FTC-Iowa: Software, Hardware, Samantha & Field Control System Resources

Getting started with FTC can be a little daunting. Students and coaches alwasy wonder where to start and where to go for questions. We have provided a few of the many resources on this page. Please remember, a simple internet search with some key words may generate some resources which are not listed below. Also, check out the FIRST Resources on Programming & Designing.

When you have a question, the first place you should consider is the FTC Forums. This is an online resource for all teams who are participating in FTC. The questions are closely monitored and answered by the brillant minds behind FTC. Any rulings from the forums are considered officials. It is recommended that teams check it often.

TETRIX, the company who makes the pieces for the body of the robot, has a great resource for teams as well. Check out the TETRIXRobotics site, as it includes the TETRIX Getting Started Guide, FTC Extensions, TETRIX Mastery with LabView and RobotC materials. It also includes resources on TeleOp and Autonomous programming, how to use sensors, among may other topics.

Hardware Support

The "body" of the FTC robot is made from TETRIX pieces -- TETRIX is a division of LEGO education. Check out the TETRIX Getting Started Page. FIRST also has a great TETRIX Resource Page.

At the beginning of the season, teams must purchase one of the following:

  • FTC Competition Kit - A great foundation for FTC. Included are a TETRIX® Education Base Set, a LEGO® MINDSTORMS®Education NXT Base Set, a Logitech joystick controller, and all of the programming and design software necessary for competition.
  • FTC Competition Kit without LEGO MINDSTORMS - A replica of the FTC Competition Kit minus the MINDSTORMS kit. Great for veteran and rookie teams alike, particularly graduating FIRST LEGO® League teams.
  • FTC Software Renewal Kit - FREE Available only to veteran teams, this kit contains the programming and design software necessary for FIRST Tech Challenge competition. ROBOTC is not included - it can be purchased by clicking on RobotC
  • Samantha Wi-Fi Communication Module - All teams are required to have this module. Veteran teams may reuse their module from last season, or purchase one new module if they choose from the TETRIX website.
  • All of the above kits include the following - FTC Mentor Guide and licenses to use PTC Software (MATHCAD, Pro/Engineer/Windchill)

Optional Items

In addition to one of the above mentioned kits, teams may purchase the following (quantities are not limited).

  • FTC Resource Kit - This kit provides a good mix of over 40 TETRIX™ parts, including the larger gears and longer channel that are not included in the TETRIX Education Base Set. Also included are two additional DC motors and one Logitech joystick controller, as well as a sturdy plastic storage bin.
  • Additional TETRIX parts - Additional TETRIX items (motors, gears, etc) may be purchased at a 30% discounted rate.

Software Support

Software is the language the robot uses. Without software programmed onto the NXT brick, then the robot will not do anything.

  • What software does the robot run on? The LEGO NXT bricks can run on one of three software programs: NXT-G, LabView or RobotC. However, to compete in an FTC competition, teams must use LabView or RobotC.
  • Where do we get the licenses for the software? When your team receives your Competition kit, it will include a version of RobotC and LabView. In addition, you will also get PTC software, which your teams may also use. Veteran teams may "purchase" a FREE Software Renewal Kit. This kit contains the programming and design software necessary for FIRST Tech Challenge competition. ROBOTC is not included - it can be purchased visiting RobotC.net website.
  • What programming language does our team chose? Selecting a particular language is up to the team and its coaches and mentors. This page will provide some resources to use while deciding and using a particular software  on what language to use.*Note: We are not endorsing a particular programming language as it is up to the individual team as to what language to use. This page is merely a listing of resources, and a simple internet search can find the same results.*
  • Remember! Please consult the FTC Forums. Many of your questions may have already been answered by someone else doing FTC.  The FTC website also has a great page about programming!

Resources for LabView - by National Instruments

LabView is one of the programming software that FTC teams can select to use. LabView is more graphical based.

National Instruments has some great tutorials and lessons, check out the NI LabView Tutorials and the K12Lab from NI LabView.

In addition, the wonderful folks at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY put together a great LabView tutorial as well. The RPI-Tutorial lessons are "meant to introduce someone with a programming background in any traditional, text-based language to the iconic LabVIEW programming language called G. The following lessons are structured to give examples of how common programming tasks are accomplished in LabVIEW. Each lesson also provides one or more project recommendations that can be built as hands-on practice. All of the examples found in the lessons as well as the project solutions can be downloaded from the individual lesson pages".Check out the RPI - Tutorials in G series.

Also, we encourage teams to check out the LabView Reference Card.

Resources for RobotC

RobotC is the other programming software teams can select to use. RobotC was developed by the Robotics program at Carnegie Mellon University. RobotC is "hard-coding" using the "C" language. If teams chose to use RobotC, they must purchase a copy of the license directly through the RobotC.net website.

Although it may be difficult to get use to the coding part, there are some great tutorials for teams to use. Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy put together a good curriculum for teaching RobotC. Also, check out the online RobotC course sponsored by the CS2N (Computer Science Student Network). Also, if teams have a RobotC related question, they can visit the RobotC Forums.

Resources for PTC - The Official CAD and Collaboration Sponsor of FTC

How does my team get started with PTC? Check out the "Getting started with PTC". It gives resources for: using Windchill, Pro/ENGINEER and Mathcad; training resources available to all FIRST teams; and teams can download CAD Models of the kit-of-parts and field.

Questions about PTC? Contact firstsupport@ptc.com

Samantha Support

The robots work wirelessly through a communication device called the Samantha. In previous seasons, teams connected to the electronics on the field via BlueTooth, which proved to be problematic. Beginning in the 2010/2011 FTC Season, the Samantha device was used for wireless communication, and was officially revealed via Ken's Blog on April 23, 2010.  Configuring the Samantha and learning how it works can be tricky for new teams. Teams are recommended to check out the Samantha Resources on the FTC website, as it includes trouble shooting information, videos on how to configure and mount Samantha and alternate wiring receommendations.  For other questions related to Samantha, check out the FTC Forums.

For Samantha to work properly, teams are encouraged to purchase a wireless router. FIRST suggests/recommends teams purchase a Linksys Wireless N E-1000 router which can be found at any online vendor.

Again, teams are encouraged to view the Samantha Resources from the FTC Website.

Field Control System (FCS)

The FCS is a self-supporting application, produced by the makers of Samantha, that communicates to the Samantha on the robot. Basically, the FCS starts and stops the robot. It is HIGHLY recommended teams practice with a copy of the FCS on their laptops, as it will make comopetitions easier. With an Linksys E-1000 router, teams will be able to configure their Samantha and use it how it was designed to. FIRST has produced an excellent page full of FCS resources, including: a link to download the FCS; a location for a video to set-up the FCS; a Router Config gude for FCS; and a FCS User Guide for Teams.