FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of technology and engineering in school through the use of robotics. During the six week building season, students not only use their science and math skills to build a robot that they will forever be proud of, but also learn how to work as a team.
The program promotes more than it realizes. Beyond “inspiration recognition of science and technology,” successful teams require effective and concise communication, strong but flexible leadership, project planning, and any other real-world skill necessary in the collaborative workplace. Everything from individual innovations to sweeping community outreach programs are essential to FIRST‘s mission.
“To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.”
—Dean Kamen, FIRST Founder
FIRST was founded in 1989 by renowned inventor Dean Kamen, and since then participation in FIRST has exploded. Thousands of teams from the U.S. and other countries compete for the joy of learning and the success in competition. In addition to the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST also runs the Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL), FIRST Lego League (FLL) and the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), which are aimed at introducing elementary and middle school students to robotics. Usually, these students go on to participate in the FRC program, and quite often their future careers are influenced by this.
As part of its mission to transform today’s culture, FIRST embodies two main core values: Gracious ProfessionalismTM and CoopertitionTM. As FIRST National Advisor Dr. Woodie Flowers puts it, Gracious ProfessionalismTM is where people “learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process.” Similarly, those who engage in CoopertitionTM show respect for their opponents even in the heat of competition. These values are key reasons why the unsportsmanlike behavior seen in many other sporting events are not exhibited at FIRST events.
The FIRST fever is catching in other countries as well. There are teams from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, Ecuador, and others. Check out www.usfirst.org for more information and a list of events happening in you area!
If you want to start your own FIRST team, click here!
Junior FIRST Lego League (JFLL) — (ages 6-9)
JFLL is a robotics program designed to engage younger children. It was created to challenge curious young minds into developing critical thinking, research, and basic design skills through real-world challenges and presentations on issues the world faces today. They will create moving Lego elements to solve problems, with guidance from adult JFLL coaches.
FIRST Lego League (FLL) — (ages 9-14)
FLL is an extracurricular robotics program designed to teach students ages 9 through 14 about the basics of mechanical design, programming, and public speaking. All FLL robots are made of standard Lego blocks and are built to complete a set of tasks autonomously. While working with adult and high school mentors, FLL members learn to brainstorm, build, and collaborate as a team.
FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) — (high school ages)
FTC is the link between FLL and FRC. Also an extracurricular program, this challenge provides students with a more sophisticated kit of parts than the FLL kit. An erector set including servo motors and plastic gears is provided to each registered FTC team. These robots are generally much bigger than Lego robots and are human-driven via radio control, as being autonomously operated.
FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) — (high school ages)
FRC is FIRST‘s uppermost division, where high school students build robots that are both human operated and autonomously controlled in just six short weeks. These robot are typically five feet tall, weigh 120 pounds, and can be built with nearly any material. FRC teams are usually quite large, so in addition to learning technical skills, students can learn how to lead a team. Also, requiring a higher budget than FTC, FRC gives students the opportunity to learn fundraising skills and present to corporations to potentially gain sponsors.