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FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 in order to develop ways to excite students about engineering and technology. The FIRST Robotics Competition is designed to inspire high school students to be become engineers by giving them real world experience working with professional engineers to develop a robot. The inaugural FIRST Robotics Competition was held in 1992. The FIRST Lego League is a similar program for younger students. The FIRST Vex Challenge (New in 2005) is designed for high school students who don't have the financial, chronological or other resources for the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST also operates FIRST Place, a facility at FIRST headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire where FIRST holds educational programs for students and teachers.



The FIRST Robotics Competition involves teams of mentors (corporate, teachers, or college students) and high school students that collaborate to design and build a robot in six weeks. This robot is designed to play a game, which is designed by FIRST and changes from year to year. This game is announced at a nationally simulcast kickoff event in January. Regional competitions take place around the United States and Canada, and even Israel, but FIRST has a multinational following that further includes the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and Germany.

Teams are expected to solicit local businesses for support in the form of donations of time, money, or skills. Some teams have membership of 60 or more and have established substantial presence in their local communities by helping local FIRST Lego League teams (see below), running classes in various technical topics, and more.

As of 2005, FIRST includes more than 1000 teams (around 20,000 students) competing in 31 Regional Competitions, as well as one championship competition held in Atlanta, Georgia.

The highest honor bestowed in FIRST is the Chairman's Award, which is given to the team that best manifests the FIRST spirit of gracious professionalism. Regional Chairman's Award winners then compete at the national level for the National Chairman's Award.

2005's Game is called Triple Play. 2004's Game was called FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar.

The Competition

The competition is a yearly event. The most intense participation occurs in the first few months of the year, although on many teams, activities never stop throughout the entire year. Shortly before winter break ends, FIRST announces the details of a game live to all participating teams. The game changes very much from year to year, with only a few rules such as the size of the robot staying the same.

For the next six weeks, often called the "build season," the teams begin to design a robot to play the game, essentially from scratch. This six week period is extremily intense, but it is what makes FIRST the program that it is, and gives the program its personality. Team members spend this time designing strageties to play the game, drawing up ideas for robot parts, working with size and weight constraints, and finally, builing and assembling their robot. Often, mistakes are realized late into the build season, and teams must start over close to the beginning. Other challenges involved include getting driver experinece, building the electronics for the robot, and programming it. After the build season has ended, teams must ship their robot to where their first competition is.

Competitions for FIRST consist of many (about 30) regional competitions, and one championship event. Regionals typically involve around 40 teams. Teams are randomly paired into qualification matches, where they are ranked. Matches are relatively short, and only involve 4 or 6 robots (depending on the game). The game changes every year, but for the most part, they involve some autonomous (computer controlled) robot operation for a short period of time at the beginning of a match, followed by a much longer period of remote control. Teams use scoring objects on the field to get points, which are evaluated only after the match has completely ended. In between matches, teams spend the time desprately trying to fix broken parts, and sometimes even add new ones right at competition. After the qualification matches have ended, the top 8 teams will pick parters from the remaining ones, and they resulting alliances will compete for a regional winner. The championship event is esentialy a very large regional, with four fields simultaneously playing matches. Teams must qualify through a number of means to be able to attend the championship.

FIRST is not just about building a good robot. The intense working conditions, and hard-earned wins build families out of teams, and an important part of the competition is to ensure that good work ethics and gracious professionalism are kept throughout the competition. In fact, of the awards handed out at regionals and the championship, the most important ones deal not with who had the best robot, but who did the best job of spreading the message of FIRST.

FIRST Lego League

FIRST Robotics' sister organization is the FIRST Lego League (FLL). FLL is intended to further the same ideals that FIRST does but at a middle school level and utilizing the Lego Mindstorms for Schools educational robotics system, including ROBOLAB programming software based on National Instruments' LabView industrial control engineering software. The combination of interchangeable LEGO parts, computer 'bricks' and sensors, and the aforementioned software, provide preteens and teenagers with the capability to build reasonably complex models of real-life robotic systems.

2003's challenge was inspired by that year's Mars Rover mission, in that the competing teams had to design and construct robots to solve a number of problems like removing rocks from a 'solar panel' to ensure a Mars base energy supply, collect 'soil/rock samples' from the Martian desert landscape, as well as several additional subproblems.

2004's challenge will be centered around building models of various robotic assistant systems for disabled persons, and demonstrate how the systems are (hopefully) able to solve the given model problems in a satisfying way.

FIRST Vex Challenge

The FIRST Vex Challenge is a new mid-level robotics competition announced by FIRST on March 22, 2005. Its first competition will be a demonstration competition at the national FIRST competition in Atlanta, GA from April 21-22, 2005.


FIRSTwiki is a website where members of the FIRST community can all contribute to create a resource on everything FIRST. As of April 2005, it has over 1300 content articles.

FIRSTwiki was created on May 24, 2004. Like Wikipedia, it is a wiki -- a website that can be edited by anyone. It uses the MediaWiki software (currently version 1.4.2). It was created and is currently managed by Iammaxus (known as Max on FIRSTwiki). FIRSTwiki was created in response to a thread ( on the unofficial FIRST forums suggesting such a FIRST wiki by FIRSTwiki user Phrontist (Bjorn J. Westergard).

It is currently hosted by ChiefDelphi, an unofficial online forum designed by FIRST Team 47 to facilitate interaction between FIRST participants.

FIRSTwiki is modeled in large part after Wikipedia, with many of its meta pages being copied, often word for word, from Wikipedia. Its policies are also based on Wikipedia's. Many technical pages have links to their Wikipedia counterparts. In fact, even its logo is directly modeled after Wikipedia's logo. See the Logo candidates page for it and others.

External links


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