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Preparing for your First FIRST® Competition. Oct 6 th , 2011. Welcome. Purpose: This presentation is intended to inform teams as to what they may expect when attending their first event in terms of the inspection process and getting ready to compete. Things we will cover:

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Presentation Transcript
  • Purpose:

This presentation is intended to inform teams as to what they may expect when attending their first event in terms of the inspection process and getting ready to compete.

  • Things we will cover:
    • General things to know which will help you start your season.
    • Things to know and do before your first event.
    • Hardware and software inspection process overview.
    • Tips and tricks (best practices).
  • This presentation is meant more for rookie teams, but contains information to benefit veteran teams as well.
  • Presentation material available at the FIRST website.
  • Please ask questions as you have them.
getting started
Getting Started

Step 1: Read the game manual.

Step 2: Read everything else.

Step 3: Read the game manual again.

Knowing and understanding the rules and constraints of the game are keys to a successful season. This information will help teams design and implement their robot, pick a good game strategy, and help them compete trouble free.

Knowing event deadlines, registration process, where to find information, where to get help, etc. will help make the season run more smoothly.

software basics
Software Basics
  • Two different programming platforms available for use with the FTC kit:
    • ROBOTC – Classical C programming (small additional cost).
    • LabVIEW – Drag and drop programming (included in the kit).
  • Two different programming environments and experiences, but same results.
  • Each have a unique firmware that must be uploaded to the NXT (included with programming environment, but watch for updates.)
  • Each has a specific programming template which teams MUST start with and add their custom code to (comes with the programming environment.)
  • Each provides facilities for manipulating files (upload/download/delete) on the NXT, controlling the robot (like in a match) and installing the NXT firmware.
  • Make sure you use this seasons software (programming environment, firmware, and templates.) Robots using older version will not be accepted at the competition.
preparing your nxt
Preparing Your NXT

Things to do right away:

  • Upgrade your NXT to the latest firmware (LabVIEW or ROBOTC.)
  • Name your NXT with your teams 4 digit team number (i.e. 0123.) If a team has more than one NXT, append a letter (i.e. 0123A). Naming the NXT is done through a utility in the LabVIEW/ROBOTC programming environment.

Things that can wait until competition:

  • Set the NXT Sleep timer to 30 minutes (or more) so it does not fall asleep on the job (during a match). This is done directly on your NXT.
  • Optional: Recommend turning off the NXT Bluetooth capability at the competition. This is done from your NXT.

Software inspection checks for these items.

  • WI-FI based control system which augments (almost replaces) NXT Bluetooth connectivity.
  • More reliable and responsive than the NXT Bluetooth solution PROVIDED you follow wiring recommendations.
  • ROBOTC supports programming development over Samantha (WI-FI), but LabVIEW (currently) does not.
usb bt connectivity
USB / BT Connectivity
  • USB direct connect (programming and control)
  • Bluetooth (programming and control)





fcs competition connectivity
FCS Competition Connectivity

FCS <--> Router <--> Samantha <--> NXT









things to know about the samantha module
Things to know about the Samantha Module
  • There is a button on the Samantha module that you must press at certain times. Make sure you can get to it.
  • There is a USB connector (Female-A) on the Samantha module which you must access during software inspection.
  • You may wish to direct connect your NXT to your laptop for programming during a competition. You must unplug Samantha from the NXT to do this and reconnect it before your next match.
  • Samantha has 3 LED lights that give lots of information. Make sure they are easily viewed.

Conclusion: Protect, but DON’T BURY your Samantha module inside your


more things about samantha
More things about Samantha
  • You can use Samantha right out of the box, but you will need to make some changes to your home network router.


  • You can use Samantha with your existing home network (as is), but you will need to make some Samantha reconfiguration.
  • If you modify the Samantha configuration for your home network, you will need to change it back in order to use it in the pit area at an event.
  • You can do all your development without ever using Samantha, HOWEVER, you MUST use Samantha at your competitions.
  • Recommend testing your Samantha well in advance of your first event to insure that it works!!!!
2011 field control system fcs
2011 Field Control System (FCS)
  • Most FTC events will have a at least one practice field and one competition field.
  • The practice field will have an open WI-FI network (FTC_PIT) that teams can connect their laptop and robot to while in the pit area. Users may use this network to program, control, and practice with their robot while in the Pit area.
  • The competition field will have a secure WI-FI network (FTC_FIELD) that only your robot will be able to connect up to. There is no need for a team to bring their laptop to the competition field.
  • The setup of team or personal WI-FI networks is prohibited at FTC competitions.
alternate nxt connectivity
Alternate NXT Connectivity

Bluetooth Connectivity


  • Already built into your NXT.
  • Allows for modification and testing of code (ROBOTC and LabVIEW).


  • You need a Bluetooth enabled laptop (or an Blue
  • Can be finicky (i.e. problems establishing or dropping connections).
  • It is highly recommended to turn off Bluetooth on the NXT during a match.

USB (wired) Connectivity


  • Already built into your NXT.
  • Allows for modification and testing of code (ROBOTC and LabVIEW.)
  • Very reliable.
  • Don’t have to turn anything on or off (like Bluetooth.)


  • You have to disconnect/reconnect Samantha module.
  • You have to drag a cable if driving your robot.
control system best practices
Control System Best Practices
  • Insure that all power wire connections on the robot motor/servo controllers are good and tight. This will prevent power interruptions to the Samantha module.
  • Consider using the alternate Robot Power Management wiring method.
  • Follow the Electro-Static Discharge Robot Protection recommendations (video available too.)
at the contest
At the Contest

LOTS TO DO!!! – Typical schedule

  • Arrival and Check in (~ 7:30 AM)
  • Setup your Pit area
  • H/W inspection
  • S/W inspection
  • Judges Interview
  • Practice Matches
  • Opening ceremony (~ 10:00 AM)
  • Qualifying matches (lunch)
  • Elimination matches
  • Awards and closing.


Lots to do in

2.5 hours!!!

Helps to

Be Organized

And Stay Focused

software inspection
Software Inspection


  • Insure that the NXT is configured properly for competition.
  • Configure Samantha for the competition field.
  • Insure that the robot works as expected.
  • Insure that the team’s drivers and coach know the match process.

Two parts of s/w inspection:

  • Configuration check
  • Field test

The S/W inspection sheet is available in the Bowled Over! game manual.

software inspection16
Software Inspection

NXT/Samantha configuration check:

  • NXT Firmware version OK?
  • Proper team number configured?
  • Sleep timer 30 minutes or greater?
  • Install competition field network keys.
  • Connects to the FCS?

Field Test.

  • Does the bot behave?
    • Waits, moves, stops, and pauses.
  • Does the drive team behave?
    • Know where/when to queue for match?
    • Know how to setup on the field?
    • Know their signals (ready, need help, etc.)?
    • Know what to do at end of match?

You can download the current version of the 2011 Field Control System FCS here and test this yourself.

hardware inspection
Hardware Inspection

Each team will get the sole attention of a hardware inspector for 15-30 minutes. They will check to insure that the robot meets all the robot rules stated in the “Bowled Over!” game manual.

  • Robots must comply with all the Robot Rules in section 4.2 of the Bowled Over! game manual in order pass hardware inspection.
  • If a robot violates one or more robot rules, the robot will have to be modified by the team to be made compliant.
  • A Bill of Materials (BoM) is ONLY required for the components listed in section <R5>c that have a maximum constraint.
  • Cut sheets are NOT required this year, as there is no longer an area restriction for MOST materials.
  • Metal sheet is the only robot material with an area restriction (<R5>c-6.) If you use this material and are close to the area limitation, you may want to have your area calculations handy for the inspector.
hardware inspection18
Hardware Inspection
  • Teams have access to the same inspection sheets used by the inspectors. Do a self-inspection before the event and fix any issues. The hardware inspection sheet is provided in the game manual.
  • Not all inspectors are created equal. Two inspectors may catch different things or have different opinions as to what is a sharp edge. Play it safe and be conservative when possible (leave no doubt!!!)
  • Don’t forget your flag holder and team number of the prescribed size.
inspection wrap up
Inspection Wrap-up
  • Teams must meet ALL software rules to pass software inspection.
  • Teams must meet ALL hardware rules to pass hardware inspection.
  • You cannot compete until you pass both the software and hardware inspections.
  • Make passing your inspections a priority.
tips and best practices
Tips and Best Practices
  • Make sure your robot is ready well before the event and let your drivers put some miles in it!!!
  • Do your own inspections BEFORE the event.
    • Have several students do a h/w and s/w inspection using the inspection forms.
    • Have them fix any issues they find and repeat inspections.
    • Have a mentor do a final inspection (inspection challenge).
  • Pack in advance and don’t forget anything (including your laptop and robot code).
  • Bring as many spare parts as you can carry.
  • Put your team number on everything: tools, batteries, chargers, laptops, NXT, cables, and even the students.
  • Make sure to charge ALL your batteries before the event (laptop, NXT, and TETRIX®).
tips and best practices21
Tips and Best Practices
  • Create and use checklists.
    • “take to the event” checklist.
    • Pre-match checklist.
    • Post-match checklist.
  • Bring a “loose” copy of your code (USB thumb drive, CD-ROM, etc.).
  • Get to the event early (extra time is your friend!!!)
  • Identify any special dietary needs and plan ahead for meals. Lunch/drinks can generally be purchased from the event organizers.
  • Bring an power strip and extension cord. An open receptacle is often hard to find (let alone two.)
tips and best practices22
Tips and Best Practices

Benefits of having a robot cart:

  • Serves as a convenient work platform.
  • Prevents students from having to carry the bot (less risk to students and robot).
  • Place to carry emergency tools, parts, and batteries.
  • Suggest inflatable wheels on your cart (less vibration, no scratching of gym floors).
  • “Deluxe model” - 12V battery and inverter for on board charging TETRIX, NXT and laptop batteries.
  • Ground effects lighting, flasher, etc….. Have your students “Trick Out the Robot Ride!!!”
resource links
Resource Links
  • FIRST FTC site:

  • Bowled Over! Game Information:

  • Getting Ready for Competition:

  • FIRST Technical Info and Recommendations:

  • Programming Resources:

  • Field Control System and Samantha Downloads:

thank you
Thank You!

Good luck this season and hope to

“see you in St. Louie!”

Mike Nicolai