December 17, 2017

12.17.17 Team Eblast

Our last weekend of qualifiers! Shout out to all of our amazing event hosts and their crews for all of their hard work and dedication to our teams and program!! Last mega note of the season - I'm pretty sure...

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:

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

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. This is especially important in regard to observing safety rules and behavioral expectations while at the event.

Please share the following points with your teams, their families, your event visitors:
  • Safety rules apply to everyone at the event.
  • If the event where your team is competing provides teams with a dedicated lunch table, please inform families/team members that it's usually ONE table and that the other tables surrounding the team's table are likely assigned to other teams. 
  • Per section 5.13 of Game Manual 1, saving group seats in the stands is not allowed. 
  • Teams (and their visitors) are expected to clean up after themselves which includes in the pit area, in the stands, in the lunch area. 
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. EVERYONE is expected to wear their safety glasses over their eyes at all times while in the pit area and on the competition field. Please share this safety expectation with family members, friends that are visiting your team at the event. 

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

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/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 this FIRST and FIRST in Michigan safety rule. Teams/team members needing to borrow safety glasses from the safety glass table will have their team number noted. Teams/team members not wearing their safety glasses while in a designated safety glass area will have their team numbers noted. This information will be shared with the judges panel at the event which could reflect negatively on the team. In addition, repeated defiance to this non-negotiable rule could result in an individual being asked to leave the given area until they are willing to be in compliance.  Please don't be one of these teams - bring and wear your safety glasses. It's that simple!

Our events provide a practice field space as a courtesy to our teams. This is a shared resource which is usually self managed at an event. Some practice field rules:
  • Share the space. There are usually 36 teams at and event and one practice field. Teams must be cognizant of other teams waiting to use the space. A good rule of thumb is 20 minutes on the practice field.
  • Practice field area is a mandatory safety glass area. 
  • Human bodies may not be on the soft tile mats while robots are in motion. If you need to triage your robot while using the practice field, move the robot off the field and into your pit area.
  • Respect the practice field attendant and their directives.
  • Leave all practice field game elements on the practice field. 
Per Game Manual 1: In elimination rounds (after qualification matches are completed), top ranking Teams can choose their own Alliance partners. Teams should select Alliance Partners with abilities that complement their own strengths. Scouting during the qualifying rounds is a good way to learn the abilities and limits of the Teams and Robots competing at the Event.

The top 8 ranked teams, at the end of match play, should come to Alliance Selections with their "pick list" of scouted teams as potential alliance partners. Having a deep pick list is a good idea. Alliance Captains should have this pick list and a pen/pencil with them during Alliance Selections so that they can cross off teams chosen by the other Alliance Captains as the selection process progresses. 

Some downloadable scouting resources from the FIRST FTC site:

Two Consent/Release forms are needed for every team member and mentor, at every event where a team participates:
1) A paper FIRST in Michigan Consent/Release Form must be turned in for every team member/mentor at every event where that oersib 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/mentor. 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/mentor 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.


From the Game Manual Part 2 Revision 1.4 11/21/2017:
 <G4> Robot Setup Alignment Devices – Alignment devices are allowed during pre-Match setup if they are constructed from legal components, are part of the Robot, and remain Completely Inside the 18-inch (45.7cm) cube starting volume constraint during the set up process. A Minor Penalty will be assessed to the Team for violation of this rule. 

The intent of this rule is to prohibit the use of devices external to the Robot and to prevent the extension of any object or tool Outside the 18-inch (45.7cm) cube starting volume. Humans standing on the other side of the field to aid in aligning the Robot are not allowed.

Head Referee Note:
Teams please note the Rule G4 above in regards to alignment devices while setting up your robot, per this rule you are not allowed to:

  1. Extend any part of the robot beyond the 18" volume (arms, sensors, collectors to aid alignment)
  2. Use body parts such as fingers, arms,feet, hands etc to aid alignment while setting up 
  3. Use separate tools such as rules, templates or tape measures to aid alignment
  4. Use a spotter standing back from the robot to aid alignment during set up
The intent of items #1 - #4 was to provide further communication of the rule interpretation/understanding by the FiM HRs of the Q&A (link below).  It has been determined that further clarification is needed regarding item #4, Use a spotter standing back from the robot to aid alignment during set up.  

Regarding item #4, a member of the Drive Team that is setting up the Robot on the Balancing Stone, may back up a few steps from the Robot to "sight in" the proper alignment. Keep in mind that the action must not interfere with other Drive Teams setting up their Robots, disturb Game Elements, or delay the start of the Match. Drive Teams that unnecessarily delay the beginning of a Match will incur a Minor Penalty for each offense per rule <G2>.

Our understanding of this clarification is a drive team member should place the robot on the Balancing Stone, orientation/positioning the robot however while not changing the orientation/position of the Balancing Stone (remain square to Playing Field Walls), they may step back a few steps while remaining on their side of the field to verify intended orientation/positioning, make any needed changes and then make their way to their Driver Station.  Additional communication with other driver team members could delay the start of the match resulting in a minor penalty.  

Referees will do their best to ensure this rule and all rules are enforced consistently.  Teams are encouraged to ask questions to clarify any rule questions during the Drivers Meeting and through the question box process throughout the tournament.  Reminder to teams that all of the individuals who make these events possible are volunteers and that Gracious Professionalism should be a key ingredient in all conversations. 

The award ceremony takes place after the finals of the elimination rounds. Teams are asked to stay to the end of the event to celebrate the accomplishments of the day. Teams will not be informed if they are an award recipient in advance of the awards ceremony. Engineering Notebooks will be returned either to Pit Admin or directly to the team's pit table just before the awards ceremony. It is a team's responsibility to pick up their Engineering Notebook before departing the event.

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.  

Al teams are asked to fill out this linked Technology Survey which has been requested by FIRST FTC national:

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 a reporting tool only. TOA is still in beta mode. Data will reflect official results after the event is completed and the final data upload has occurred. If a discrepancy is observed with the information posted on TOA, the TOA site link provides a forum through which this can be addressed. Please do not approach event personnel regarding information posted on TOA.

TOA now as an App which is available for download on Google Play!

If your team hasn't applied yet for their FIRST in Michigan FTC team grant, please visit the 2017-2018 FiM FTC Grants and Application Procedures doc (2nd grant section) for grant parameters, eligibility requirements, and application procedures.  
  • The Veteran Team Grant provides $150 in funding towards the team's purchase of the REV Robotics Expansion Hub through the FTC Storefront. This grant is made possible by DTE Energy Foundation.
  • The Rookie Team Grant works with the FIRST FTC national grant to cover a newly forming MI middle school team's initial kit of parts purchase. This grant is made possible by GM, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy Foundation, and Ford Motor Co.
  • Sponsor logos:
These are reimbursement style grants which require the team to upload their Pitsco proof of purchase order confirmation. 

Advancement - 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. All teams will compete on both days. Visit the Event Page for the agenda and event specific information.   

North Super Regional - 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. 
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. 

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.