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  • New FTC Team - Budget

    Hi,
    We are starting a brand new TECH team this year. We have done FLL in the past but I am unsure of some of the costs that we are going to run into outside the standard costs (eg registration, tournament, field, etc). Here is what we have so far:



    I would love any feedback you could give us about unexpected costs your team has run into or simply things that are wrong or missing from our budget. TIA! Carla

  • #2
    If you have no power tools whatsoever, 500 is much to small of a number. On our team, the coach has some at their house where we hold meetings, and I bring some from my house and with those we are set, but with just their tools, we wouldn't get much done. That would be enough if you got very cheap tools from places like Harbor Freight, but I wouldn't advise going there for something you will rely on all the time. It's better to spend $250 on one cordless drill that will last a lifetime and is a quality tool instead of have to buy ten $25 drills because they keep breaking because they are junk. You will also need hand tools such as nut drives, extra hex keys, pliers and wrenches, so make sure that is accounted for as well.

    Also, you chose between the TETRIX or MATRIX building systems, so unless you are going to build two different robots with two different systems there is no point in getting both, and it is against the spirit of the game to have two robots as said here (<RG01>
    Only ONE Robot will be allowed to compete per registered FIRST Tech Challenge team. It is expected that teams will make changes to their Robot throughout the season and at competitions.
    a.
    It is against the intent of this rule to compete with one Robot while a second is being modified or assembled at a
    tournament.
    b.
    It is against the intent of this rule to switch back and forth between multiple Robots at a tournament.)

    I recommend TETRIX if you need to chose, because I find that it seems to be more diverse, but I haven't used MATRIX and you might have a different opinion.

    If you don't plan to do whatever the operation with the IR sensor is (This year it is placing the cube in the IR basket in autonomous) then you don't need a sensor or beacon, and you don't need two of each unless you are building a FULL field and two robots, or plan to break one.

    Another thing! Sorry about the long post, just releasing all my knowledge. You don't need a full field really. We only bought half of the blocks and only made one pendulum to save money. We made a border out of PVC tubing and plywood instead of the expensive Andy-Mark field to save more money.

    It is very possible to use only the TETRIX/MATRIX building system to build a robot, but when you have out of the box designs, you have to think out of the Kit of Parts, so we make MANY orders from materials companies such as McMaster Carr for raw materials such as plastic and aluminum. TETRIX is expensive, and building your own parts can save money in the long run. I see that you are a carry over FLL team, but FTC is MUCH harder on NXTs, and if you only have one, I would recommend getting the TETRIX kit WITH the NXT because you will kill at least one. I can almost guarantee it. You will want at least one more battery pack and charger, but for both it is only about $60, so your number there might be slightly too high.

    Our team registers for more then one regional competition so we have more chances to make it to states and have more fun and more practice even if we make it at the first regional (like this year) , and if you don't make it to states, you don't need the money to register, so there is that too.

    Alright! There is all my knowledge and recommendations. Good Luck!
    Last edited by WiredFTC; 02-24-2014, 04:11 PM.

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    • #3
      Do keep in mind that if you are not going to use Labview, you will have to purchase a license for every RobotC copy you put on a computer (there's a 30 day trial if you want to try it out). Maybe I'm an elitist, but I would recommend RobotC over Labview. (And Tetrix over Matrix too, while we're at this.)
      Lead programmer for FTC team #6424, the 'Oly Cow.
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-O...60019847470634

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      • #4
        Just sent an email to my team about this years budget, wasn't skimping, but didn't purchase every possible part either. No power tools, reasonable amount of hand tools. No transport costs. As someone said, you'll need either Tetrix or matrix, not both. RobotC, and I forget what else. But first year from FLL here, and were right close to $4K for the year. Oh we purchased the tiles, but not the perimeter. With only one team, I don't see much of a need for an official perimeter wall - likewise, you could probably get away with cheaper harbor freight floor tiles. The antistatic spray changes traction as well, and we don't have any of that...

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        • #5
          Thank you so much for the feedback! So I have a couple follow up questions.

          We were buying both the Matrix and Tetrix so the kids could work with both before deciding which they want to use to. We are a community team (running JrFLL, FLL & TECH) so as older kids age out and new kids transition in we wanted them to have options. Is this unrealistic? Is there not enough difference between the two for this to be useful?

          We have 4 old NXTs our organization is moving from our FLL teams to the TECH team so I think we have enough for a couple years. But can I ask is it just wear and tear that kills the brick or are you actually bricking them when programming?

          We also are able to get funding for a full field but it seems like all of you don't use one. Is it due to costs or because there isn't enough benefit to have one?

          Originally posted by Ernest314 View Post
          Do keep in mind that if you are not going to use Labview, you will have to purchase a license for every RobotC copy you put on a computer (there's a 30 day trial if you want to try it out). Maybe I'm an elitist, but I would recommend RobotC over Labview. (And Tetrix over Matrix too, while we're at this.)
          Thank you for bringing this up. I forgot about the licences! How many computers do you guys typically run on for programming? (BTW I couldn't agree more. We used Labview for FLL back when I started coaching 10 years ago and I much prefer RobotC.)

          Again thank you guys so much. This has been a huge help!

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          • #6
            Go spectate, or better, volunteer at tournament if there's still a chance in MI. More experience abounds, but if you're thinking of budget already, I imagine it's an issue. If not, you're lucky.

            this year,
            You can't have electronics from both tetrix/matrix on your bot. It's a learning experience when your robot gets pushed aside by a tank like it wasn't in the way (Kids found that out last weekend) I have yet to see a matrix robot, but my choice was due to the specs of the motors. I believe the deal was that there was a enormous duty tariff on tetrix for foreign teams which led to the matrix creation. You can use both system's mechanical parts, but you could also purchase a lot of tetrix extra options for the cost. There are at least 4 different servo options, different mounting hardware, chain, gears, Spare motors, batteries etc etc. Our raw material bill was not large this year, but I can see that increasing as they progress. Likewise, the field perimeter will impress donors, it looks good, but it won't really affect your robot performance.
            Of course, the rules maybe different next year.

            Unlike FLL where my teams usually had duplicate robots, that doesn't seem practical or useful for FTC. We used a second bare bones platform for programmers while the builders worked on the robot. If you're in it for a few years the permanent robotC licenses are a good option. Other than the screen issue, I haven't bricked a brick yet.


            Really, go to an event if you still have a chance.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by korimako View Post
              Go spectate, or better, volunteer at tournament if there's still a chance in MI. More experience abounds, but if you're thinking of budget already, I imagine it's an issue. If not, you're lucky.
              The MI season is finished here sadly.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by KalamazooRobotics View Post
                Thank you so much for the feedback! So I have a couple follow up questions.

                We were buying both the Matrix and Tetrix so the kids could work with both before deciding which they want to use to. We are a community team (running JrFLL, FLL & TECH) so as older kids age out and new kids transition in we wanted them to have options. Is this unrealistic? Is there not enough difference between the two for this to be useful?

                We have 4 old NXTs our organization is moving from our FLL teams to the TECH team so I think we have enough for a couple years. But can I ask is it just wear and tear that kills the brick or are you actually bricking them when programming?

                We also are able to get funding for a full field but it seems like all of you don't use one. Is it due to costs or because there isn't enough benefit to have one?



                Thank you for bringing this up. I forgot about the licences! How many computers do you guys typically run on for programming? (BTW I couldn't agree more. We used Labview for FLL back when I started coaching 10 years ago and I much prefer RobotC.)

                Again thank you guys so much. This has been a huge help!
                That's a good idea, I honestly like TETRIX better from what I've seen, but your kids might like MATRIX better, it's really their preference. MATRIX is like a Meccano/Erector set, and TETRIX is quite like them, but the holes are in an actual pattern.

                With four NXTs you should be set for a while. FTC is MUCH harder on them physically, we have had static shock cause bricklock that we never got out of (but LEGO education replaced it for free, so good on them!), and others that just slowly died from being worked so hard.

                If you can get funding for a full field and don't need the money for something else, USE IT! Our field is okay, but the official one is much nicer, the PVC and plywood one is just a way to save money, but can work well if you do it right.

                We are a four person team with one programmer (we all do some though) and we have it one or two computers I think. RobotC has much more of a real-world application, and I think is more powerful then LabView in my opinion.

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                • #9
                  Four NXT's should be plenty.

                  From my experience, you will probably find that you need to get many additional parts (even the first year). Make sure you get them from parts.ftcrobots.com, as there is a discount for being an ftc team.

                  My team still uses the pvc/pegboard field setup, which honestly works fine.

                  We use two computers for coding (and have between 1-4 people working - out of about 15).

                  I also wouldn't recommend worrying much about getting power tools, especially during your first year - especially with tetrix - the only time we use them are when we want to use other materials (such as lexan), which we don't use that much anyway.

                  I would also recommend RobotC.

                  Please let us know how your season goes.
                  Basement Lions FTC Robotics Team #4236: Founding Member and Leader
                  Space Lions FTC Robotics Team #7890: Mentor (sister team to 4326)

                  Basement Lions and Space Lions Website

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                  • #10
                    Don't know about your place, but in NY, qualifier registration is $100, and Championship can be $200. Also, add money for travel/pizza/parking...
                    More importantly, budget some money for raw materials/parts - you'd be surprised how these minor things add up. $300-500 would probably be right. You would probably also want some promotion materials/table decorations/banners. And I believe Samantha module should be bought separately?

                    You do not need to have the complete field for practice - we built our field at the corner of the room, saving the cost of field perimeter (which is a lot!). Of course, it creates some problems, but if the money is tight, this is one way to save. Similarly, power tools can wait - we did without any for 2 years, using just electric drill and a dremel borrowed from parents. If buying tools, I'd recommend a drill press and a dremel saw max - quite useful for cutting everything from lexan to tetrix aluminum channels.

                    Do you plan to order food (pizza, etc) to sustain the students during the meetings? we meet in the evenings, so we have to do this - this is a major item.

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                    • #11
                      Yeah, I don't know what it is Michigan, but here is Missouri, it's quite a bit more then that for regional and state competitions.

                      Now that I think about it, I agree with 4317 and reisst, unless you are using raw materials, you don't need any power tools really. Hand tools you will need plenty of though. I am so used to making things with tools ourselves, I forgot that if you don't use raw materials you don't really need power tools. If you decide to use raw materials I would recommend: multiple cordless drills, a quality rotary tool (i.e. Dremel), a Jigsaw, and a cheaper drill press (that's one of those things that is GREAT to have, but if it broke you wouldn't cry, so I would get a Harbor Freight one). Non-essentials to the power tool area, but things are really good to have areound are: a bench grinder, a compound miter saw (FANTASTIC way to cut TETRIX, and the safest way too), a reciprocating saw (good for field builds and general cuts), a circular saw.

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                      • #12
                        We were a rookie team with zero parts and tools. Our total expenses through regionals was $8K. We started very late in the season and we could have done it for $6K if we had been able to order judiciously.

                        The kits provide too few controllers motors or servos to build a full blown robot. The incremental parts cost us 3x the kits. And in retrospect maybe two more kits would have been a better idea.

                        We also got obsessed using some non standard wheels that really drove the cost I'm not sure added any real value.

                        We were "done" after qualifiers but we qualified for regionals so we weren't done. The team keeps building and the expenses keep adding up. Budget for success.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by WiredFTC View Post
                          a compound miter saw (FANTASTIC way to cut TETRIX, and the safest way too)
                          What kind of blade are you using in a compound miter saw to cut aluminum channel?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by FTC8114 View Post
                            What kind of blade are you using in a compound miter saw to cut aluminum channel?
                            We were use item number 3973A57 from McMaster Carr, which was an Aluminum/Plastic Steel Circular Saw Blade With 10" Diameter, 5/8" Arbor, 150 Teeth and rated for 7, 000 RPM, but they don't sell it anymore, so you should find an equivalent to that. Using a reciprocating saw "works" but it's scary and the cuts are bad, same with a Dremel tool.

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