November 17, 2017

11.16 Team Eblast

FIRST events are free and open to the general public! If you're a new team, visiting an event is a great way to meet area teams, see the game in action, and experience our FIRST FTC culture. A list of events can be found here:

Coaches - FIRST in Michigan eblasts only go to the Lead Coach/Mentor 1 and 2 for your team. Please share event specific information with the families of your team members.

Volunteering at an event is a great way to see the program from 'behind the scenes". Many FTC event roles do not require any specialized skills or training. To sign up to volunteer: Volunteer Registration Step by Step Guide

Some best practices from our Week 2 events:

Safety glass expectations at events:
Instilling a culture of safety is a value that every individual in the FIRST community must embrace as we pursue FIRST’s mission and vision. FIRST in Michigan FTC has adopted safety as a core value of the program. 

Per Game Manual 1 > Tournament Rules > T15 - All Team members, coaches, and their guests must wear ANSI Z87.1 certified safety glasses while in the Pit or Competition Area. Prescription glasses with ANSI Z87.1 approved commercial off the shelf side shields are also allowed.

Teams are expected to have and bring their own safety glasses - enough for each of their team members and mentors in attendance at the event. Team members and mentors are expected to wear their safety glasses (over their eyes) at all times while in the pit area and on the competition field. 

The safety glass tables found at the entrance to the pit areas at events are for guest and visitor use only. Not for teams. 

Teams/team members that don't bring safety glasses to events or don't wear their safety glasses in the prescribed areas at events are indicating that they choose not to be in compliance with our safety core value. In this case, the team/team member needing to borrow safety glasses from the safety glass table will have their team number noted by the safety glass attendant. This information will be shared with the judges panel at the event which could reflect negatively on the team. Please don't be one of these teams - bring and wear your safety glasses. It's that simple!

Two Consent/Release forms are needed for every team member, at every event where a team participates:

1) A paper FIRST in Michigan Consent/Release Form must be turned in for every team member at every event where that team member participates. This is in addition to the FIRST national Consent/Release Form. The FIRST in Michigan specific Consent/Release form is linked.

2) A FIRST national Consent/Release Form must also be completed for every team member. This form can either be signed electronically via the Youth Team Member Registration process OR a paper version must be turned in at every event where that team member participates.  

Team Roster: Team coach must turn in one roster at check-in at every event where a team participates.  The roster can be in one of 3 formats (see below)Note that team size is capped at 15.
  1. Dashboard produced roster - The Lead/Coach Mentors for the team can produce a team roster via the Team Dashboard under Team Contacts/Roster>Contacts Options>Print Team Roster. Example of a Dashboard produced Team Roster. To be on the Dashboard roster, team members must have followed the Youth Team Member Registration process.
  2. Team produced roster - Downloadable Team Roster Template.
  3. Hybrid - Coach writes-in the names of any students who do not appear on the Dashboard produced roster at the bottom of the sheet.
The forms and roster are turned in at event check-in.

Teams need to be on site at events in the 7:00-7:30am timeframe. Judging can begin as early as 7:30am. Check your event's agenda found on the FIRST in Michigan FTC website page for the event. Even if your team checked-in/completed Inspections on Friday (where applicable), the team still needs to be on site at the event by the stipulated time. If your team is running late, please call/email your Event Coordinator. The Event Information page for the event (also linked on the FiM FTC website page for your event) contains their contact information.  

There are still 5 open spots at the 12/2-Houghton FTC Qualifier. Interested teams should fill out this linked form to register:  2017-2018 FiM FTC Open Spot Qualifier Registration Form.

Wait List - Most of our post Thanksgiving events have a wait list. As teams earn advancement spots at earlier qualifiers, some choose to relinquish their next qualifier spot in order to give a wait listed team a 2nd play opportunity. Note that there is no expectation that an advancing team must relinquish their 2nd qualifier spot - but it is much appreciated when they do. If a spot opens at an event with a wait list - the next team in line on that event's wait list, per the date/timestamp of their 2nd qualifier form, is offered the spot. The team has 24 hours, from when the note is sent, to graciously accept/decline the offered spot. Be aware that notice of an open spot can be very short. 

Advancing teams that would like to relinquish their 2nd qualifier spot can email with this request; a confirmation email will follow. Note that there has to be a wait list at the event in order for FIM FTC to release a team at a confirmed event. This is the only case where withdrawing from a confirmed event is without repercussion. 

Each of our qualifying events advance a set number of teams to the FIRST in Michigan FTC State Championship. See the Event Process guide for information on advancement criteria, allocated number of advancement spots for each event, and general event process information.

States - FIRST in Michigan FTC States will be held at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek and will be a two day event this season. Visit the Event Page for the agenda and event specific information.   

The FIRST in Michigan FTC State Championship will advance 19 teams to the North Super Regional in Iowa. The dates are March 15-17, 2018. Visit for more information.

Make sure your software is updated to version 3.5. The new software includes the following important changes:
  1. Fixes were implemented to prevent random Op Mode stops.
  2. The file size of the Robot Controller app has been trimmed to reduce the required install time.
  3. A fix was implemented to ensure that log files get properly updated and saved.
  4. Support for using the Modern Robotics Touch Sensor as an analog device was added to the FTC Blocks Programming Tool.

Instructions on how to update your FIRST Tech Challenge software can be found on the Programming Resources web page: 

Detailed information regarding the release can be found at the following link:

This season, a Main Power Switch is a mandatory component for all FTC robots. Robots will NOT pass inspection without this switch installed as per the rules. Note that a switch does come with the REV Expansion Hub pack that is purchased through the FTC Storefront. 

Per Game Manual 1 > 8.3.3 Robot Electrical Parts and Materials Rules >  RE01 Main Power Switch:
The Robot Main Power Switch must control all power provided by the Robot main battery pack. FIRST requires Teams to use either the TETRIX (part # W39129), MATRIX (part # 50- 0030), or REV (REV-31-1387) power switch. This is the safest method for Teams and Field personnel to shut down a Robot. The Robot main power switch MUST be mounted or positioned to be readily accessible and visible to competition personnel. A Main Robot Power label must be placed near the Main Power Switch of the Robot. Attach the image (“POWER BUTTON”) to your Robot near the Main Power Switch. To be easily seen by field personnel the label should be at least 1 in x 2.63 in (2.54 cm x 6.68 cm, Avery Label # 5160) and placed on a flat surface (not wrapped around corners or cylinders).

Allowable switches per the FIRST FTC Legal/Illegal Parts List:

TETRIX W39129 - In stock
MATRIX 50-0030 - Out of stock
REV REV-31- 1387 - In stock

Don't forget to use your TETRIX discount code that all FTC teams receive FTCTX7P. 

FTC event scores and results from across the country are accessible via this amazing resource: Live stream links will be available via The Orange Alliance (TOA). Note that TOA is still in beta mode.

Any teams that are having issues with their REV expansion hub, please share these issues with REV directly at Per REV, here is a basic list of trouble shooting that they've found helpful for most teams.
  • Disable Instant run in Android studio
  • Upgrade to SDK 3.5 (released last week)
  • Wipe and re-install new version of Driver Station App
  • Check for loose power cables on xt30 connection
  • Verify hub works with REVHubInterface software (
    • If not perform a factory reset (in the same folder) and try again.
  • If hubs are not discoverable with the phones but work with the PC software we recommend a complete uninstall/reinstall of android studio.
Review the What to Expect at an Event guide for an overview of a typical FIRST in Michigan FTC event roll out. The guide contains many valuable resources (Inspection checklists, info on the judging process, etc.) that will help teams have a good event experience. 

Note that event placement is done by FIRST in Michigan FTC and not the event host. 

Event Participation - team's presence is expected at the events where they've been confirmed.  A late withdrawal from a confirmed event causes issues (planning and financial) for the host and reflects negatively on the team. As competition is a requirement of teams accepting FIRST, FIRST in Michigan, MDE, and/or sponsor specific grants; withdrawing from an event could impact grant awards. Remember, feeling "not ready" is usual - group support is available at the event!

Some events offer Friday load-in/early inspections. This is a great way to ease the Saturday morning "crunch". Note that event set up occurs on Friday late afternoon through evening so it's possible that the event will look "not ready" when teams arrive on site on Friday. Help is always appreciated!

FTC events start early on Saturday with teams needing to pass Robot/Field Inspections and cycle through their assigned judging timeslot within the 7:30-10am timeframe (est.). Teams should plan to be on site Saturday right when doors open. Check the agenda of your specific event for the roll out of the day. 

The event host only communicates with the Lead Coach/Mentor 1 and 2 for each team. Please share event specific information with your team members and their families.

Event Volunteers - FIRST in Michigan events are 100% volunteer driven. Teams are expected to provide one volunteer (whole day) at events where they participate. This volunteer doesn't have to be a team mentor - ask a parent, relative, friend! It's fun and they get a shirt, volunteer pin, luncheon, and applause! 

Team event volunteers cannot fill the roles of Judge, Referee, or Scorekeeper as they have an affiliation with a team competing at the event.

Team & Robot Prep - A few tips on ensuring a good event experience and a well behaved robot:
  • Know the rules. Read Game Manual 1 and 2 - knowledge is power!
  • Robots must pass both a hardware and field inspection before playing in matches. Inspections are generally between 8-10am the morning of the event. Below are the checklists that will be used; use them as a guide to prepare your robot to pass the first time!
  • Keep all batteries charged! Majority of robot issues at events have been traced back to a low TETRIX batttery or low phone batteries. Bring extra batteries and chargers to your events.
  • Good wire management: Robots encounter many bumps and jiggles at events (rolling over balls, climbing ramps, other robots, etc.) which can loosen wire connections and cause communication issues. Secure all connections between phones/modules/batteries, strain relieve wires where needed, and no loose dangling wires (zip ties!) . Check out the Robot Wiring Guide for best practices.
  • Preparing for Competition
FTAs, CSAs and Inspectors - Your event's Field Technical Advisor (FTA), Control System Advisor (CSA), and Inspectors are amazing resources available to teams BEFORE match play begins. If your team has field communication issues - please do not struggle in silence! Visit the FTA at the competition field either at early check-in on Friday or early Saturday morning for assistance. They've pretty much seen it all and can diagnose problems quickly and efficiently. They can also connect your team to the CSA on site for more in depth robot triage.

Teams should go through Robot Inspections as early as possible, even if your team is having field communications issues. It is helpful to get this aspect "under your belt" so that the team can focus on other areas i.e. judging, field inspections, tweaking the robot, etc.

Judging Teams each participate in a mandatory 15 minute judging rotation. Judging occurs in the first two hours of the event and can begin as early as 7:30am. Teams should plan to be on site at the event right when doors open. Teams bring their robot (not powered), engineering book, Control Award submission sheet (if applicable), and display boards (if desired) to judging. Teams will be given the opportunity to do a short (less than 10 minutes) presentation to the judges which will be followed by a 5 minute Q&A period. If the team does not have a presentation planned, have them let the judges know to proceed directly to the Q&A.

The Judging Self Reflection sheet is a good preparation tool. Review the Engineering Notebook Guidelines as well. The Engineering Book is a key deliverable for a team and is a required component for consideration of many awards. Please make sure your Engineering Book is clearly marked with your team number on the front/back/spine/etc.

Awards - Our events will be presenting the FTC core awards. Check your event's roll out to see if any optional awards (Promote or Compass) will be offered. These awards have additional submission requirements.  Descriptions of all FTC Awards

FTC Control Award: This is a Core Award for FTC. The Control Award celebrates a team that uses sensors and software to enhance the robot’s functionality on the field. Note that a team MUST APPLY for the Control Award in order to be considered for the award. Team's applying should fill out the Control Award Content Sheet, located in Game Manual Part I, Appendix 3 and linked below. And, the team's Engineering Notebook must include an Engineering Section that documents the control components.

The Control Award Content Sheet should be turned in (along with the team's Engineering Book) at the team's morning Judging session. 

Gracious Professionalism - Teams are expected to behave in a gracious and professional manner at events. This goes for team coaches and mentors as well. Just in the way that positive behavior, that exemplifies the values of FIRST, reflects positively on a team; negative behavior will reflect poorly on a team. Judges are informed by event volunteers when stellar behavior and actions are noted - but they are also informed when poor behavior and actions are noted. The true test of gracious professionalism is when things aren't going well - coaches and mentors are asked to monitor team behavior and to set a good example for their team members and model appropriate behavior at all times.