FIRST is a the non-profit organization that created and organizes the robotics competitions in which we compete. While our school only has a FRC robotics team (grade 9-12), FIRST provides other programs like FIRST Tech Challenge (6,000 teams) for students grade 7-12, FIRST LEGO League (35,200+ teams) for students grade 4-8, and FIRST LEGO League Jr. (16,500+ teams) for grades K-4. Furthermore, it also has a scholarship program that provides it's participants over $80 million in about 2,000 individual college scholarship opportunities from nearly 200 scholarship providers. As an organization to promote STEM, FIRST is an well rounded stepping stone for pre-university students to develop vocational skills that would otherwise be difficult to cultivate.
FRC is the subdivision under first in which our team participates. FRC is a program geared towards high school students who are interested in robotics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and business development. Every January, FRC begins with an internationally broadcasted event called Kickoff. Teams from all over the world gather, locally or at an event site, to watch the broadcast video that reveals the game of the year. After the broadcast, teams are given a kit of parts including a few game pieces and various other things the teams could incorporate on the robot. Teams also generally begin to plan strategies and design immediately after because the event signals the beginning of the six-week build season in which the robot must be built and then bagged at the end of the period, preventing teams from working on the robot after the six-week period. Six weeks is not a lot of time, so teams typically congregate multiple times a week for extensive hours that increase as the deadline approaches. While the competition environment may be difficult, it allows the participants to actively learn useful skills, like programming or industrial fabrication, with a driven purpose.
On top of the scholarship opportunities that the organization provides, FRC also rewards individual teams on different achievements in their robots and contributions throughout the year. With robot awards, teams can be praised for their innovative designs with the Creativity Award or through a well-built robot through the Quality Award or Engineering Inspiration Award. Beyond the robot, teams also may submit essays or videos that help FRC understand the contribution the team have accumulated from community outreach to internal development. Awards like these range from the Imagery Award which praises a team for its ability to present a theme or consistent image, to the prestigious Chairman’s Award, which praises a team for being a “role model” team by either giving back to the community with STEM and/or inspiring other youth. Furthermore, some of these awards also come with scholarships and sponsored funding by various supporting companies.