivalent setup charge per year for FTC?

Jim Kelly said...

I understand... very good - you just gave me question #6. Thank you!

Kirk Backstrom said...

Jim,

Thanks for the write up.

One question: Can the kit be sold for non FTC related activities? And what is that price?
(Well 2 questions)

I can see universities using the kit as a potential robotics platform for research and high schools using it in non-FTC competitions.

Kirk

Dave Parker said...

I have posted a hi-res version of the picture of the new FTC kit here

For budgeting purposes, I would plan on needing to buy more than just the base kit. The picture of the kit may look like a lot of parts when its all spread out, but if you look more closely at the simple sample bots from my pictures post (blog post before this one), you will notice that thay are using almost all of the metal parts to get just a basic chassis with a simple arm. Not counting the LEGOs, the number of parts in this kit seems similar to the Vex kit, which was also barely sufficient to build a basic chassis with a very simple arm or something on it. I believe that a standard suggested configuration for a Vex FTC team was something like 3 Vex kits. For this new kit, you don't need 3x the motors and controllers and other expensive stuff, but I expect everyone will want more metal parts. Hopefully those won't be too expensive to add.

Steve said...

Dave,

I think there was plenty of metal in the kit. In fact, out of parts left over, I was able to build a dolly to roll my robot around.

I think there was enough metal to build a second robot.

Others may feel different, but I think it was fine.

Steve (FTC pilot team #10)

L Giskard V0.1 said...

The Hi-Technic Mux Ctlr doesn't appear to be in the picture - Is it there or was it not present for the photo?

Jim Kelly said...

The HiTechnic controller is actually 2 boxes - they're the small black squares in the upper right corner of the picture.

L Giskard V0.1 said...

Thanks Jim. Is there more information about them? Do you know if Hi-Technic is planning to sell those from their website?
What are those boxes that look like they have battery springs on the facing side - Near center to left?

Jim Kelly said...

Not sure which boxes with battery springs you're referring to - a single item or multiples? The image is grainy, so I may just not be seeing it.

I'll ask about the HiTechnic stuff today, too.

Steve said...

HiTechnic boxes:

I *think* there will be a couple different HiTechnic parts included in the kit.
A) Servo controller - drive up to 6 servos
B) Motor Controller - drive up to 2 hi-power motors
C) Touch sensor multiplexer - connect 4 touch sensors to 1 port.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

I thought I heard an announcemnt that FIRST was going to offer $450 scholarships for existing FTC teams that switch over to the new platform, and even to some needy rookie teams. Did you hear anything about this?

Vickey

Jim Kelly said...

Yes, it's true. I don't know all the details or if there's a limit on the number of discounts available, but over at Ken Johnson's blog post for April 18, he mentions this rebate.

http://firsttechchallenge.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Hi, Can you let us know how you order a FTC pack?

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