What is FIRST Robotics?

FIRST Robotics is an organization that was created in 1989 by Dean Kamen (Inventor of the segway) and Professor Woody Flowers. FIRST , an acronym of "For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Engineering", was made to get students interested in science, math, and technology. By 1992, FIRST consisted of 28 teams and that all competed in one New Hampshire high school gymnasium. Since then, FIRST has grown significantly. Now there are 250,000 students involved in FIRST, with multiple regional competitions, all across the world. In fact, it's getting so big that the Championship is held in huge sport coliseums, like the Edward Jones Dome in St.Louis, Missouri.
 
FIRST consists of four programs, for kids of all ages. There is Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL), for kids ages 6-9. Next, there is FIRST Lego League (FLL), for kids ages 9-14. Both of these programs were created to inspire children at a younger age and to give them skills to be used later on in FTC and FRC. They use Legos to build little machines to run on courses. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is for kids ages 15-18 and it involves buillding a robot that is about 18 x 18 x 18 inches. FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is what our team is involved in. In FRC, teams build robots that are much bigger, about 100 pounds. All of these leagues have their own games that are different each year. They all have the same goal though, to inspire kids to become interested in fields of science, engineering, and math.
 
What makes this so challenging? Well, in early January, everyone across the whole world gathers at the same time to hear, for the first, what the year's new game is going to be. It is quite an event. From the moment the new game is unvailed, we have six weeks to design, build, program, and test our robot. During this time, all we think about is robots. We build the robot to fit the needs and challenges of the game. At the end of the six weeks, we have to put our robot in a bag and seal it up. We aren't allowed to touch it until our regional competition.
 
We usually compete in the Minnesota 10,000 Lakes Regional, held at Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota. The competition lasts three days, all day. The first day is usually practice, the second and part of the third is seeding rounds, and the last half of the third day is the championship round. Whoever wins the championship rounds is able to continue on to the Championship in St.Louis, Missouri. There are other ways to be able to go to the Championship as well. One such way is by being awarded the Chairman's Award. This award  goes out to the team who exhibits the most community involvement, mentors other teams, and other various deeds. This award is given higher stature than winning the game. The Chairman's Award is awarding those who are following and spreading the word of FIRST. 
 
During the actual game, we are put into alliances of three teams. During the practice and seeding rounds, we are randomly grouped together. This brings up the important point of communication. When you are on the alliances, you have to communicate each teams' strategies and you have to have it all figured out before you get on the field. Communication is the key. Before the championship rounds start, the top eight teams get to pick who they want on their alliances. This is based off the place that you build during the seeding matches. There is a lot of strategy to this.
 
This is where the famous line of FIRST comes into play. "Gracious Professionalism" is the phrase that everyone in FIRST lives by. To the people of FIRST, this means that is isn't winning that matters, it's how you act, how you treat others, and if you are having fun. In the games, you can get points not just from scoring them with your robot, but by helping other teams. Going to a competition for this sport is an experience like none other. Everyone is there just to have a good time, not necessarily to win. If you need help with your robot, all you have to do is ask and you will have a plethora of people coming to help you. Everyone is super friendly. Ask anyone and they'll say that going to the competition is one of the most memorable things they will do.
 
FIRST is here to get kids involved with real people in engineering and science fields. All teams have mentors that volunteer their time and skills. Sometimes they are professionals that want to be involved with a team that their company sponsors, other times they are our own teachers. Companies also sponsor individual teams and the entire program. If we didn't have sponsors, we wouldn't have this great program. Sponsors and mentors are what make this program work. We have wonderful mentors that do so much for us as well as great sponsors. We are always thankful for their time and effort.
 
You can ask anyone on our team or someone involved with the program. This is one of the best things we have. Everyone has a great time and learns so much more than what they would have gotten out of the classroom. In fact, students who are involved in FIRST are a lot more likely to go to college and study science, math or engineering.. One in three students applying for college will get a scholarship from FIRST as well. Many connections are made to help students find internships and careers after college. Students involved with this program will get so much out of it now and in the future.
 
For more information, check out this link, usfirst.org.