The PRIDE Design Process

What do you want to accomplish in this season’s game?

Write down all points, tasks, rules, goals, strategies, etc. Based on these findings, what does it need to do? What do you want it to do?

Brainstorm & Research – What do you think will work for what it needs to do, and for what you want it to do? Figure out the best way to accomplish this. See what others are doing.

Design it – Draw it out, write it down, come up with a rough prototype (even with cardboard, zip ties, and duct tape), CAD, 3D print, math equations, etc.

Prototype & Build – Take your drawings, writings, math, CAD, or rough prototype, and create it with parts (COTS, 3D printed, or fabricated).

Try it out – What works? What doesn’t work how you wanted? How can you improve it?

Start the process all over again if needed, or start at any one of these steps above.

Document everything! Take photos. Keep all drawings, charts, graphs, and math.


Original Blog Post – Click Here

The game release has come! Now it’s time to build and program your robot. For this year’s game, one scoring opportunity is to recognize and move skystones in autonomous mode. For this season, you have the option to use specialized machine learning software to simplify the task of identifying and tracking the game elements during autonomous mode.

TensorFlow, Google’s “machine learning technology,” has been trained to recognize the game elements from this season’s challenge. You can use this technology to program your robot to look for and navigate to game elements, such as a skystone.

Bruce Schafer, from the Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program, has created a video tutorial that demonstrates how to use TensorFlow to find and navigate autonomously to seek and find a skystone for this season’s challenge:

The sample Blocks Op Mode that accompanies Bruce’s tutorial video can be found here:

File to upload: www.tinyurl/SeekSkystoneBLK

Printable code: www.tinyurl/SeekSkystonePrint

Thank you to Bruce Schafer for his work on the TensorFlow tutorial! FIRST Tech Challenge appreciates his contributions to improving the experience for our teams!

TensorFlow Machine Learning Technology is Now Available for Teams!

Original Blog Post

Teams participating in the FIRST Tech Challenge can now use Google’s TensorFlow Machine Learning technology to detect and track Gold and Silver game elements. Teams can access Google’s TensorFlow technology through Blocks or Java programming. TensorFlow can identify Gold and Silver game elements using an Android device’s built in camera or through an externally connected camera.

A detailed tutorial is available that demonstrates how to use this TensorFlow technology is available here!

TensorFlow is Google’s “machine learning” technology. It is a form of artificial intelligence. The software can “learn” and identify patterns and use this to do things like recognize when a Gold block is placed in front of the camera.

For our software, Google “trained” the system (by showing it pictures of our Gold and Silver blocks in different positions and under different lighting conditions and backgrounds) so it would learn what our Gold and Silver blocks look like (analogous to how you might learn what an object looks like and how to identify it).

Once the system has been trained, the Tensorflow technology can be used to look for and find the Gold And Silver Blocks during a match and track the location of these objects with respect to the camera or robot.


Analyzing Electrostatic Discharge Events

Electrostatic discharge events (aka “ESD events”) have the potential to disrupt the normal operation of competition robot. As a robot moves across the floor of a FIRST Tech Challenge field, the robot tends to accumulate positive electrostatic charge on its metallic frame due to a physical phenomenon known as the triboelectric effect. The charge that builds up on the frame can be significant (on the order of 25kV or higher). If the charged robot touches another conductive object (such as a metallic game element, the perimeter wall, or another robot) that is at a different electrostatic potential value, an electrostatic discharge can occur and current will flow from one conductive body to the other as the charges equilibrate. These ESD events can disrupt, or in rare cases, damage the Control System electronics on a competition robot.

Charge is transferred from wheel to floor due to the triboelectric effect.

Electrostatic buildup is a problem in robotics competitions (including the FIRST Robotics Competition and the FIRST Tech Challenge) and in industry (especially, as an example, for applications involving conveyor belts).

Fortunately, there are some simple, but effective steps that you can take to minimize the risk that an ESD event will disrupt or damage your competition robot. These steps are outlined in the FIRST Tech Challenge Wiring Guide and as part of the FTC SDK documentation of ftc_app GitHub repository.

If you’d like to learn more about electrostatic discharge effects, there is white paper that was written by Mr. Eric Chin that quantifies (through experimental data) the efficacy of different methods to mitigate electrostatic-related disruptions. Eric is a FIRST alumnus and was a summer engineering intern for 2018. His paper can be found here.

What’s New for the 2018-2019 Season

Hello FIRST Tech Challenge Teams! Welcome to ROVER RUCKUS Presented by Qualcomm! We know you’re wondering what this year will bring, and we have some important updates to share with you to help prepare you for the 2018-2019 season.

Technology Phase Out

FIRST Tech Challenge technology has come a long way over the past 3 seasons. After the introduction of the REV Expansion Hub for the 2017-2018 season, we’ve seen positive results not only in tech reliability, but also ease of use for our teams. With these strides in technology, comes the phase out of previously supported legacy modules. The following modules will no longer be supported moving into the 2018-2019 season:

  • Legacy HiTechnic DC Motor Controller
  • Legacy HiTechnic Servo Controller
  • Legacy MATRIX DC Motor/Servo Controller
  • Legacy Sensors (LEGO and NXT sensors)
  • Core Legacy Module

Modern Robotics Core Control Modules, except the Core Legacy Modules, will still be allowed for the upcoming season. The REV Expansion hub will continue to be allowed, and will be included in the official kit of parts. See our robot building resources for more information.

Programming Languages

This season we will also be phasing out App Inventor, and this will no longer be an allowed programming language. We will continue to allow FTC Blocks, OnBot Java, Android Studio, Java Native Interface (JNI) and Android Native Development Kit (NDK). See our programming resources for more information.

Robot Weight Limit

This season will impose a weight limit for Robots of 42 pounds total. More details on this rule change will be outlined in the Game Manual Part 1.


If you have any questions about our changes for the upcoming season please email us at

Rev Robotics Expansion Hub LED Blink Codes

We wanted to share some information about the LED Blink Codes to FTC teams using the Rev Expansion Hub, because there seems to be some confusion out there about what they all mean. The charts below explain the LED Blink Codes, and we provided a link for teams to find more information about the Rev Expansion Hub and other Rev Robotics products. Happy roboting! 🙂

You can find this and other information on the Rev Expansion Hub at

The above chart (1_07_00) was added 11/13/17

Get Your Team Ready for Their Next Competition

Many teams have already begun the competition season, while others are still excitedly waiting for event day. Regardless of where you are at, this information is to highlight some specific resources that get your team ready for their next competition.

As you prepare for the season ahead, in all the excitement of getting ready (building, programming, engineering notebook making, outreach, etc.), we wanted to take a moment to share some great tips experienced coaches/mentors have shared with us over the years.

  • STAY CALM. It might feel like there is so much to do before the competition, but just know, you are doing an amazing job.
  • You MUST have ANSI Z87.1 certified safety glasses for every team member and guest (including parents).
  • Even if your robot is not competition ready, GO TO YOUR EVENT. Attending an event is the best way for your team to learn from other teams, ask for help from volunteers, and learn from their fellow FIRST Tech Challenge participants.
  • Learn when to STOP ADDING FUNCTIONALITY to your robot. It is better for your robot to be consistent when it arrives at competition. A week or two before your event, have your team work on practicing, testing, more testing, and more practicing. Last minute adds may not benefit your robot as much as spending time testing, practicing, and packing.
  • PRACTICE YOUR JUDGE INTERVIEW. FIRST is More than RobotsSM. All events above a Meet level has a Judge Interview component (Game Manual Part 1, Section 5.4 and Section 10.3). Please review the Game Manual to ensure your team understands what to expect during the interview. FIRST has also created a Team Judging Self-Reflection Worksheet (under Preparing for Competition). Practice sharing your experiences over this season (both ups and downs) and explaining how your robot works. Try to ensure that everyone on the team understands how your robot works and can navigate your Engineering Notebook.

Email provided by:
Tina De Giso
FIRST Tech Challenge Program Coordinator

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology
200 Bedford Street | Manchester, NH 03101 |
Phone: 603.666.3906 x 237 |
Connect: @firstweets | facebook

Exciting Changes to Match Play

Blog Post from:

Over the past decade, FIRST® Tech Challenge has continued to grow, serving the FIRST mission of creating excitement and exposing students to the wonderful world of science, technology, engineering and math. With growth, must come change, as most of our community has seen through our evolution of robot technology. We continue to work to make this program more accessible and affordable, while still engaging and challenging students of all skill levels.

Since the 2015 season, FIRST Tech Challenge has moved away from a centralized control system to the Android based platform you see today. The increased reliability of the Android based/REV platform, is allowing us to improve the flow of the matches. We are making significant and exciting changes that teams and volunteers need to be aware of for the 2017-2018 season.

Autonomous to Driver Controlled Transition

Starting in the 2017-2018 season, there will no longer be a hard stop following the autonomous period to transition to the driver controlled period of the match. Once the autonomous portion of the match ends, the emcee/game announcer will tell the teams to pick up their driver station. As a visual cue, the scoring system will display to teams that they must pick up their driver station. Teams will only have 5 seconds to pick up their driver station, so they should make sure to pay close attention! After the 5 seconds, there will be a 3-2-1 countdown and the driver controlled period of the match will begin right away.

Why make the change?

  • Since the reliability of our technology has come so far, the large gap between autonomous and driver controlled periods of the match is no longer necessary.
  • The game design doesn’t require field reset between the autonomous and driver controlled periods.
  • The shortened break between autonomous to driver controlled period increases engagement by keeping the excitement of the match going.
  • The shortened break will encourage teams to build smarter and create sturdier robots, that can move successfully from autonomous to driver controlled unhindered.

What does this mean to teams?

Teams must remember is to keep an eye on the match timer display, and listen for the cues from the Emcee or Game Announcer to pick up their driver stations. The transition will happen quickly, and the scoring system will automatically run the rest of the match. Since the robots are not tied directly to the scoring system, teams must make sure they are ready to run their driver controlled programs after the 3-2-1 countdown.

How does this impact the number of matches played?

This will not impact the number of matches played at an event. From League Meets to State Championships, teams will still be able to play between 5 and 6 matches, depending on the specific tournament. Teams will still receive a minimum of 7 minutes between each match. Super Regionals and World Championship events will have additional matches. The number of matches at these events will be announced at a later date.

Up righting/Untangling/Reconnecting Robots

Because of the shortened transition from autonomous to driver controlled period, field personnel will no longer enter the field to upright or untangle any robots. Robots that have lost connections will not be reconnected by the Field Technical Adviser. Teams should take this into consideration when building and designing their robot.

If you have any questions about the new changes to our match play format please email Happy Relic Recovering!

Click here to watch the New Changes to  Match Play video on YouTube!

The Static Solution

Most teams know the wrath of static, what it can do to your robot, and how bad it can be during a match. If you don’t know what it does, here is the easiest way to describe it.

When there is a lot of static on the field it can cause trouble for the robots. It can be triggered simply by two robots touching, or a robot bumping into an object on the field. It affects your robot by sparking the main power system, which causes your robot and phone to go into a loop, and you are unable to fix it unless you do a hard reset at the end of the match. Long story short, it disables your robot for the rest of your match!

Of course, when building your robot, you should go through the process of zip tying all your wires down, mounting your electronics on plastic instead of the metal frame, and insulating your wires to reduce static, but those are harder to do and more time-consuming. We do highly recommend that you do all of these above first to minimize your static risk.

But now, there is a simple solution to help reduce static, and just about everyone has them in their home.

Dryer Sheets!

It might sound weird, but let me explain how it works. When you are driving around, your robot wheels are collecting electricity from the floor mats, the beacons, the corner vortex or even other robots. When your robot collects too much static energy, it gets hard to control what happens and when it discharges. It usually discharges when it hits another robot because they also have a lot of electricity built up. When your robot and another robot collide, they have a battle to see who can give off the most static, and the robot who earns more static suffers the consequences.

The spots that collect the most electricity are your side walls if you have plexiglass, or if you place your phone in the middle of your robot.

Dryer sheets are easy to use! All you need to do is take a dryer sheet and wipe down pretty much everything on your robot, from the wheels to the modules, to the side walls, and even the motors and battery. Dryer sheets are an easy way to reduce the static by evening out the amount of positive and negative charge from the robots.

We used these in our last tournament, and we wiped our robot down every other match and found out that it worked for us. We noticed that when we wiped down our robot, the static seemed to be a lot less than for other robots.

Also if you need to reduce static before a match, make sure to place part of your robot that has metal against the wall that has some metal on it. This helps dissipate any charge buildup.

Our team wanted to share this information with other teams because we have noticed that static can be a major problem, and this is an easier solution than making the anti-static spray.




How FIRST Students Can Win More College Scholarships

Written by FIRST guest blogger, Monica Matthews

FIRST Team members and their Parents get very excited when they learn of the thousands of scholarships available to students through the FIRST Scholarship Program. What happens, however, when the school that the student is hoping to attend does not make available Scholarships as part of the FIRST Scholarship Program, or the family needs additional scholarship funds to help pay for college?

FIRST Team members looking to win college scholarships have a huge advantage over other applicants if they to market themselves wisely. They can do this by referencing the many values and lessons that go hand-in-hand with being on a FIRST Team directly in their scholarship applications. As a parent of a FIRST student and a team sponsor, I have personally witnessed FIRST team members experience the following:

  • Leadership
  • Safety
  • Mentoring
  • Kindness
  • Cooperation
  • Team-building
  • Patience
  • Strategy
  • Problem Solving
  • Commitment
  • Career planning
  • First Aid
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Organization
  • Creativity
  • Volunteerism
  • Website design
  • Computer Coding

Real-life experiences and details pertaining to future careers and aspirations that are written about in scholarship applications are extremely valued by scholarship reviewers. The essay is the heart of an application, and scholarship seeking FIRST students and Alumni need to share personal and specific details about how their lives have been impacted as a result of their FIRST participation in their writing.

For example, a future engineer can write about how learning to build a robot has cemented their decision to enter the engineering field, and give specific details about events that took place during the build season.

Students entering the business field should focus their essays on the leadership, organization, and strategy skills that were used and modeled by team leaders.

Future medical students can use the knowledge taught by the Safety Captains and discuss the importance of first aid the correct use of power tools when working on the robot.

Students who volunteer with their FIRST Teams have a unique opportunity to combine helping others with their love of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) and can apply for more community service scholarships.

All FIRST team members can look back at the events that took place during the build season and at each competition and share what they learned when applying for scholarships.  The powerful impact of Gracious Professionalism™ is a wonderful way to impress scholarship judges, so students need to be looking for concrete examples of how this concept has made them a better person.  In my FIRST experience, I have witnessed gracious professionalism in the following ways:

  • Our student team leader spent two hours on a Saturday morning (before spending six hours at our meeting) helping another FIRST Team who was having trouble with their robot, even though that team would eventually compete against ours.
  • During a competition when another team (who we were about to face on the field) told us about a minor problem with our robot that might have gotten us a warning or disqualification.
  • I felt gracious professionalism during matches when I sat in the stands and saw the intense excitement and encouragement that all the teams showed to EVERY team and not just their own.
  • I heard true stories of gracious professionalism at competitions, when teams would offer to help other teams, go the extra mile in loaning out tools and robot parts, and expressed unwavering kindness and uplifting words to every team, regardless of where the team was from, language barriers, or their current standings in the game.
  • I saw gracious professionalism in action when exhausted teams volunteered to stay after competitions were over to clean up the pit areas, playing fields, and stands.

In addition to writing about their experiences, scholarship seeking FIRST students can increase their chances of winning by starting the scholarship hunt early, applying for every scholarship in which they qualify, and learning how to submit memorable applications that stand out to the judges. Students who work hard and tie their FIRST experiences into their quest to win scholarships will have a huge advantage when it comes to winning money for college.

Monica Matthews is a FIRST Robotics parent and sponsor of Da MOOse FRC Team 5926. She is also the author of How to Win College Scholarships, a detailed guide sharing how she helped her son win over $100,000 in scholarships. She truly has “been there, done that” in regards to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process.  Ms. Matthews’ step-by-step scholarship guide has taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars.

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