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Starting an FTC team and Robotic Curriculum

See:What a robotics team provides for students for an overview and examples of the STEM subjects that can be employed via robotics.

The Goal To Work Towards:

First Technical Challenge(FTC) provides a new and unique goal each and every season. Fundamental building blocks are always applicable and teams can develop experience.

For training it works well to have one complete robot set per group of (2-5) students. Note that there is a maximum of 10 students on an FTC team(Grimsley runs 2 FTC teams to support the student interest base)

FTC Competition is 2 vs 2, so 4 sets allow a complete scrimmage match.

There are classroom packs available which are geared towards curriculum integration.

The programming environment 

Two options, Labview and RobotC, both have merit and benefits.

A site license for Labview for Lego Mindstorms is a reasonable cost. Labview is a graphical programming language that is easy for anybody to understand and get started quickly. Labview is used professionally in automation and data collection environments. Labview does not handle complex loop structures well and can make advanced logic function difficult to read and follow. Grimsley has used Labview because:

  1. Labview is a fully functioning, industry used language
  2. National Instruments provides a tremendous amount of support for FRC
  3. National Instruments makes the brain of the FRC control system which is primarily designed to work with Labview(But works well with Java and C++ also)
  4. There is little to no “syntax” to learn with Labview therefor a low barrier to entry for newcomers without previous programming experience
  5. The level of abstraction is appropriate, but not restrictive. It’s easy to get complicated functions working with the provided building blocks, but the Labview environment allows digging in deeper if desired
Robotic control concepts in Labview The slides use an older version but the concepts are still very useful.

Robot C is the second programming language.

  1. Well supported traditional text based language
  2. Good tools and getting started guides
  3. More readily transferable to future programming language since the students must learn to debug line code
  4. Easier for Mentors to spot simple logic or syntax mistakes
  5. Not as easy for newcomers to pick up and run with, but a really great introductory environment

How to get there:

Mechanical advantage(Leavers, pulleys, gears) and structural building blocks are key principles that should be learned.

Work through this curriculum, emphasizing the principles more than the outcome.

An overview of the lesson plan:

Other, broader lesson plans:

More general and generic goals are specified at: