FIRST stands for, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”
That’s great, but FIRST is so much more than a clever name. Its vision, stated by founder Dean Kamen, is:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."
FIRST—quite simply—wants to change the world, and they have a plan for doing it. FIRST doesn’t just talk to students about why they should want to major in science and engineering-related fields. It shows them through fun, hands-on learning experiences side-by-side with professional mentors.
Currently, FIRST has four programs for school age students: Junior FIRST Lego League (JFLL), FIRST Lego League (FLL), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), of which FIRST Team 172 is a part. In 2009, the four FIRST programs involved 196,000 students age 6-18 making 16,374 robots.
FRC is sometimes referred to as the “Varsity Sport for the Mind.” It’s an apt description. The oldest of the four programs, FRC includes 52,000 students in about 2,100 teams. During a high-adrenaline six-week season from January to March, high school students and professional mentors build a robot to play a sports-style game, different every year. The game generally involves three elements: a short autonomous period at the beginning, during which robots get an opportunity to score on their own, a game play period of about two minutes where students control the robot, and an end period in which robots try to complete another task for more points. In early March, teams convene and compete in alliances of three against another alliance. Competitions are known for their high excitement—and noise.
FIRST means more than competition. Throughout the season, many students notice the air of sportsmanship and cooperation that pervades FIRST events. It’s called Gracious Professionalism. Gracious Professionalism means that, while teams certainly want to win, they want to do it fairly. It means that teams regularly help each other. It means cheering, yes, but positively—teams respect and encourage each other even as they duke it out on the field. This attitude, combined with excitement for science and engineering, is really what FIRST is all about.
Visit the FIRST website for more information about its programs, scholarships, and events.