This post is in response to/ tangent of the post Finding Our Successors
As I mentioned in the previous post, Mr. Cushman’s idea of establishing an FTC team at Harding was a surprise to me. Most of the middle schools we know of support FLL teams, and some have trouble even doing that. Part of the reasoning for this is the lack of mental maturity of the average middle school student. Most of the middle school teams I have seen at the competitions have been 8th grade teams because of it. To clarify, I don’t mean that all middle school kids are immature, but rather that FTC is almost exclusively student driven. The students control the gas pedal, while the coaches and mentors simply help to steer them in the right direction.
So if this is all true then shouldn’t all middle schools stick to FLL and let the high schools introduce them into FTC? Of course not.
FLL is a great program to introduce kids to the idea of engineering and get them thinking about simple (or not so simple) problem solving. It peaks interest in kids and gives them a path to follow. It serves that purpose well. However, there are some big differences between FLL and FTC that really stand out to me. The first being that in FLL, the robots are entirely autonomous which means that after the robot is built, the focus in terms of the robot lies entirely in programming. This would not be such a bad idea, if they were learning a transferable skill; this leads me to the second biggest issue.
In FLL, the language of programming used is most commonly NXT-G which is nowhere similar to RobotC; the language used in FTC (technically some teams do use Labview to program their robots in FTC, but most teams prefer RobotC due to its smaller file size and more advanced ability).
Lastly, I feel that working with a larger robot and more diverse materials makes for a much more exciting game. Overall, I feel that middle schools should definitely consider starting FTC teams for their 7th and 8th grade students. If they are able to do both, I would also highly recommend establishing an FLL team for their 6th and 7th grade students; however I feel that this is of less importance. I hope to have an FTC team up and running at Harding here in the near future.