What is FIRST?
Close your eyes, and envision a typical basketball game. Spectators cheer, bright lights beam down onto those sweating players, and all you hear are the sharp sounds of squeaks racing about on the floor. The sounds are deafening and the electric buzz of the competition are unmistakable. Now, open your eyes, and you realize it was a dream. Of course you are at a game, but it's nothing like this! The screaming hordes of high school geeks, the athletic drivers with robots. This is definitely not a basketball game. This is a FIRST competition.
Every year, high school students of all over take part in the FRC competition, hosted by FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) . They develop this competition, and later it is announced on the first Saturday of January. The students are then given six weeks to design and build a functioning robot. These games involve robots racing in circles, throwing balls, grabbing goals, and much more that would be set forth by FIRST. Drivers use specially designed controllers to manipulate those robots while human players take part in the game, and add a slight athletic touch.
The pits are where teams maintain their robots, duct-taping cracked welds and mourning snapped shafts. As done, Judges walk about the pits,interviewing and speaking to teams about their designs. Occasionally,VIPs including politicians and high-ranking corporate representatives will browse the pits, and start fawning over the robots.
To make this even better, the competition concludes with an elaborate award ceremony. Teams receive a variety of awards, mostly for creative purposes, such as Design Excellence and Gracious Professionalism. The tension rises as the ceremony comes to an end, and someone is presented with Engineering Inspiration and Chairman's, the highest awards attainable in the FRC Competition.
FIRST is a program created by Dean Kamen (shown right on his iconic Segway) and Woodie Flowers in 1989 to promote awareness of science and technology among students. FIRST is an activity blending elements of athletic competition with gracious professionalism and cooperation to create a fun, educational experience. In Dean's words, FIRST exists "to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
Taking inspiration from traditional high school athletics, FIRST gives thousands of high school teams the opportunity to compete in several robotics competitions, including the Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL), FIRST Lego League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). FIRST allows students to actively compete while maintaining a philosophy of gracious professionalism and cooperation. While building robots to compete in these events, students learn key skills in management, teamwork, entrepreneurship, and time management.
Not only does FIRST cultivate interest and skills in science and technology, FIRST also places strong emphasis on community service. At every FIRST regional competition, and finally at the FIRST championship, one team will win the Chairman's Award, the most prestigious award that a team can receive in FIRST. The Chairman's Award is won by demonstrating a team's commitment to spreading awareness of science and technology in the team's local community. These students often participate in a variety of community service efforts to improve their local communities and spread the lessons of FIRST to our neighbors.
Through education in technology and commitment to bettering the community, FIRST continues to create scores of students seeking to better their world through advancement in the sciences. These students will become the engineers, scientists, and even world leaders of tomorrow. These students will one day use the important lessons they learned in FIRST to better the global community.