OnQ Blog

Snapdragon 410 and FIRST: teaching kids the science of robot building

You use your smartphone for everything from texting to shopping to streaming movies, but what about building robots? Starting this fall, the students participating in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) will be doing exactly that: creating and controlling their robots with smartphones powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor. That’s the same chip that powers popular devices like the ZTE Speed and Motorola Moto G smartphones.

Founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international not-for-profit organization committed to giving students everywhere an understanding of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. Kids are taught to design, build, and program robots for competition. Qualcomm has been a long time sponsor of FIRST, and we can’t wait to see what these brilliant students are able to accomplish with the addition of the Snapdragon based Android platform.

The new FIRST Tech Challenge robotics kit uses two mobile devices (either smartphones or tablets) connected by Wi-Fi direct: One is a component on the actual robot, and the other is used to control the robot. Not only will this eliminate some of the complicated hardware and setup that has been needed to host an FTC competition, but also, students will be introduced to the creative potential of a device they may otherwise take for granted.

Smartphones are everywhere, and many of these students have been interacting with mobile devices all or most of their lives. This intimate familiarity was a large part of why Kamen sought to include the new platform.

“We can’t thank Qualcomm enough,” he said in a recent interview, “for being willing to design and develop such an advanced system, with so much capability—that will be so exciting for these kids to use—yet package it in something that they’re so comfortable to start with, and then grow from there.”

As an added bonus, the students will learn how to program in Java instead of using the previous system’s Robot C language. Java is a more widely used programming language, and becoming fluent in Java at such a young age will be an incredible advantage for these kids once they enter the job market.

During an interview at the 2015 FIRST Robotics Championship, one of the student competitors who had been invited to test the new platform ahead of the fall release, spoke of some of the benefits over the soft din of mechanical onomatopoeias from the robots. “It’s really nice to not have any sort of lag whatsoever with the robot,” said the student. “It’s also really awesome to have no more of these static connection drop loss issues. [...] The phone has a much faster rate of processing, and so we can use better sensors that grab more points per second.”

Qualcomm Snapdragon processors are at the heart of millions of advanced products including smartphones, tablets, wearables, automobiles, and more. The fact that the students of FIRST will be building and controlling robots ultilizing the same proven performance, power, and efficiency that has made Snapdragon a world leading mobile processor is a great example of just how far mobile technology has come.

Visit the FIRST website to learn more about the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the new Android platform powered by the Snapdragon 410.

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

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