Friday, April 23, 2010
Code Name - Samantha
By now you've probably heard about a new WiFi based communication system that will be introduced in the 2010/2011 FTC season. That project started over a year ago with a conversation at the FTC North Carolina Regional Championship with John Toebes.
John is an FTC coach and has also been involved with FLL and FRC. He embodies many of the great attributes of our community. He's smart, driven, and feels strongly about STEM and the next generation. In his spare time he's also the Director, Patents, for CISCO.
From that initial conversation in North Carolina John started experimenting with different communication architectures that would minimize or eliminate the issues we'd experienced with Bluetooth. What he developed, with the help of a small team, is a WiFi module that plugs into the USB port of the NXT brick effectively bypassing the Bluetooth system.
The benefits of this for FTC teams are in ease of connectivity. This includes both the initial connection and the management of data between computer and robot. There are some features that are also possible using this device including remote monitoring of robot condition. The main benefit however is a stronger/easier communication system.
At this point we've produced several breadboard versions and hardened the design with a beta production run of about 40 units. Some of you saw a few of these demonstrated in Atlanta. By mid-June production units will be made available to teams who register with FTC. All teams registering with FTC in the 2010/2011 season will receive a Samantha WiFi module at no charge - thanks to the generous donation of John and his team and funding from the Kauffman Foundation.
I think this project reflects the best from our FIRST community. Smart people coming together to solve a tough problem - and providing that solution to our students and mentors at no cost. There are very few communities that could come together to make something like this happen and we're all fortunate to be part of this one.
PS - The Samantha code name was chosen due to the fact that one of the developers has a daughter named Samantha.