What is the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®)?

Crossroads Regional Battle

The FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) for Grades 9-12 (ages 14 to 18) is an annual competition that helps young people discover the rewards and excitement of education and careers in science, engineering, and technology. FRC challenges high-school-aged students - working with professional adult Mentors - to design and build a robot, and compete in high-intensity events that reward the effectiveness of each robot, the power of team strategy and collaboration, and the determination of students. In 1992, the initial FIRST Robotics Competition took place with 28 teams in a high school gym in New Hampshire. In 2012, the largest-ever FRC is expected to include teams from more than 10 countries competing in 52 Regional events, 1 State Championship, 1 Region Championship, 14 District Competitions, and the FIRST Championship at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, April 25-28, 2012.

Why involve a professional Mentor? Why don't students build the robot themselves?

FIRST creates powerful mentoring relationships between the students and professional Mentors. FRC teams include engineers and other professionals from some of the world's most respected companies. Students work closely with and learn from these "stars" of the engineering world. Meaningful involvement of adults in children's lives is proven as an essential component for developing young people's potential.

How is the game played?

Each year's Kickoff event unveils a new, exciting, and challenging game. From the Kickoff, teams have just six weeks to solve the season's common problem using the same kit of parts and a standard set of rules. The 2012 robotics game, Rebound Rumble℠, is played between two Alliances of three teams each. Each Alliance competes by trying to score as many of the basketballs in the hoops as possible during the 2-minute and 15-second match. Balls scored in higher hoops score Alliances more points. Alliances are awarded bonus points if they are balanced on bridges at the end of the match. In matches where opponent Alliances work together to balance on the white bridge, all participating teams earn additional valuable seeding points.

Who participates in the competition?

During the 2012 season, close to 60,000 high-school students on more than 2,300 FRC teams will compete in 52 Regionals (in the U.S., Canada, and Israel), 1 State Championship, 1 Region Championship, 14 District Competitions, and the Championship. Each team is comprised of professional Mentors and an average of 25 students in grades 9-12. In addition, each FIRST team has one or more Sponsors. Those Sponsors include companies, universities, or professional organizations that donate their time, talent, funds, equipment, and much more to the team effort.

Is scientific, technology, or mathematic expertise required for students to participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition?

FIRST invites students who may not be predisposed to science, math, or technology to participate. In fact, the FRC is designed to inspire, motivate, and encourage students to learn basic principles while challenging more experienced students. Since there are critical roles for students in everything from design and building, to computer animation, to fundraising, marketing and research, every student can actively participate and benefit.

What do the students win?

Teams compete for a series of awards honoring accomplishments in areas including engineering, design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship, and high-impact partnerships between schools, businesses, and communities. A judging committee of distinguished professionals makes award decisions. The most
prestigious award is the Chairman's Award, which recognizes the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST. All participating students receive a medallion in honor of their achievements. Any FRC participant is also eligible to apply for over $14 million in scholarships from leading engineering colleges and universities.

Are there other benefits to participating?

Throughout their FIRST experience, students gain maturity, build self-confidence, learn teamwork, and gain an understanding of professionalism. Students have fun while building a network of friends and professional Mentors who enrich their lives. A 2011 Brandeis University evaluation of FIRST participants from a random national sample of FRC teams found:

  • Almost all (97%) FRC participants have an interest in learning more about science and technology as a result of their participation on a FIRST team.
  • Most (91%) FRC participants are more interested in going to college as a result of being on their FIRST team.
  • 90% of FRC participants are more interested in having a career that uses science and technology.
  • The large majority of FRC team members (over 90%) indicate an increase in teamwork skills, problem solving, time management, and communication skills as a result of their experience on their FIRST team.

A 2005 Brandeis University evaluation of FIRST participants primarily from urban and low-income schools found that, compared to a group of students with similar backgrounds in high school math and science, FRC participants were:

  • Nearly twice as likely to major in science or engineering (55% vs. 28%).
  • More than three times as likely to major specifically in engineering (41% vs. 13%), and they majored in engineering at roughly seven times the average among US college students overall.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to have a science or technology-related career after college (45% vs. 20%).

Sponsors benefit by finding future employees and interns. Mentors benefit from renewed inspiration and a reminder as to why they chose Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) as a career. Volunteers are recognized as an integral and vital part of the way in which young people connect to the real world, in their own communities and in the world at large.