It’s way more than building robots. FIRST Tech Challenge teams (up to 15 team members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.
Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team.
The robot kit, based on an Android platform, is reusable from year to year and can be coded using a variety of levels of Java-based programming. Teams design and build robots, raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach to earn specific awards. Participants are eligible to apply for $80M+ in college scholarships.
FIRST Tech Challenge gives middle and high school students and their adult mentors the opportunity to work and create together to solve a common problem. Teams are challenged to design and build a robot using a kit of parts and within a common set of rules to play a sophisticated field game. The robot game changes every season and is a blast!
FIRST redefines winning by rewarding teams for achievements both on and off the field − excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, Gracious Professionalism®, and outreach efforts are some of the award criteria. Winning is always secondary to the quality of the overall experience.
Each FIRST Tech Challenge season consists of a qualifying tournament, a State Championship and an exciting FIRST World Championship.
FIRST Tech Challenge Basics
What does every FIRST Tech Challenge team need?
- 2 or more adult Mentors* who are willing and motivated to coach the team through the build and competition season, and beyond!
- Other adults who can volunteer to help with administration, fundraising, community outreach, technical advising, and other tasks.
- A suitable meeting place and space to design and build a robot about the size of a microwave oven.
- A standard kit of robot parts.
- A budget and a fundraising plan.
- The desire to learn, explore, strategize, build camaraderie, share ideas and talents, make new friends, be accepted, and HAVE FUN!
*All adult mentors over the age of 18 who intend on mentoring NKSD students must have a BCI Background Check from the Rhode Island Attorney General's office completed, approved and in possession of the North Kingstown School Department before being eligible to mentor any NKSD students. More information on this policy can be found here: www.nklinks.net/forms.
When does FIRST Tech Challenge happen?
The FIRST Tech Challenge season starts in May, when teams generally form and registration opens. Season kick-off is in early September, when the season's game is announced. The design and build season runs from September to January. Tournament season varies by region and can begin as early as October and continues through April, however the Rhode Island Region holds Qualifying Tournaments throughout January, with a State Championship in early February. State Tournaments advance teams to the FIRST World Championship at the end of April, where 160 of the best FIRST Tech Challenge teams from 90 countries around the world culminate for one of the biggest robotics competitions there is. There are also many off-season events where teams participate, strategize, hone their skills, learn new technology, meet other teams, and have fun!
What is the time commitment?
Mentors or adult Volunteers meet with their team at least once per week during the build and competition season (September - April). Many mature teams also meet throughout the school year, and some compete in off-season events during the summer.
As a team member, the same applies. Students meet at least once per week from Mid-September through April. Like any sport or other after-school activity, the more time they invest, the better they will become at the tasks at hand.
The North Kingstown High School Robotics Program meets consistently every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from the beginning of the school year in Early September through the last competition of the season, with our mentors usually meeting with students at least once per week.
Any special skills required?
All skill levels are welcomed and needed, technical and non-technical. Teams need all kinds of skills to succeed. Student and adult team members are encouraged to bring any skills they already have, like programming, electronics, metalworking, graphic design, web creation, public speaking, videography, and many more. FIRST Tech Challenge welcomes every student, with or without special skills.
The positive impact on FIRST Tech Challenge participants is gratifying and well documented. Over 86% have more interest in doing well in school and 87% are more interested in attending college. For more information on the impacts of FIRST Tech Challenge and the impact of FIRST as a whole, click here.
FIRST Tech Challenge teams get to:
- Design, build, and program robots
- Apply real-world math and science concepts
- Develop problem-solving, collaboration, leadership and team-building skills
- Understand and practice Gracious Professionalism™
- Cooperate and compete in alliances and for awards at tiered tournaments, culminating at the FIRST World Championship
Events at every level offer students an amazing experience as they celebrate their hard work, have fun, make new friendships, and are exposed to ideas and ideology that will enhance their lives for decades to come. Every participant is eligible to apply for college scholarships!
FIRST Tech Challenge events are amazing, inspiring experiences. Where else can you make new friends, share ideas, solve problems on the fly, compete like crazy, and get pumped up over technology all while having the time of your life? At FIRST Tech Challenge events, students realize more than ever that FIRST is all about teamwork, sharing, helping others, and respect.
The 2019-2020 Official FIRST Tech Challenge Robot Game Teaser - ULTIMATE GOAL - Presented by Qualcomm
A big advantage for students participating in FIRST is gaining access to millions in scholarships made available by colleges, universities, and corporations who support FIRST.
This is exclusive financial help open only to FIRST team members, giving them a competitive leg up on other students seeking educational funds. High school level FIRST participants gain access to exclusive education funding as part of the FIRST Scholarship Program.
- Most are for use at the specific Provider college or university, but some can be used at any school
- About 35% of FIRST Scholarships can be used for any course of study, not just engineering
- Amounts vary from one-time awards to full four-year tuition
Who is eligible for a FIRST Scholarship?
- High school students who have participated or are participating on high-school-level FIRST Robotics Competition and/or FIRST Tech Challenge teams can apply for FIRST Scholarships.
- Most FIRST Scholarship Providers request applications during a student's senior year, but there are a few scholarships available to juniors or college students.
- Each scholarship may also have other eligibility requirements as set by the provider. Eligibility requirements are available at www.firstinspires.org/scholarships.
How does the FIRST Scholarship Program work?
- FIRST Scholarships are offered and administered by the scholarship providers. Scholarship providers are primarily four-year colleges and universities, but also include community colleges, technical schools, corporations, and associations.
- Most FIRST scholarships are merit-based scholarships and may be renewable each year by maintaining an acceptable academic average. Each scholarship is unique and has its own award amount, eligibility requirements, application requirements, and application deadline.
- Most applications are due between December and April of the last year of high school/12th grade, but applicants should pay close attention to individual deadlines. Each FIRST Scholarship has its own application process and may require an essay and/or a recommendation letter from a mentor or coach.
- Most opportunities are made available each year, so future applicants should become familiar with the opportunities in the program in preparation to apply during their eligible year.
- Opportunities, applications, and details about available scholarships can be found at www.firstinspires.org/scholarships.
High School level FIRST participants automatically become FIRST Alumni after graduating high school. FIRST Alumni are automatically exposed to many potential internship and networking opportunities that can assist them as they transition to higher education or the workforce.
Who are FIRST Alumni?
- FIRST Alumni are graduates of high school-level FIRST programs (i.e. FIRST Tech Challenge and/or FIRST Robotics Competition).
- FIRST Alumni are 2.6 times more likely to enroll in an engineering course freshman year of college.
- Over 75% of FIRST Alumni are in a STEM field as a student or professional
- Nearly half of FIRST Alumni are still involved in FIRST as coaches, mentors, and volunteers, and donors.
- More information about FIRST Alumni, along with internship and networking opportunities, can be found at www.firstinspires.org/alumni.