FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, NH, the 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. FIRST’s Vision is to positively transform culture by inspiring young people, their schools, and communities to appreciate science and technology. FIRST brings together schools with businesses, and students with professionals as mentors, all with the support of local universities.
The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is an exciting, multinational competition that teams professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. The program is a life-changing, career-molding experience—and a lot of fun. In 2006, the competition reached over 28,000 high-school-aged young people on over 1,125 teams in 33 regional events. FRC teams came from Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico, the U.K., and almost every U.S. state. The competitions are high-tech spectator sporting events, the result of lots of focused brainstorming, real-world teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines, and deadlines.
Colleges, universities, corporations, businesses, and individuals provided over $8 million in college scholarships to FRC participants in 2007. Involved engineersexperience again many of the reasons they chose engineering as a profession, and the companies they work for contribute to the community while they prepare and create their future workforce. The competition shows students that the technological fields hold many opportunities and that the basic concepts of science, math, engineering, and invention are exciting and interesting.
Winning necessitates cooperation among teams that have never met before. In a competition that has nothing to do with smashing another robot, FRC teams of students and their mentors have six weeks to design and build a robot from a standard kit of parts to compete at FIRST Regional Events under the principles of “gracious professionalism.”
The FIRST Vex™ Challenge (FVC) is a mid-level robotics competition targeted toward high-school aged students. It offers the traditional challenge of a FIRST competition but with a more accessible and affordable robotics kit. The ultimate goal of FVC is to reach more young people with a lower-cost, more accessible opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of science, technology, and engineering. Teams use the Vex Robotics Design System to design and build robots to compete in FIRST-designed game For the 2006 Season, the FIRST VexChallenge is adopting a tournament structure throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. FVC Partners have been established throughout many states and provinces, and are now working to promote the FIRST Vex Challenge in their areas.
For 9-14 year-olds, there is FIRST LEGO League. The FIRST LEGO League (FLL), considered the “little league” of the FIRST Robotics Competition, is the result of a partnership between FIRST and the LEGO Company. FLL extends the FIRST concept of inspiring and celebrating science and technology to children usually aged 9 through 14, using real-world context and hands-on experimentation. In 2006 the competition reached more than 62,000 students on 7,501 teams worldwide. The teams came from 29 countries and almost every U.S. state.
With the help of LEGO® MINDSTORMS™ Robotics Invention System™ technology, young participants can build a robot and compete in a friendly, FIRST-style robotics event specially designed for their age group. Using LEGO bricks and other elements such as sensors, motors, and gears, teams gain hands-on experience in engineering and computer programming principles as they construct and program their unique robot inventions.
Junior FIRST LEGO League (JFLL) offers an exciting opportunity for younger budding scientists will introduce the core concepts of all FIRST programs to inspire, excite, and introduce children to the wonders of science, technology, and engineering. Created in partnership with the LEGO Group, JFLL is geared to children aged 6 to 9 years old and utilizes a modified FIRST LEGO League framework. Teams of up to 6 children and an adult mentor receive a mini challenge, based on the annual FLL research project. Using an open-ended LEGO building set, they will design a model depicting an aspect of this year’s “Nano Quest” Challenge. Children will spend approximately one month exploring, investigating, designing and building a model made with LEGO bricks. In conjunction, teams create a “Show Me” poster that depicts the teams’ experience during this process, through drawings and words. Teams celebrate and share their experience with other teams, family and friends at local events or at an official JFLL Expo. The celebration includes time to enhance the teams’ current models and show their poster, meet with friendly “Reviewers” to share their experiences, and receive recognition for their efforts.