Tuesday, September 6, 2016

FIRST Tech Challenge Kickoff Week! September 10th

Happy back to school week! Wishing everyone a great start to the new academic season. 

FIRST Tech Challenge OREGON Kickoff 2016 

Please save time to attend our FIRST Tech Challenge Kickoff on Saturday, September 10th at one of four locations across the state - Portland - The Dalles - Bend - Medford. Each site will have a field and the new game elements for you to see and touch, measure and ponder. 
Portland and Medford sites will attempt to live stream their events in case you can't attend in person. 

Please click this link for detailed information about our kickoff plans.
Coaches please click the KICKOFF RSVP link so that we can print appropriate numbers of handouts and if you are attending in Medford, that they can order lunch.
Everyone is invited to attend. Please bring someone new to FTC,  team members, a prospective mentor or volunteer. We'll need about 700 league meet and tournament volunteers this season. 

Beacon Updating Veteran teams are encouraged to bring last year's beacons to kickoff sites for reprogramming. ORTOP has purchased the AndyMark re-programmers for updating the beacon firmware for this season's game. This will save your team $64. ORTOP is happy to provide this service. We'll be sending more re-programmers to League sites. We encourage non-league teams to visit a league meet to have their beacons updated. If that is not possible, contact Cathy Swider to make other arrangements for updating. 


2016 FIRST Tech Challenge Field Elements

Building your 2016 Field Elements instead of buying from AndyMark. Wise or unwise this season?

This past weekend our Championship Field Technical Advisor  Dale Jordan built 4 sets of 2016 Game Elements for Kickoff Day.  This season FTC will release building plans in case teams want to build their own set of elements.  We asked Dale to consider if it would save teams time/money and what he would recommend teams do.

Dale's recommendation to teams is to purchase at least a half field of elements from AndyMark because of the variety of building materials needed to source. To have the optimum field conditions present in team practices that will be at competition events,his opinion is it would be best to use the field kits sold by AndyMark. Teams should look at the field elements and make their own best decision. 

Should we join a League or stay a QT team or switch from League to QT? What is the best choice for your team? 

FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon is a hybrid FTC region offering both League and Non-League participation options. Choosing the best fit for your team is made by the Coaches, Mentors, Team Members with input from parents/guardians as well as school administrators. 

As of today, September 6th we anticipate having 11 leagues in the communities of Beaverton, Hillsboro, Portland, Hood River, Bend (Central Oregon), Pendleton (2), Salem, Springfield, Roseburg and a new league in the Port Orford area on the Southern Oregon Coast. Each league will have approximately 12 teams each, some a few more, some a few less. 

Leagues will hold team meetings and attend three or four league meets, about 4-hours in length League Meets in November and December and ALL league teams participate in a League Qualifying Tournament. Pros and information about  Leagues:
  • Provides teams a jump start to the season and encourages iterative design meaning the robot is improved upon during the two weeks between league meets. 
  • Teams do not need to be fully ready with a completely built robot to participate. The robot evolves over the 7-week League meet season. 
  • Provides teams driving experience prior to qualifying tournament competition. 
  • Teams accumulate Qualifying Points and Ranking Points during League Meets. Best 10 Qualifying Points with their associated Ranking Points are carried to the League Qualifying Tournament. All League Teams participate in the Tournament
  • Teams learn what does and does not work in real competition prior to attending the League Qualifying Tournament in January. Frequently league teams will collaborate and assist each other in solving building, IT and programming issues. It is a collaborative community of teams.  
Non-League teams hold team meetings in the fall where they design and work on their robot in November and December prior to the Non-League Qualifying Tournament in January. 

  • Non-league teams design and work on their robot between September and January on the schedule that best works for them prior to the Non-League Qualifying Tournament held in January. 
  • Non-league teams only compete with other non-league teams at the Non-League Qualifying Tournament. 
  • Teams work independently on their robot or with other teams at their school. 
  • Non-league teams can attend informal scrimmages if offered by other non-league teams to gain field experience. 
  • Non-league is a good option for teams with team members who have very busy schedules and do not wish to commit to a fall league schedule. Also, travel budget constraints may impact a team's decision to be a non-league team. 
  • All tournament sign ups will open on September 15th. 
  • Signups for League Teams will close on October 1st. Meaning if you are not signed up by October 1 you'll be a non-league team. If a league is over subscribed in a specific area, teams will be chosen on a first come, first serve basis.  All teams not 
  • Signups for Non-League Teams will close on October 15th. 
  • All teams must be nationally registered and paid to signup a tournament in Oregon. 
  • All league teams compete in a League Qualifying Tournament.
  • All non-league teams compete in a Non-League Qualifying Tournament.
  • Teams can only compete in one advancing tournament prior to Super-Qualifiers. 
  • Approximately 1/2 of League Teams will advance from the League Qualifying Tournament to a Super-Qualifier Tournament held in February. 
  • Approximately 1/2 of Non- League teams will advance from Non-League Qualifying Tournaments to a Super-Qualifier Tournament held in February. 
  • All four Super-Qualifiers are a mix of both League and Non-League teams at each event. 
  • Approximately half of Super-Qualifier teams will advance to the State Championship. 
  • FIRST will determine the number of slots for Oregon teams for FTC West Super-Regional Championship in March. Last season Oregon was awarded 14 slots.

And finally..... What would a kickoff blog post be without a game hint? Keep your game guesses to yourself....remember the game is a secret until September 10, 2016 at noon Eastern Daylight Time. shhhhh..........

Respectfully submitted,

Cathy Swider 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon

FIRST Tech Challenge OREGON Kickoff 2016 

Saturday, September 10th - GAME REVEAL  at 9:00 am - Doors open about 15 minutes prior.  

Everyone is invited to attend. Registered teams, non-registered teams, kids and adults wanting to find out more about FIRST Tech Challenge, volunteers and prospective volunteers. Come to a kick-off and bring a friend. Please pass the word about the kickoff to anyone you know that wants to start a team. I don't have those email addresses...yet. 

FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon will host four kickoff events at the following locations. 
  • Daimler Trucks North America Headquarters, 4555 N. Channel Avenue, Portland
  • The Dalles High School,  220 E. 10th Street, The Dalles
  • Summit High School, 2855 Clearwater Drive, Bend
  • St. Mary’s School, 816 Black Oak Drive, Medford

Additional Information 

FIRST Tech Challenge curriculum 

NEW THIS SEASON! FIRST Tech Challenge is making FIRST Tech Challenge curriculum available. This is geared for FTC in the classroom but I feel it could benefit any team.  To sign up for access to the curriculum materials - CLICK HERE 



  • 10 veteran FTC Teams and 5 rookie FTC received funding from Daimler Trucks North America: Education in Motion 

  • A record number of rookie and veteran FTC Oregon teams received Oregon Department of Education funding. 
  • Two more possible sources of funding 
  • NOTE: If you have already registered your team and paid, your team is not eligible for this grant. This is only a grant credit. It is offered through the national FIRST Tech Challenge organization in Manchester, NH
  • ORTOP Team Support Awards - Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program as the FTC Oregon Affiliate Partner, makes available a small number of Team Support Awards from our own sponsors for both rookie teams and veteran teams. 
    • NOTE: If your team applied but did not receive a Daimler award, your application for ONE TEAM will be entered into the pool of applicants for an ORTOP Team Support Award. 
    • NOTE: If you want to apply for more than one team, you must complete a separate application for each team. If you did not apply for Daimler, you can still submit an application. I expect that all funds will be depleted by Sept. 30th. Applying by Sept. 15th would be wise. 


All summer long FIRST Oregon teams at all levels have been out and about in our communities promoting FIRST!  Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program appreciates the time you've encouraging others to Get Involved in FIRST as team members, mentors, coaches or volunteers.
If your team spent time doing outreach or conducted a workshop for rookies we want to hear about it AND we want to acknowledge your good work with a MAKE FIRST LOUD ribbon. 

To apply for a MAKE FIRST LOUD ribbon(s) for an event(s) your team made happen CLICK HERE and FILL OUT THE Make FIRST Loud FORM.  One form per event. 

Here is our MAKE FIRST LOUD team event board (so far) for 2016. Submit a form and have your team recognized. 
Teams can hang their Make FIRST Loud ribbons in their pit at competitions to show everyone your commitment to help others Get Involved in FIRST. 

Only activities that occurred between May 1 - October 1, 2016 are eligible. 

And finally...... look forward to a brand new e-newsletter about everything ORTOP! First edition will be published the first week of September 2016. 


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12, 2016

Tech Challenge Oregon Community:

2016/2017 FIRST Tech Challenge Game Materials 
Game Manual I has been published. Great summer reading for teams, mentors and volunteers. Read between the lines for game hints. :-)

Field Beacons 
Yes, it has been released that there will be 4 Beacons in this season's game. There is an upgrade kit that can be purchased from AndyMark.  PLEASE NOTE: ORTOP will be purchasing multiple Beacon Programmer Tools that will be distributed to League sites around Oregon. All teams, league and non-league can bring their beacons to a site for the firmware update at no cost.

FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon Tournament Fee Structure Change

An email send to the ORTOP Community by Bruce Schafer, ORTOP Executive Director, outlined the new tournament fee structure change implemented by an executive committee of the ORTOP Board of Directors.  If you have questions, comments about this change, please direct an email to Cathy Swider.  The new policy is as follows: 

(1) ORTOP Registration Fee Changes for the 2016-2017 Season

As most of you know, the registration fees charged by ORTOP cover only a portion of the cost of operating our FIRST programs in Oregon. Fortunately, we have been able to recruit sponsor dollars to make up most of the difference but most sponsors want us to use their donations to help teams that couldn’t participate otherwise. To help assure the sponsor dollars are used most effectively, we have decided to make the estimated full cost per team more visible. Starting with the fall 2016 seasons we are asking teams to pay twice the amount as last year but giving them the option to pay less than that amount. The minimum fee for the upcoming season will be same as the full fee for last season.  Starting this fall, the ORTOP registration system will provide an easy way to request a discount and give a reason for the request.  All requests that are completely filled out will be honored at least for the upcoming season.

Teams that need additional financial assistance can apply for ORTOP team financial support by filling out an online application:

We request that teams that have adequate funding pay the full ORTOP registration fees to help ORTOP cover the cost of its programs and provide these programs to more youth in the future.                                                        


  • Last year the ORTOP registration fee for an FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament was $100.  This year the requested fee will be $200.  If the person registering the team for the tournament feels the team cannot afford the full fee, he or she can pay the full fee or request that ORTOP sponsor funds be used to bring the fee down to as low as $100. The reason for the request can be documented by checking a few boxes during the payment process.
  • Last year the ORTOP registration fee for an FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying tournament was $150.  This year the requested fee will be $300.  If the person registering the team for the tournament feels the team cannot afford the full fee, he or she can pay the full fee or request that ORTOP sponsor funds be used to bring the fee down to as low as $150. The reason for the request can be documented by checking a few boxes during the payment process.
  • Last year the ORTOP registration fee for an FIRST Tech Challenge league play was $75 and the registration fee for a league championship was $150. This year the requested fee for the combination of league play and the league qualifying tournament will be $450.  If the person registering the team for the league feels the team cannot afford the full fee, he or she can pay the full fee or request that ORTOP sponsor funds be used to bring the fee down to as low as $225. The reason for the request can be documented by checking a few boxes during the payment process.
Tournament Fee
Tournament Event
2016/17 – Full Cost
Sliding Scale
FTC League & Tournament
Qualifying Tournament

ORTOP integration with Oregon FIRST Robotics Competition
As of July 1, 2016, the Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program, integrated with FIRST Robotics Competition Oregon.  This integration is limited to fundraising and promotion of the 4 FIRST programs together; FIRST LEGO League Junior, FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition.  The integration will also include hiring Cindy Labeau as Development Director (former Oregon FIRST Regional Director)  and someone as paid Executive Director. Debbie Kerr will remain as the FIRST Senior Mentor serving all four programs. The FIRST Robotics Competition district events and district championship will be organized and implemented by FIRST Washington.  Please join me in welcoming FRC to ORTOP. 

Check www.ortop.org/ftc for links to "Getting Started in FTC" and "What Veteran Teams should know", plus national registration links,  funding resources and outreach activities. 

Cathy Swider
FIRST Tech Challenge Affiliate Partner 

Friday, May 27, 2016

MAY 27, 2016

May 27, 2016

Grant and Team Support Award Opportunities
Complete information for Oregon teams located here.
Diamler: Education in Motion - May 31st ODE - June 17th NOW!!!! -  FIRST is offering their annual FIRST Tech Challenge  Registration Grant for Rookies and Veterans. Easy one page application.
Again a clarification on the Daimler Team Support Award. Schools can apply for only one team; either rookie or veteran, but not both. You must choose.

Our FIRST in Oregon families are invited to the Portland Stags game on June 4th at 3:00 pm at Milwaukie HS .  Hot Wired was invited to demo their robot and will be sharing the spotlight with other FIRST Teams. FREE GEEK will be there collecting unwanted electronic stuff and there will be a DRONE OBSTACLE COURSE Show at halftime.  PLUS you can watch the PORTLAND STAGS take on the the Vancouver Nighthawks.  This is  fun family event for everyone. Tickets are 20% off when you use the discount code ROBOT.  CLICK HERE FOR FLYER

We had an absolute blast at the Wy’East Lodge at Timberline on Saturday, May 21st. 12 Oregon FTC Teams made their way up the mountain to compete at our first MAKE FIRST LOUD off-season event. We ran a mini tournament plus we made time for guests to drive the robots, learn about FIRST and we shared our MAKE FIRST LOUD ideas with each other! Look for a video to be release in the near future. Our thanks to our Oregon FTC Volunteers for helping make the event possible and to Tammy Villali at Timberline Lodge for being a gracious and welcoming host.

ADDITIONAL SUMMER MAKE FIRST LOUD OPPORTUNITIES - If your team volunteers for a MAKE FIRST LOUD event - We’ll give your team an awesome  MAKE FIRST LOUD Award Ribbon.
Oregon International Air Show - Aug 6 & 7 - Help run the 3D BOT RACES!!! Run the LEGO Table of Awesome, demo FTC Robots.  SIGN UP!
Oregon State Fair - Wednesday, August 31st - Hopefully we’ll have 12 teams to run another tournament live at the State Fair. Want to win a prize winning Blue Ribbon at the State Fair for FIRST Tech Challenge? Sign up!

Dale Jordan, our Championship Field Technical Advisor, strongly advises teams to send your Modern Robotics electronic units back to Modern Robotics for the firmware update.  You will be happy you did it. Complete information at this link    http://modernroboticsinc.com/firmware-update

For those of you who have already registered for the 2016-2017 season, we have been informed the STIMS function in not available yet. See national FTC Team Blast email dated 5/26.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon - May 17, 2016

MAY 17, 2016
Dear FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon Community!

It is the start of a new FIRST Tech Challenge season!

1) National FTC Registration opens TOMORROW - May 18th! There are changes to the registration system. Most notably,  coaches should be able to order Tetrix/Matrix kits and Electronics in the FIRST Storefront on an as needed basis rather than needing to pay for everything all at once.  

2) It's FIRST Tech Challenge Team Support Award and Grant Application Season! Time to think about paying for stuff for next season. There are several opportunities available depending on your affiliation. Detailed Information is on the ORTOP Team Support Award page.  The following financial support opportunities exist (at this time):

  • Daimler: Education in Motion - DEADLINE TO APPLY is May 31st.
    • We only have 2 applications submitted so far. 10 Veteran and 5 Rookie Awards will be awarded.
  • Oregon Department of Education - DEADLINE TO APPLY is June 17th.
    • $250K available for FLL, FTC and FRC veteran and rookie teams. 
  • ORTOP Team Support Awards - several varieties - see link for details.
    • This may be the year your school/organization expands to being an "FTC Tribe" by adding additional NEW teams to your existing program. Instant Scrimmage!

  • On the FTC Oregon web home in the middle column we have a "THINKING OF STARTING A FIRST ®Tech Challenge (FTC) Team  at your school or organization site?" orange box.  Please direct potential new teams to this source for information.
  • Can't find something on our antiquated website? On the FTC Oregon web home in the middle column we have a VETERAN FTC Team box with information of interest to Veteran teams. I'll be putting the hottest and most important links in this box.
  • Below this is a tentative FTC Oregon TIMELINE for the 2016-2017 Season
  • Thoughts for the upcoming season..
    • Survey will be going out in a few days. PLEASE ANSWER IT. This will help me make projections and start organizing for the fall. I VALUE your opinion on how we run FTC in Oregon for the things we can control. And we know and will need to accept there are a ton of things we have no control over.
  • For Teams in Leagues: A nomenclature change. League Championships will now be known as League Tournaments. Championship is now reserved for the highest level of event in a State or Region,the four multi-state regional events (Super-Regional Championship) and the World Championship.
  • ORTOP is looking for new site for the FTC Oregon Championship on Feb 25/26. Benson HS has been a wonderful host but I feel we need more room to host 48 teams and 75 volunteers. Would like to keep it within 50 miles of Beaverton, but I'm open to suggestions. If you have a suggestion, please email me. Think outside of the box, we could be at a high school, community college or other inventive event space. 
Submitted by: Cathy Swider, FIRST Tech Challenge Oregon, Affiliate Partner