2017-2018 Email Blast #1

Louisiana FIRST Tech Challenge Coaches,

Topics in this message:

  1. Welcome to the 2017-2018 FIRST Tech Challenge season!
  2. Louisiana Team Registration and Grants
  3. Kickoff Event
  4. Competition and Advancement for 2017-18
  5. Dean’s List, Promote and Compass Awards
  6. New Controls and Programming Options
  7. Outreach!

  1. Welcome to the 2017-2018 FIRST Tech Challenge season!

Thanks again to everyone for a great 2016-2017 season in Louisiana.  I look forward to another good year with the new game.  Welcome to our rookie coaches, and hello again to our veterans.

This year’s game is FIRST RELIC RECOVERY Presented by Qualcomm® Incorporated.  If you haven’t seen the trailer for this game, it’s here.  I think it’ll be cool, and yes, I’ve seen the field.

Part 1 of the Game Manual has been posted at the RELIC RECOVERY Resource page.

Part 1 covers everything except the specifics of the game – so it has all the info on tournament structure, advancement, robot rules, and awards.

Part 2 will be released with the Game Reveal on September 9.

The FIRST Tech Challenge Blog posted a collection of useful links for the FIRST website.

  1. Louisiana Team Registration and Grants:

FIRST continues to make changes to their website, including the Dashboard where your team management is done.  If you have any trouble registering your team, let me know and I’ll try to get you any help you need.

We’re a little ahead of registration from last year, so congrats to everyone on getting the word out about our program.

FIRST Tech Challenge still has need-based grants available.  If you need help (or know another team that does) and haven’t applied, you can still do so here.

  1. Kickoff Event:

Our Louisiana Kickoff for FIRST RELIC RECOVERY will be hosted by the University of New Orleans College of Engineering on Saturday, September 9 starting at 9:00 AM.

Besides a chance to meet other teams, discuss the game, and see the field set, we will have time for Q&A/panel discussions/workshops led by experienced teams and mentors.

We will update details soon, but please reserve at least the morning for introductions, the game reveal, and game discussion.  If your team is interested in leading or co-hosting a workshop, let me know this week.  We’ll post updates to the Kickoff page.

  1. Competition and Advancement for 2017-18:

Teams really want to compete early and often, and use the competition experience in the design cycle to improve their robots.

This year, our hope is to have three Qualifying Tournaments.  If teams offer to host scrimmage events, this will provide four competition opportunities before the Regional Championship.  There is a twelve-team minimum for a Qualifier,so it will depend on team registration.

We’re still waiting to confirm venues, but our target dates are:

September 9: Kickoff at the University of New Orleans

October 14: Scrimmage(s)

November 4: Qualifier 1

December 9: Qualifier 2

January 20: Qualifier 3

February 4: Regional Championship at the University of New Orleans

Advancement numbers will depend on registrations, but we would expect to advance 6 or 7 teams at each Qualifier to the Regional Championship.

Tournament fees for the Qualifiers will stay at $200 and for the Regional Championship $250.

If your team is interested in hosting a scrimmage, please let me know.  We have ordered two full field sets that we will lend to host teams for the scrimmages.

  1. Dean’s List, Promote and Compass Awards:

Coaches, please consider nominating a sophomore or junior from your team for the Dean’s List Award.  You can read the description of the award and the advancement process in Section 11 of the Game Manual.  I’ll update you on submission deadlines in a future email.

There are two optional team awards judged through video submission that we’d like to offer at the Regional Championship this year.  We’ll confirm a submission deadline later, but expect it to be around January 20.

The Promote Award is given to the Team that is most successful in creating a compelling video message for the public designed to change our culture and celebrate science, technology, engineering and math. Teams must submit a one-minute long public service announcement (PSA) video based on the PSA subject for the season.  The subject this year is “What I would like the world to know about FIRST.”

The Compass Award recognizes an adult Coach or Mentor who has given outstanding guidance and support to a Team throughout the year, and demonstrates to the Team what it means to be a Gracious Professional. The winner of the Compass Award will be determined from candidates nominated by FIRST Tech Challenge student Team members, via a 40-60 second video submission.

These Awards are described in the Game Manual.

  1. New Controls and Programming Options
  • Last spring, FIRST Tech Challenge introduced the REV Expansion Hub.  It is the control system hardware being sold in the FIRST storefront.  Teams do not have to upgrade!  Teams may continue to use the Modern Robotics devices or the new REV devices (and I need to study the Game Manual more on mixing them).

Here are the new hardware announcement and the FAQ from April.

  • The Blocks programming is still looking like a good option, especially – but not only – for rookie teams.  There is a set of video tutorials linked from the wiki page. There is also a training manual PDF.  Note that MIT App Inventor will be supported for 2017-2018 but not beyond, so FIRST is recommending Blocks as the way to go.
  • The FIRST Tech Challenge technology team has released version 3.2 of the software in beta.  It offers a new capability – OnBot Java.  The tech team says:

Similar to the Blocks Development tool, the OnBot Java tool allows a user to create, edit and build op modes using only a Javascript-enabled browser. This means that a user can program in Java without having to install Android Studio on their laptop.

OnBot Java users have the same flexibility and have access to the same exact FTC SDK features and functions as Android Studio users have. Op modes are stored directly on the Robot Controller, and are built and dynamically loaded into the existing Android APK. Users do NOT have to keep rebuilding the Android FTC Robot Controller app whenever they change their op modes. Instead, the changed op mode gets rebuilt and reloaded into the existing APK.

You can visit the beta branch of the public github repository to access the updated project:



  1. Outreach!
  • If your team is interested in demoing at some or all of the Girl Scouts of Louisiana East B.I.G. (Believe In Girls) Event from 9:30 AM – 2:00 PM on Saturday October 21 at the University of New Orleans – please let me know!
  • If you are working with a school or district and would like more information to give to your administration about FIRST program alignment with NGSS science standards, about classroom curricula for FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge, or about the longitudinal studies that show the impact of FIRST programs on student STEM achievement and engagement, let me know and I can forward you links to documentation.

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