FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a multinational non-profit organization, that aspires to transform culture, making science, math, engineering, and technology as cool for kids as sports are today. FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter.
FIRST runs several programs for students ranging from elementary to high school. One of these is the FIRST Robotics Competition, or FRC. FIRST Robotics Competition provides students with the unique opportunity to learn about and gain experience in the areas of science and engineering. Each year, FIRST releases a brand new challenge. Teams have six weeks to design, prototype and build a robot that will accomplish the set tasks. After those six weeks, teams must ship their robots to competitions. At competitions, teams play in three-on-three matches to score points and win awards. However, there is much more to FRC than robots. Teams learn about gracious professionalism, good sportsmanship, and other important values. Several awards can be won through written essays describing the team’s impact on the community.
Another program is FIRST Lego League, aimed at students from fourth to eighth grade. FIRST Lego League is a kind of introductory program. Students work with small Lego robots instead of large machines, but the values taught by FLL are the same. Students receive a challenge and are given several weeks to create a Lego robot that will accomplish specific mission tasks. Unlike FRC, the robots do not compete head-to-head. Instead, two teams play on adjacent fields simultaneously. Often, the teams must work together to complete at least one of the missions. As with FRC, there is more to FLL than just the competition. A lot of attention is also placed on the research project. In the research project, teams investigate several areas of science relating to the current game.
The FIRST Tech Challenge is similar to FRC, but uses a smaller, more affordable robotics kit to allow the program to reach even more students. Junior FLL is a program aimed at students from ages six to nine, and is designed to spark interest in science and technology. Even adults can get involved by mentoring teams or volunteering at events.