January 1, 2017

FLL to Middle School FTC Transition

Welcome to our MI middle school FLL teams looking to transition to middle school FTC! A synopsis of the program is below followed by info on available grants. It's a bit long of a read but worth it!

FIRST In Michigan FTC is a middle school only program giving this age group their own "turf" on which to learn and play. FTC has proven to be a great fit for middle school students - keeping them engaged in STEM while building 21st century skills like programming in Java, app development, metal TETRIX build platform, and they control their robots with Smart Phones! Our middle school FTC students take their applicable skills and hit the ground running when they join their high school FRC teams. Visit our MI FTC State Championship photos to see our teams and program in action.

The 2016-2017 Team Start Up Guide  provides an overview of the program and answers many FAQs. An often asked question is the appropriateness of the program for 6th grade students. We currently have many 6th graders on middle school FTC teams; a mixed age team works best as the older students can help bridge the knowledge gap of the younger ones. Plus, then your team will only need to re-populate the 8th graders year to year. Great sustainability plan!

FIRST in Michigan FTC Rookie Team Grant 
Newly forming MI middle school FTC teams are eligible for the FIRST in Michigan FTC rookie team grant. This grant covers the 2016-2017 FIRST FTC season registration fee of $275 AND the team's initial FTC Kit of Parts cost (est. $1,275)! Note that the FTC Kit of Parts is a one-time purchase and is reusable year to year. 

In addition, FIRST FTC national just launched the FTC Jump Start program  which waives the 2017-18 annual Team Registration Fee ($275) for teams that start now. So, combined with the FIRST in Michigan FTC Rookie Team Grant - this is over $1,800 in funding!

A few requirements of the FIRST in Michigan FTC Rookie Team Grant are as follows:
  • Teams must be aligned with the FIRST in Michigan Progression of Programs (different than FIRST FTC national). This means that your FTC team must be comprised solely of MI middle school grade/level students (as of the 2017-18 season).
  • Be affiliated with and recognized by an entity such as a school (public, private, or home) or 501c3 type of community organization. This connection helps to ensure that the reusable Kit of Parts will remain "in play" from year to year. Grant checks cannot be made out to individuals.
  • Register with FIRST FTC national in the 2016-2017 season (season reg. is open until April) and compete in a FIRST in Michigan sanctioned spring 2017 event. We want the students to experience the fun of competition and check the box on the competition requirement that accompanies all FIRST in Michigan grants. Dates and locations are TBD but most likely will be in May. I'm always looking for event hosts, if interested!
  • Register the team for the 2017-2018 FTC season (opens in May) and compete in a FIRST in Michigan FTC 2017-2018 regular season fall qualifier. Remember, the FIRST FTC national Jump Start grant will cover the team's  $275 2017-18 Team Reg. Fee (likely as a credit on the team's FTC Storefront).
  • The FIRST in Michigan FTC Rookie Team grant is a reimbursement-style grant. Teams fill out the grant form then email their Pitsco kit of parts purchase confirmation to michiganftc@gmail.com. Details are in the grant doc linked below. If fronting the money for the kit of parts creates a barrier to entry for the team, an alternative arrangement can be made. Email michiganftc@gmail for details.
  • Review the 2016-2017 Grants doc for complete grant parameters and requirements. 2016-2017 FTC Grant Information (to date). Visit the Michigan FTC Team List to see if there is a team at your school already. See the above linked grant doc for rules as to incremental teams at a given school/organization.
  • Note that FTC team size is capped at 15. Multiple teams are encouraged and are also eligible for grants. 
  • Limited number of grants are available and will be awarded on a first come-first served basis to eligible teams. It is recommended that teams form and order parts as soon as possible to take advantage of the grants and to circumvent part shortages.
This grant is made possible by the generous support of our FIRST in Michigan FTC sponsors: General Motors, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy Foundation and Ford Motor Co. 

The MI FTC competition season runs starts with kickoff in Sept. with regular competition season in November-December. The 2016-2017 game is Velocity Vortex - visit the FIRST FTC national site for the game animation and official game manuals. Our spring events will also play the Velocity Vortex game.

How to register your team, what parts to order:
2016-2017 Team Registration & Equipment Recommendations: MUST READ! Order the TETRIX Build Kit, not Matrix.

Build Guides:: A great starting project for a new team is to build PushbotPushbot is a simple robot that can just drive around and "push" things. No shooters, collectors etc. It's essentially a plain chassis the team can build quickly and then decide themselves what to add.  

The Robot Garage and FRC 503 in Novi have developed a version of Pushbot that is game compliant and has easier to follow field communication and programming resources: http://frogforce503.org/index.php/team-activities/2015-10-18-10-54-56. Note that this version uses Android Studio (line based Java) as the programming environment. An alternative version developed by FIRST FTC nationalFIRST version of Pushbot.

After building Pushbot, the students can then analyze what this robot can/can't do in regards to playing this season's game, Velocity Vortex, and watch the innovation begin!  Game Manuals 1 & 2 are "must reads" for every team! 

Curriculum: New this season: FTC Curriculum! This free curriculum can  be used as a stand-alone course or as a supplement to areas where the team needs extra support.

Programming Resources:
Intelitek and FIRST FTC partnered to produce some amazing resources: http://ftc.edu.intelitek.com/. This provides instruction on utilizing both the MIT App Inventor and Android Studio options. Good resource!

The FIRST philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition are strong with our middle school FTC teams! Email michiganftc@gmail.com to request to be connected to a team in your area.Our teams are more than happy to answer questions and share best practices. 

Let me know how I can help you get a team rolling!
Tammy Damrath
FIRST in Michigan FTC