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Building a FIRST Tech Challenge robot, Qualcomm style

Sep 15, 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Qualcomm has been a long-time sponsor and Strategic Partner of FIRST. Now we’re taking our support to the next level—working with FIRST, we’ve helped implement a new FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) control system that puts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor at the heart.

What is the FIRST Tech Challenge?

FTC is a program under the FIRST umbrella and is open to teams of students in grades 7-12. Teams are given the same robotics platform (kit) to build upon. In the competitions, the bots are put to the test by completing tasks—since 2005, the competitions have had robot competitors pick up balls, stack and move crates and blocks, navigate complex playing fields and more. BREAKING NEWS: 2016 game announced here.

For the 2015-2016 season, FTC teams will compete using two Snapdragon 410 powered ZTE Speed devices as the control system for their robots. Integrating Snapdragon technology into the robots is evolutionary to the program, and will give student team members hands-on experience with cutting-edge mobile technology. More important to student competitors is the fact that the new robot controllers will be faster.

So good, we couldn’t resist

FIRST events are like the Olympics… for students and their robots. The students have so much fun building their robots and running them at the events that we couldn’t resist… wouldn’t it be fun to build our own ‘bot using official FTC kit parts?

The First Tech Challenge KIT.

So, deep inside the Qualcomm drone research and development labs, some engineers did just that, with a special caveat.

“The goal was to make a FTC version of the Snapdragon Micro Rover,” said engineer Paul Ferrell. The Micro Rover is an easy-to-build 3D-printed robot (its blueprints are free to download here) powered by a smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, featuring a forklift that allows it to manipulate things around it.

The Snapdragon Micro Rover. Cool, yes?

Building the FTC version took some time and planning, but Ferrell and his team figured it out. Both the Micro Rover and its bigger FTC sibling “see” via a panning mirror. It’s mounted underneath the smartphone so the rear-facing camera can look forward while the front of the device is facing you so you can see an app running on the display.

A smartphone gives the FTC-inspired rover sight.
The Micro Rover looks “cute” when hoisted up by it larger, brawnier cousin.
The front-facing forklift on the FTC-inspired rover is all business.

Qualcomm’s FIRST Tech Challenge robot is almost complete, be sure to check back for our progress.  To learn more, check out the FIRST site. Read more about Qualcomm’s involvement with FIRST here.

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. Snapdragon Micro Rover is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.


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