FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the inspiration of students and the growth of science, technology, and engineering recognition in the world. FIRST is sponsored by some of the world’s leading technology companies: GM, Motorola, Google, Chrysler, Johnson & Johnson, NASA, Boeing, National Instruments, FedEx, and Xerox to name a few.
FRC is the varsity level competition of the FIRST organization. FRC unites high school students with engineering and technology mentors in a global robotics competition of over 2,500 teams. The competition begins the first Saturday in January when the game rules are released to the teams. The robots compete in challenges that are similar to sports; from ball shooting to hanging game pieces on a grid, the games are different each year. After the rules are released, teams have just six short weeks to design and build a robot to play the game. The teams compete at regional events across the country, and then the best of the best move on to the World Championship event held in April of each year.
The challenge is extremely complex and demanding because the goal of the program is not to train students to build robots but to educate students on how to work passionately and to complete seemingly impossible tasks. The competition involves extremely advanced systems (the same embedded controller used by DARPA Urban Challenge teams, by FEDEX to automate fire suppression on their freight planes, and by the oil and gas industry to monitor pipelines) that forces students to broaden their understanding of technology. Additionally, students become accustomed to quick comprehension and application of the acquired knowledge in real world situations.
FRC is built on the principles of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition. These ideals provide an ethic that is unique amongst most competitions. FRC teams do not just strive to win each event in which they compete; they also try to make sure that the rest of the teams competing are performing at their best and that everyone is having a good time. FRC teams train and mentor other teams and work together to make more competitive machines.
FRC also stresses the development of each student outside of their technical skills. Each FRC team is run like a small corporation. Not only do they have to make a successful product (the robot), but most market their team, develop a business plan, manage the finances for the competition, and produce an annual report called a Chairman’s Award Entry. The Chairman’s Award, FIRST’s highest honor, celebrates a team that best models the ideals of FIRST in all aspects, focusing heavily on community partnerships and outreach.
FRC is the “hardest fun” high school students can have. It builds confidence, qualities, and skills that students will take with them for the rest of their lives.