For Inspirational and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen and Professor Woodie Flowers to inspire students in scientific and engineering fields. In its over twenty years of operation FIRST programs have grown from one small high school in Manchester New Hampshire to over 3000 schools in over 10 countries around the world.
FIRST’s main program is the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) challenges high school teams to build a 5 foot tall and approximately 120 pound robot in 6 weeks. Each year the robot is required to complete specific tasks such as scoring balls in a specific goal or placing inner tubes on posts at specific heights. Once teams have completed this build season they compete in regional competitions. Each round of the competition includes two alliances of three robots each (a total of six robots on the field) which race and compete for points in an approximately two minute long round. Although this is a competition the game is played in the spirit of Gracious Professionalism, which means that whether on or off the field teams are always helping each other out and cheering each other on. This is such a strong feeling at the competition that many do not even remember nor care who won the match or round. The highest honor at FRC is to be honored with the Chairman’s Award which is given out to a team that most embodies all of FIRST goals such as Gracious Professionalism and inspiring kids and teens through science and engineering. After competing in regional competitions teams advance to the Championship which is currently being held in St. Louis, Missouri.
FIRST also sponsors other events such as FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL). These events function in a way similar to FRC, however on a lower scale. FIRST Tech Challenge, a step down from FRC, builds smaller robots. It combines pieces such as aluminum and tetrix parts from FRC with the parts from FLL such as Legos and NXT controllers. Like FRC, it is geared mostly toward High School students, however some middle school team also compete in FTC. FIRST Lego League is somewhat different from FRC and FTC. Their robots are built solely from Lego pieces and NXT controllers and programed to be totally autonomous. Along with building a robot, teams complete projects based on the theme of each year’s game. Most FLL teams are made up of Middle School aged kids. Junior FLL is similar to FLL except that it is for Elementary Schoolers instead.
Click here to access the official FIRST website