FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics is a nonprofit international robotics organization founded by Dean Kamen in 1989. The intent of FIRST is to inspire students in the fields of science and technology through competitions. The FIRST Robotics Competition combines gracious professionalism with technology. The result is an environment that fosters a deeper appreciation for science and technology.
FIRST has four competitions it facilitates each year to promote this vision: FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST LEGO League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and Junior FIRST LEGO League (JFLL). The Aluminum Falcons currently participate in FIRST’s FRC program for high school students.
Vision: “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” - Dean Kamen
Mission: “Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) stages short games played by remote-controlled robots. The robots are designed and built in 6 weeks (out of a common set of basic parts) by a team of 10 to 20 high school aged young people and a handful of engineers-mentors. The students pilot the robots on the field. Each school year, teams are formed in the fall. Competitions take place in March and April. FRC Regional events are typically held in university arenas. They involve 40 to 70 teams cheered by thousands of fans over three days. A championship event caps the season. Referees oversee the competition and Judges present awards to teams for design, technology, sportsmanship and commitment to FIRST. The Chairman’s Award is FIRST highest honor.
What is the history of the FIRST FRC game?
While FIRST was founded in 1989, the first FRC season wasn't until 1992. From 1992 to 2004, games were played with two teams on each red and blue alliance comprising two alliances on the field, where an alliance represents a group of teams that are allied for one match. From 2005 on, which is commonly known as the "modern era", games are played with three teams to each alliance. The FRC competition has evolved each year with its beginnings on small fields filled with corn kernels to the 27' X 54' field with lights, sensors, buzzers and obstacles that we all have come to know and love now. Below is a video that outlines the history and change of the FIRST FRC competition. Special thanks to FIRST FRC team 3075 Ha-Dream from Hadarim High School, Hod HaSharon, Israel for putting together this excellent videography of the evolution of the FIRST FRC competition.
What does a season in FIRST look like?
The Aluminum Falcons, begin planning the team's goals in the fall, however the official FIRST season begins in early January with the annual Kickoff. The event, held in Manchester, NH, and broadcast worldwide by NASA, announces the new game to the FIRST FRC community for the year. From the Kickoff, teams are given six weeks to strategize, prototype, design, construct, and program their robots, using parts from the standard "kit of parts" given to each team or by designing and fabricating their mechanisms via the use of machine shops and various sponsors.
After the robot is shipped to FIRST, the Aluminum Falcons continue to run driver practice for the current game, prepare and train our game scouts and continue to look for ways to improve the robot we just shipped. One week or so later team 2168 attends one of 40 Regional Events held each week in March from Thursday through Saturday. At each competition, in which from 30 to 65 teams usually enter, teams arrive on Thursday to unpack and inspect their robot, which has been independently shipped to the competition site. Teams are given this day to make any last-minute repairs or modifications to their robots as well as compete in several practice rounds held throughout the day to test their six-week creation. Team 2168 also uses Thursday as an opportunity to begin to get into the 'competition mode' mindset as well as become familiar with other teams' robots in an attempt to learn the strongest competitors in attendance and adjust their own strategy accordingly.
Friday and Saturday are the main days of each Regional Event. On Friday, following the opening ceremonies, teams assemble in predetermined alliances on the competition field to play that year's FRC game. Teams compete in "qualifying matches" throughout the day, changing alliances every round as they do, with each match gaining the winning alliance's teams "qualifying points" (two points for winning a match, no points for losing a match, and one point for tying a match"). Qualifying matches end in the evening, and all teams attend a partial awards ceremony followed by a social event.
On Saturday, teams continue to compete in qualifying matches until each team has played in an equal number of rounds, which can be anywhere from seven to eleven. The results are tabulated, and the eight teams with the highest number of qualifying points at the conclusion of the matches are brought onto the competition field to serve as "alliance captains." Each alliance captain, in order from first to eighth, selects another team ranked lower than themselves that they would like to ally with for the rest of the competition. The chosen team has the option of accepting or declining the offer; however, if the offer is declined, any other team for the rest of the competition may not choose that team. If the chosen team is another one of the eight alliance captains and accepts the offer of a higher-seeded captain to ally, then all of the teams are moved up one rank based on qualifying rankings; this can and has resulted in a previously unseeded team becoming an alliance captain. This process continues until each of the top eight alliances has one partner. The process then repeats, but the second time, the eighth-seeded alliance captain chooses an alliance partner first, and the first-seeded alliance captain does so last. The eight alliances of three teams each are then paired in an elimination bracket, and compete in a best-of-three-matches series. The team left standing after the final round wins the competition.
At the conclusion of the Regional Events, a roster is released for the Championship Event. Each team entered into the event is placed into one of four divisions of about 80 teams each: Archimedes, Curie, Galileo, and Newton. Teams can be entered into the Championship Event in a multitude of ways:
- FRC Teams that registered in or before 1992, when the first Championship Event was held, are automatically eligible to enter so long as they remain active in FRC.
- All of the winners of Championship Chairman's Awards may enter.
- The winner's of the previous year's Championship Event are automatically given a berth if they choose to accept it.
- The winners of the Championship Engineering Inspiration Award.
- The winning alliance from each Regional Event.
- Each winner of a Regional Chairman's Award.
- Each team receiving a Regional Engineering Inspiration Award.
- The rookie team that receives the Rookie All-Star Award at a Regional.
- If a team does not qualify in the manners listed above, they can still enter the Championship by reserving an open slot on a first-come-first-served basis. Teams that did not attend the previous year's Championship Event are given first preference for the open slots after the above criteria have been fulfilled.
Teams compete in the same manner that they do at Regional Events, except only within their division as opposed to with all robots at the event. Alliance selection proceeds in the same manner as at Regionals, albeit with choices restricted to one's own division: the first-seeded team chooses an alliance partner, followed by the second-seeded team, etc., and the choosing of the second alliance partner proceeds in reverse order. At the conclusion of the following elimination matches, a division winner, rather than an overall competition winner, is determined in each of the four divisions.
The division-winning alliances then move to the next phase of the competition: matches on Einstein field. Having won their division, each alliance is entered into a semifinal match replete with tension as they compete to become the world champions of FIRST. The winning alliance is crowned as the champion, receiving trophies, banners, and bragging rights.
The people and companies that make FIRST run.
FIRST is a largely volunteer run organization, comprised of company leaders, politicians, engineers, scientist, teachers, and parents. The basis of volunteering in FIRST, is to give students in our communities at very low cost an opportunity like no other to become innovators, model citizens, and future leaders in our ever changing world. To learn about volunteering in FIRST Robotics and how you can make an impact in your community please
FIRST is sponsored by a number of large and small corporations both national and international. These companies provide all types of sponsorship through financial contributions, hardware and software, as well as technical expertise. To see the companies that sponsor FIRST please (click here). In addition to sponsoring FIRST as an organization, a number of corporations and small businesses sponsor individual FIRST teams. This gives teams an opportunity to exist from year to year, remain competitive, and continue to grow and make an impact in their community. To see the businesses and organizations that sponsor the Aluminum Falcons please (click here).
This group of dedicated individuals are the backbone of any FIRST robotics team and are comprised of teachers, engineers, parents, and community members. As a group they dedicate tens of thousands of hours to the students of each FIRST robotics team. From fundraising and business management to coaching, designing, and building the mentors teach students the fundamentals of engineering as well as how to survive in the real world with real world skills. To read about the Aluminum Falcon's mentors please (click here).
The students are what FIRST is all about, these students are our countries future, they are our worlds future. These students are not segregated and accepted into FIRST by their class or wealth, but are given an equal opportunity to succeed no matter gender, orientation, or race. Students graduating high school from the FIRST program have repeatedly become bright stars in the world of science, technology, and engineering. These students in the FRC competition are the kids who design, build, and program a robot in six weeks to compete internationally with other bright minds. These kids are the future and any prudent person and prudent community will always invest in their future. To read about the students on the Aluminum Falcons team please (click here).