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FIRST Robotics Competition

FIRST Robotics Competition
Current season, competition or edition:
Recycle Rush
Sport Robotics-related games
Founded Dean Kamen
Woodie Flowers
Commissioner Frank Merrick[1]
Motto The varsity sport for the mind
Inaugural season 1992
No. of teams 2,908[2]
Most recent champion(s) Chairman's Award Winner:
597: "Wolverines' [3]
Champion Teams:
118: "Robonauts"
1678: "Citrus Circuits"
1671: "Buchanan Bird Brains"
5012: "Gryffingear" [4]
Most titles World Champions:
71: Team Hammond (4 titles)
Blue Banners:
254: The Cheesy Poofs (39 Banners)
1114: Simbotics (39 Banners)

Regional & District Wins:
254: The Cheesy Poofs (29 titles)
Longest Win Streak :
2056: OP Robotics (22 titles)
Greatest Combination in History :
2056: OP Robotics and 1114: Simbotics (17 Regional wins together)
Regional & District Chairman's Award:
503: Frog Force (9 awards)[5]
TV partner(s) NBCUniversal
Related competitions FIRST Tech Challenge
FIRST Lego League
Junior FIRST Lego League
Official website /frc/

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is an international high school FIRST.

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.[7] The goal of the program is to inspire students to be science and technology leaders.

In 2015, the 24th year of competition, 2904 teams with roughly 73,000 students and 17,500 mentors from 19 countries built robots. They competed in 56 Regional Competitions, 48 District Qualifying Competitions, and 5 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 compete 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.[8]


  • History 1
  • Community 2
  • Annual schedule 3
  • Teams 4
  • Competition 5
    • Competitive events 5.1
      • Regional Competitions 5.1.1
      • District Qualifying Competitions 5.1.2
      • District Qualifying Competitions 5.1.3
      • District Championship competitions 5.1.4
      • FIRST Championship 5.1.5
    • Awards 5.2
      • Chairman's Award 5.2.1
      • Woodie Flowers Award 5.2.2
      • Dean's List Award 5.2.3
  • Kit of parts 6
  • Media exposure 7
  • Games 8
  • Gallery 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13
    • International 13.1
    • Community resources 13.2
    • Related or associated organizations and sponsors 13.3
    • Tutorial websites 13.4
    • 13.5 Articles of interest


1992: Maize Craze

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?" Most of all, it was a nonjudgmental space, where in contrast science and math in traditional educational settings had been soured with embarrassment and uncertainty.[9]

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.[10] The first FRC season was in 1992 and had one event at a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire.[11] 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.[12][13]

Since 2005, the games have been played with two opposing "alliances" each composed of three teams. Prior to that, a variety of other formats were used, including 2-team alliances, 4-team alliances and 3 teams competing independently.

Starting in 1995, the FIRST Championship (and by extension, the FRC championships) has been held at a large venue, such as Atlanta, and the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

FIRST sponsors have included major companies such as Boeing, Microsoft, National Instruments, Google, Texas Instruments, and United Technologies.


Members of the FRC community are generally very friendly and cooperative with one another; at competitions, it is commonplace for teams to aid each other in repairs and improvements, even if the involved teams are slated to compete against each other. Most regional competitions have systems set up to facilitate the lending of parts and tools between teams. A notable example of parts-sharing is the "One-Day Wonder". In 2004, at the Championship Event in Atlanta, GA, the Tottenville High School Pyrobots found themselves without a robot due to a shipping error. The Robotic Eagles (358), Adams Robotics (1340), the Killer Bees (33), and the Goodrich Martians (494), some of who would be on opposing teams in future matches, donated parts, tools, and assistance constructing a competition ready robot within a single day - a feat which the competition allows six weeks for.[14][15][16][17]

Many teams also choose to collaborate during the build season. The degree of collaboration can range from sharing part designs to each team building exactly the same robot. FIRST has encouraged this practice, as shown in an official Q&A response from 2006:

Q: Is collaboration between 2 teams acceptable and encouraged by FIRST?
A: Absolutely. Teams are encouraged to share their knowledge, experience, and innovations with each other on and off the play field, as well as before, during and after the competition season. Without inter-team collaborations, many of the central elements of the FIRST philosophy - such as distribution of technical innovations, team workshops, shared designs, software code-sharing, teams mentoring teams, team-run off-season events, etc. - would all be impossible. The whole concept of "coopertition" is based on the idea of teams helping each other to compete.

Annual schedule

The competition is an annual event. The most intense participation occurs between January and April, but invitational mini-competitions are hosted by many teams in school gymnasiums throughout the year.[18]

The official start of the FRC is kickoff, the early January announcement of the new game. During a live, worldwide webcast, all participating teams hear about the new game and watch an animation that illustrates game basics. During kickoff, teams receive the Kit of Parts, software, and rules manuals for the game.

The build season, the six weeks following kickoff, is the most intense time period of the competition year. Teams immediately begin to design a robot that is able to play the game, essentially from scratch. Team members spend time designing strategies to play the game, drawing up ideas for robot parts, working with size and weight constraints, and finally, building and assembling their robot. Other challenges include learning to drive the robot, building the electronics for the robot, and software development. After the build season has ended (usually the 3rd full week of February), teams must stop work on their robot and place it in a sealed bag, where it stays until the team arrives at a competition.

Competition starts two weeks after the end of the build season, and run for seven weeks. They take two forms—three day Regional competitions and two day District competitions—depending on what part of the US/Canada a team is from. Winners at Regional competitions directly qualify for Championship participation; winners of District competitions can both directly qualify for the Championship or gain points toward qualification from the District. FRC is migrating to District competitions in many areas, as District events give teams more opportunities to compete and can be hosted closer to teams.

The Championship event is held every year in April, and brings together the world championship competitions for FRC, FTC, and FLL.[19] For FRC, the championship event consists of eight divisions of 75 teams competing on one of six fields: Carver, Curie, Galileo, Hopper, Newton, and Tesla.[20] The teams compete for the division championship title in the same way they would compete in a regional. The division champions then bring their robots over to the Einstein field to compete in an elimination tournament to determine the overall champion.


A New York City FIRST Robotics Team at a Greater DC Regional with their robot (Hunter College High School-3419)

The average FRC team has approximately 25 students, but can range anywhere from 2 to 150. Teams are aided by adult mentors, who can be professional engineers, teachers, parents, college students, or other interested adults. The degree to which the mentors are involved varies significantly from team to team.

Countries currently represented (in decreasing order of number of teams, as of 2015):[2]

  • United States of America (2,536)
  • Canada (198)
  • Israel (55)
  • Mexico (39)
  • Australia (25)
  • China (25)
  • Turkey (8)
  • Brazil (5)
  • Chile (2)
  • Colombia (2)
  • Dominican Republic (2)
  • Japan (2)
  • Netherlands (2)
  • United Kingdom (2)
  • France (1)
  • Germany (1)
  • Taiwan (1)
  • Singapore (1)
  • United Arab Emirates (1)

Teams solicit individuals, sponsors, and businesses for support in the form of donations of time, money, or skills.


Each year, a new game is announced in early January in a live worldwide webcast. Game pieces, scoring, and the shape and location of goals are different for each game. Other rules, such as the overall structure of the competition and construction rules for the robot, vary little year-to-year. The competitive structure has not changed significantly since the establishment of the three team alliance in 2005.

Competitions are structured into a set of qualification matches followed immediately by an elimination tournament. During each qualification match, teams are randomly assigned to alliances of three teams, where they play the game to earn qualifying points. Points are earned based on the combined performance of the alliance. Each team usually participates in 8-10 qualifying matches.

Once qualification matches are completed, a draft occurs to fill brackets for the elimination tournament. Eight teams with the highest number of qualifying points draft other teams to create three team alliances. Unlike the qualification matches, these alliances contain the same teams throughout the elimination tournament. These alliances then compete in a single-elimination tournament, with the winner of the best-of-three moving on to the next round.

Match structure changes every year, but for the most part, involves autonomous (computer controlled) robot operation for 10–15 seconds at the beginning of a match, followed by a much longer period (usually 2 minutes) of remote control by one or more drivers.[21][22][23][24][25] Teams use scoring objects on the field to get points. Some games also allow points for achieving tasks such as ending with the robot on a platform, behind a certain line, or even hanging from a field structure.

The 2011-2017 FIRST Championship will be held at the Edward Jones Dome.
FIRST Robotics Competition is located in USA
2011 FRC events in the United States and Canada; excludes the competitions held in Hawaii and Israel, and the since founded events in Australia and Mexico. Regional events have also previously been held in Brazil.

Competitive events

Teams compete locally from late February through early April in events to qualify to attend the FIRST Championship, held in late April. Depending on the number of teams in a geographic area, competition occurs at either Regional or District competitions.[26]

Regional Competitions

Regional Competitions typically involve between 40–65 teams. Teams that win a Regional Competition, as well as the winners of the Rookie All-Star, Engineering Inspiration, and Chairman's Awards automatically qualify for the FIRST Championship. In 2015, there were 56 Regional Competitions held throughout the world.[2] Regional Competitions are three days long and commonly run from Thursday to Saturday.

Regional Competition Schedule (typical)
Day Activities
Thursday Practice
Friday Qualification matches
Saturday Qualification matches (morning)
Elimination matches (afternoon)

District Qualifying Competitions

Teams in more densely populated areas participate in district competitions. Under this model, a team competes at two District Qualifying Competitions, earning points to qualify for a District Championship.

Districts with Geographic Regions (2016)
District Geographic Region
FIRST Chesapeake Virginia, USA
Maryland, USA
Washington D.C., USA
Indiana Indiana, USA
Michigan Michigan, USA
Mid-Atlantic Deleware, USA
New Jersey, USA
Pennsylvania, USA (eastern portion)
New England Connecticut, USA
Maine, USA
Massachusetts, USA
New Hampshire, USA
Rhode Island, USA
Vermont, USA
North Carolina North Carolina, USA
Pacific Northwest Oregon, USA
Washington, USA
Alaska, USA
Peachtree Georgia, USA

District Qualifying Competitions

These competitions are generally smaller than Regional competitions, and are held at venues such as high school gymnasiums. A typical District Qualifying Competition has an average of 30-40 teams. Teams accumulate points both during match competition and for judged awards, and the teams accumulating the most points throughout a district qualify for the District Championship.[27]

District Competition Schedule (typical)
Day Activities
Friday Qualification matches
Saturday Qualification matches (morning)
Elimination matches (afternoon)

District Championship competitions

The best-performing teams during the District Qualifying Competitions in each district qualify for the District Championship. At the District Championship, teams compete to qualify for the FIRST Championship. Some teams qualify based on winning or receiving awards, and others on the point system.

FIRST Championship

The FIRST Championship is the culmination of the FRC competition season, and occurs in late April each year. Roughly 600 teams participated in 2015.


The three most prestigious awards are presented to those teams and individuals who have done the most to realize FIRST's mission.

Chairman's Award

The Chairman's Award is the most prestigious award a team can win at a regional or at the championship, more so than even winning the competition itself.[28] Demonstrating the prestige of the award, a team that wins a Regional Chairman's Award receives a reserved spot at the championship event so that they may compete for the Championship Chairman's award, regardless of their on-field performance. A team that wins a Championship Chairman's Award is inducted into the FIRST "Hall of Fame" and invited back to Championships every year regardless of their performance at regional or district events. The Chairman's award was created to recognize teams that demonstrate the greatest commitment to spreading passion about science and technology into their communities and schools. Submission involves writing an essay of no more than 10,000 characters documenting the team's efforts at spreading the message of FIRST, a five-minute presentation to a panel of judges—followed by a five-minute Q&A session for the judges—and a three-minute video. New to the 2014 season, teams are allowed to present their Chairman's Award submission at all events they attend - regional or district - until they win[29]

Woodie Flowers Award

The Woodie Flowers Award (WFA) is awarded to a mentor within a team that the team believes has made a large contribution to them and deserves to be recognized. Criteria is based on how well the chosen mentor inspires the students towards better communication and engineering. Each team may submit one mentor at one regional for the regional Woodie Flowers Award. At each regional, one regional WFA winner is selected. Any regional WFA winner is eligible to be considered for the Championship WFA, though past regional WFA winners may not again win a regional WFA, to allow other mentors the chance to be recognized. The WFA trophy itself is a head-sized Möbius strip with bearings inside it.

Dean's List Award

The Dean's List Award is given to individual student team members. Much like the Woodie Flowers Award for mentors, the Dean's List Award is to recognize students for their technical knowledge, leadership skills, and their ability to inspire their team toward the mission of FIRST. Teams are allowed to recognize 2 students on their team as Dean's List Semi-Finalists. As semi-finalists, these students are eligible to win the Dean's List Finalist Award at a regional. 2 Dean's List Finalist Awards are given out at every regional, and these student's names are announced at the State championship. At the annual FIRST World Championship, 10 finalists are then awarded the Dean's List Award during a special award ceremony.

The 2014 Dean's List Winners include: Kinney Anderson, Team 2486, CocoNuts, Flagstaff, Ariz.; Callie Carbajal, Team 1671, Buchanan Bird Brains, Clovis, Calif.; Bryce Croucher, Team 2471, Team Mean Machine, Camas, Wash.; Michael Foley, Team 1923, The MidKnight Inventors, Plainsboro, N.J.; Alec Kumpf, Team 1311, Kell Robotics, Marietta, Ga.; Alexander Lew, Team 1912, Team Combustion, Slidell, La.; Madeleine Logeais, Team 2177, The Robettes, Mendota Heights, Minn; Simran Parwani, Team 3504, Girls of Steel, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Camron Razdar, Team 27, Team RUSH, Clarkston, Mich.; Anthony Stuart, Team 4201, Vitruvian Bots, Hawthorne, Calif.[30]

Kit of parts

Team 2177's beta kit for the 2015 FRC Control System; the roboRIO is the bare circuit board on the left.

At the start of the FIRST season all teams receive the Kit Of Parts and the game description. The kit includes the control system and a collection of parts to build a basic robot, as well as many parts donated by participating sponsors. Besides the control system, the kit includes items such as motors, structural components, speed controllers, pneumatic actuators, wheels, and gearboxes, as well as programming and design software. As soon as the teams receive their kit of parts, the 6-week build season begins.[31] Teams are allowed to purchase additional off-the-shelf items where each individual item value may not exceed $400 USD with a total maximum project budget of $4,000.[32]

Beginning in the 2013 Season, in partnership with AndyMark, FRC launched FIRST Choice, an online web store allowing for teams to purchase items using special FIRST Choice credits. The same number of credits are allotted to each team, and each item's credit value varies with real world price and availability. A catalog of hundreds of items is available to choose from, ranging from 0 to 400 credits each. In 2014, thanks to generous suppliers, FIRST Choice held a lottery to distribute hundreds of 3-D Printers, with the entry price into the lottery being all of a team's FIRST Choice Credits. 2014 also saw the inclusion of 3-D Printing Coupons available for multiple locations across the continental United States.

Since the 2015 competition, the main controller on FRC robots has been a National Instruments roboRIO, specifically designed for FRC robots. [33] Prior to the 2015 FRC season the cRIO was used on FRC Robots. [34]

Media exposure

From 1996 to 1998, the color commentary, such as the 2011 Michigan State Championship, to single-camera setups with no commentary other than the on-field play caller, which is typical of most events.

The PBS documentary "Gearing Up" followed four teams through the 2008 season.[36]

In the television series Dean of Invention, Dean Kamen made appeals promoting FIRST prior to commercial breaks.[37]

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.[38][39] The film premiered during the 2011 Dungog Film Festival.[40][41]

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.[42]

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.[43]

On 14 August 2011, ABC aired a special on FIRST called " FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll"[44] that featured many famous musical artists such as The Black Eyed Peas and Willow Smith. 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.[45][46]

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.[47]

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.[48]



FIRST Robotics Competition
Older logo from website 
Intermission during Aim High in Los Angeles, encouraging teams to socialize 
The 2006 Triplets of 1114, 1503, and 1680. 1114 and 1503 won 3 regionals each, while 1680 won a silver finalist medal and was a quarterfinalist twice. 
Competition at the 2008 Hawaii regionals. 
"Barrage", Team 254's 2014 World Champion FRC robot 

See also


  1. ^ Merrick, Frank. "Title Change". US FIRST. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "FIRST ® Robotics Competition: 2015 SEASON FACTS" (PDF). For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  3. ^ @FRCTeams. "Everyone's on their feet for '15 Chairman's Award winner, Team 597 from LA. #omgrobots #FIRSTChamp #morethanrobots". FRC Teams. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Einstein Field (2015)". The Blue Alliance. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Insights Overview". The Blue Alliance. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "FRC 2015 Game Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition". FIRST. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "2014 Season Facts" (PDF). FIRST. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Harris, Mark (10 June 2010). "Brain scan: Mr Segway's difficult path". The Economist. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  11. ^ FIRST History |
  12. ^ 1992 FIRST Robotics final match - YouTube
  13. ^ 1993 US FIRST Robotics "Rug Rage" match - YouTube
  14. ^ Best robots at Nationals - Page 4 - Chief Delphi
  15. ^ pic: 1396 One-Day Robot - Chief Delphi
  16. ^ pic: 1396 One-Day Robot - Page 3 - Chief Delphi
  17. ^'s_%22One-Day_Wonder%22
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Microsoft Word - Section 1 - 2002 Manual - final.doc
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Microsoft Word - 4-The Game rev C.doc
  25. ^
  26. ^ http://www.usfirst.orgs/default/files/uploadedFiles/About_Us/Media_Center/FRC_Assets/FRC-2015-Schedule.pdf
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ "2015 Control System and Kit of Parts Survey". FRC Blog. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ 1996 FIRST Championships ESPN part1 - YouTube
  36. ^ "What Is Gearing Up?". KETC. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  37. ^ "Behind the Scenes With Dean Kamen on Dean of Invention". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  38. ^ FRC Team3132 - The Thunder Down Under
  39. ^ I, Wombot (2011) - IMDb
  40. ^ I, Wombot
  41. ^ Newsroom - Macquarie University
  42. ^ McCarthy, Erin (28 April 2012). "Director Michael Bacall on FIRST Robotics Movie The New Cool". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  43. ^ "Don't Fail Me: Education in America airs Sunday". CNN. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  45. ^ Canessa, Kevin (28 November 2013). "Martin County student robotics team kick off Macy's Thanksgiving Parade". WPTV. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  46. ^ "Robots Come FIRST® at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®". FIRST. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  47. ^ Stenglein, Jack (16 July 2014). "Chap Robotics makes appearance in new Transformers movie". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  48. ^ "2015 FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) Kickoff!". Comcast. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  49. ^ "Welcome to FIRST STRONGHOLD". FIRST. Archived from the original on 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 


  • Walton, Marsha (14 April 2007). "'"Robotic trio wins 'Super Bowl of Smarts. CNN 
  • Ante, Spencer E. (2007). "Building Robots Builds Scientists". Businessweek 

External links

  • FIRST Robotics


  • FIRST Australia
  • FIRST Robotics Canada
  • Robotique FIRST Québec
  • FIRST Israel
  • FIRST do Brasil

Community resources

  • FIRST Robotics Wiki
  • FIRST Forge
  • ChiefDelphi Forums
  • FIRST Robotics Chat Room

Related or associated organizations and sponsors

  • Non-Engineering Mentor Organization
  • NASA FRC site

Tutorial websites

  • FRC Mastery - programming assistance

Articles of interest

  • Michigan robotics champs off to world finals in St. Louis - Detroit Free Press
  • FIRST Robotics Competition’s 2011 Regional Season Is Worth a Look - PCWorld
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