FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is an international high school robotics competition. Each year, teams of high school students and mentors work during a six-week period to build game-playing robots that weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg). Robots complete tasks such as scoring balls into goals, flying discs into goals, inner tubes onto racks, hanging on bars, and balancing robots on balance beams. The game changes yearly, keeping the excitement fresh and giving each team a more level playing field. While teams are given a standard set of parts, they are also allowed a budget and encouraged to buy or make specialized parts. The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is one of four robotics competition programs organized by FIRST, the other three being FIRST Lego League Jr. (Jr. FLL), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC).
FRC has a unique culture, built around two values. Gracious Professionalism embraces the competition inherent in the program, but rejects trash talk and chest-thumping, instead embracing empathy and respect for other teams. Coopertition emphasizes that teams can cooperate and compete at the same time. The goal of the program is to inspire students to be science and technology leaders.
In 2016, the 25th year of competition, 3128 teams with roughly 75,000 students and 19,000 mentors from 24 countries built robots. They competed in 53 Regional Competitions, 65 District Qualifying Competitions, and 8 District Championships. 600 teams won slots to attend the FIRST Championship, where they competed in a tournament. In addition to on-field competition, teams and team members competed for awards recognizing entrepreneurship, creativity, engineering, industrial design, safety, controls, media, quality, and exemplifying the core values of the program.
Most teams reside in the United States, with Canada, Israel, and Mexico contributing significant numbers of teams.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, with inspiration and assistance from physicist and MIT professor emeritus Woodie Flowers. Kamen was disappointed with the number of kids—particularly women and minorities—who considered science and technology careers, and decided to do something about it. As an inventor, he looked for activities that captured the enthusiasm of students, and decided that combining the excitement of sports competition with science and technology had potential.
Distilling what sports had done right into a recipe for engaging young people, Kamen says, turned out to be relatively straightforward. "It's after school, not in school. It's aspirational, not required," he explained to me.
"You don't get quizzes and tests, you go into competitions and get trophies and letters. You don't have teachers, you have coaches. You nurture, you don't judge. You create teamwork between all the participants. We justify sports for teamwork but why, when we do it in the classroom, do we call it cheating?"
Kamen has stated that FIRST is the invention he feels most proud of, and predicts that participants will be responsible for significant technological advances in years to come. The first FRC season was in 1992 and had one event at a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire. That first competition was relatively small-scale, similar in size to today's FIRST Tech Challenge and Vex Robotics Competition games. Robots relied on a wired connection to receive data from drivers; in the following year, it quickly transitioned to a wireless system.
Countries currently represented (in decreasing order of number of teams, as of 2016)United States of America (2,682)
United Kingdom (3)
Dominican Republic (2)
Czech Republic (1)
United Arab Emirates (1)
The FIRST Championship is the culmination of the FRC competition season, and occurs in late April each year. Roughly 600 teams participated in 2015. On May 5th, 2016, FIRST announced that from the 2017 season and onward, there would be two FIRST Championships. One for the Northeast taking place in St.Louis MO, and one for the Southwest taking place in Houston TX.
The 2017 & 2018 Geographical Assignment Map can be seen here...
From 1996 to 1998, the FIRST Championship was covered by ESPN. Live coverage is currently provided by NASA TV, which can be viewed on the internet, TVRO, DirecTV, and Dish Network; the sophistication of the broadcast of each event is dependent on the organizers of that event, and range from professionally called with color commentary, such as the 2011 Michigan State Championship, to single-camera setups with no commentary other than the on-field play caller.
The PBS documentary "Gearing Up" followed four teams through the 2008 season.
In the television series Dean of Invention, Dean Kamen made appeals promoting FIRST prior to commercial breaks.
During the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition season, FIRST team 3132, Thunder Down Under, was followed by a Macquarie University student film crew to document the first year of FRC in Australia. The crew produced a documentary film called I, Wombot. The film premiered during the 2011 Dungog Film Festival.
A book called The New Cool was written by Neal Bascomb about the story of Team 1717 from Goleta, California as they competed in the 2009 game season. A movie adaptation directed by Michael Bacall is being produced.
The CNN documentary "Don't Fail Me: Education in America", which aired on 15 May 2011, followed three FRC teams during the 2011 season. The documentary profiled one student from each team, covering different geographic and socioeconomic levels: Shaan Patel from Team 1403 Cougar Robotics, Maria Castro from Team 842 Falcon Robotics, and Brian Whited from Team 3675 Eagletrons.
On 14 August 2011, ABC aired a special on FIRST called "i.am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll" that featured many famous musical artists such as The Black Eyed Peas and Willow Smith. will.i.am himself was the executive producer of the special. The program placed a special focus on the FIRST Robotics competition, even though it included segments on the FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Lego League, and Junior FIRST Lego League.
The movie 'Drive Like A Girl' followed the Bronx High School of Science's all girls robot team the Fe Maidens
For the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, five FRC teams and their robots led the parade, with one robot cutting the ribbon and the others shooting confetti.
In the 2014 movie Transformers: Age of Extinction, a FRC Robot built by Team 2468, Team Appreciate, for the 2012 Season was featured in Cade Yeager's garage shooting the foam basketball game pieces from Rebound Rumble.
The 2015 Kickoff was, for the first time, broadcast by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, and was available via OnDemand for the month of January 2015.
The fourth season of The Fosters (2013 TV series) had several episodes featuring characters competing in a regional FRC competition, most notably episode 8 "Girl Code".Marc Hodosh, entrepreneur, chairman of the Boston FRC competition
Mark Leon, NASA researcher and Master of Ceremonies for several FRC events
Amir Abo-Shaeer (Team 1717), teacher and engineer, subject of The New Cool
Grant Imahara (Team 841), engineer and roboticist, former cast member of MythBusters
Dave Lavery (Team 116), NASA scientist and former member of the FRC Game Design Committee
Emma Dumont (Team 980), actress, cast member of Aquarius and Bunheads
2017: FIRST STEAMworks
2016: FIRST Stronghold
2015: Recycle Rush
2014: Aerial Assist
2013: Ultimate Ascent
2012: Rebound Rumble
2008: FIRST Overdrive
2007: Rack 'n Roll
2006: Aim High
2005: Triple Play
2004: FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar
2003: Stack Attack
2002: Zone Zeal
2001: Diabolical Dynamics
2000: Co-Opertition FIRST
1999: Double Trouble
1998: Ladder Logic
1997: Toroid Terror
1996: Hexagon Havoc
1995: Ramp 'n Roll
1994: Tower Power
1993: Rug Rage
1992: Maize Craze