fbpx

How to Compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

High school students building and programming electric toys and robots at robotics classroom

For Dean Kamen, the founder of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), the contest is more than just about robots. “The robots serve as a vehicle for students to acquire vital life skills,” he asserts. Competitors emerge from FRC “with a vision, with confidence, and with a belief in their ability to shape their own future.”

We’re here to help you build your future. We’ll give you tips and advice to do well in the FIRST Robotics Competition. Whether you’re new to the competition or have done it before, our insights will guide you and help you do your best.

What Is the FIRST Robotics Competition?

The FIRST Robotics Competition is a worldwide program that encourages young people to explore science and technology. This contest offers team-based robotics programs for high school students. It is supported by many volunteers, teachers, and sponsors, including over 200 big companies. The goal is not just to teach technical skills, but also important life skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership.

a man shaking hands with a robotic hand

The history of FRC goes back to 1989 when Dean Kamen wanted to make science and technology more interesting for kids. Over time, Kamen’s organization has grown and now includes various contests like FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge, along with the FRC. Each program is made for different ages and skill levels, from elementary school to high school.

Why Join the FIRST Robotics Competition?

According to a study by Brandeis University, students who participate in FIRST are 2-3 times more likely to improve their STEM skills compared to those who don’t join. The impact is clear: 81% of FIRST alumni choose STEM majors by their fourth year of college, and 83% feel confident taking leadership roles in school.

Plus, the program connects you with scholarships and potential employers, helping you pave the way for future educational and career opportunities. And as a member, you’re part of a global community— since it started, FIRST has involved 3.2 million young people and established teams in over 100 countries—dedicated to innovation and collaboration in science and technology.

Who Can Join the FIRST Robotics Competition?

The FIRST Robotics Competition is open to high school students and their adult mentors. Teams collaborate to tackle challenges by designing, building, and programming robots. Participants compete for awards, develop team identity, raise funds, refine teamwork, and promote STEM in their communities.

Your team should have:

  • Adult Mentors: At least two mentors with technical and non-technical skills to guide the team.
  • Students: Ideally, 10 or more high school students ready to dedicate time after school and possibly weekends for various team roles. (Age requirements may differ by region.)
  • Meeting Place: A suitable location for team gatherings and robot work.
  • Kit of Parts and Rules: FIRST provides a standard kit of parts and rules for all teams.
  • Community Sponsor(s): Local sponsors’ support for funding and additional assistance is crucial for the team’s success.

FIRST Robotics Competition Timeline

The FIRST Robotics Competition follows a yearly schedule, giving participants a clear timeline to follow. Here’s what a typical season looks like:

Month Event
May Registration for the season opens
January Season Kickoff and start of build season
February-April Regional and district competitions
April FIRST Championship
Summer/Fall Off-season events and prep for next season

Local and regional competitions happen worldwide, allowing teams from different places to join in. In 2025, the FIRST Championship will be held in Houston from April 16 to April 19. This event marks the culmination of the season, where top teams from across the globe gather to compete and celebrate their achievements in robotics.

How to Join the FIRST Robotics Competition

Joining the FIRST Robotics Competition is an exciting opportunity for high school students to dive into robotics and STEM. Here’s a simple guide to get started on this rewarding journey:

1. Find support.

Contact your local FIRST Program Delivery Partner or Senior Mentor. They can connect you with other teams, schools, and businesses in your area. They’ll help you plan funding, organization, and team connections.

2. Get coaches and mentors.

Every team needs at least two adult mentors with technical and non-technical skills. Extra adults for administration, fundraising, and community outreach are helpful too. Registered teams can access the FIRST Mentor Network for additional support.

View of students being trained by a professional.

3. Register and pay.

Registration gets you into the FIRST Robotics Competition community. You’ll get updates from FIRST and a team number. Submit a team roster with your registration, but this doesn’t commit you yet.

4. Raise funds.

FIRST helps teams find funding. Get local businesses on board for sponsorships, many of which might already know about FIRST. Explore fundraising opportunities offered by FIRST. Use the fundraising toolkit, fundraising guides, sample team budget, and grant information provided by FIRST.

5. Build your team.

Gather around 10 or more students excited about joining a robotics team. No prior technical skills are needed, just enthusiasm and a readiness to learn. All team members, including youth, must register and fill out the consent and release form each year.

Plan to meet a few times a week, with extra sessions during the build season, including evenings and weekends.

6. Learn about safety.

Take a look at the FIRST Safety Manual for guidance on safety during events, in your team’s workspace, and in daily activities. Adults should understand the Youth Protection Program by watching videos and reading materials.

7. Build robots!

Dive into the enjoyable part—creating and building your robot. FIRST offers plenty of resources, from technical guides to fundraising ideas and team-building activities. Make use of team management tools, technical support, and the season calendar provided by FIRST.

What Can You Win at the FIRST Robotics Competition?

At the FIRST Robotics Competition, you can win a range of awards that honor excellence in different parts of the competition. You can earn these awards at different levels of the contest, such as district events, regional competitions, district championships, and the FIRST Championship. The awards available may differ based on the type of event.

Machine, Creativity, and Innovation Awards

These awards focus on the technical accomplishments of teams in designing, building, and operating their robots:

Award Description
Autonomous Award Recognizes teams with consistently high-performance robot operation during autonomously managed actions.
Creativity Award (Sponsored by Rockwell Automation) Highlights teams’ intentional creativity in enhancing their gameplay strategy.
Excellence in Engineering Award Acknowledges teams with a professional approach to the design process, demonstrating effective engineering practices from concept to implementation.
Industrial Design Award (Sponsored by General Motors) Celebrates teams that seamlessly integrate industrial design principles, balancing form, function, and aesthetics.
Innovation in Control Award Commends teams for innovative control systems or applications of control components.
Quality Award Recognizes the robustness of robots in both concept and fabrication.

Check out the specific guidelines for each award here.

Team Attribute Awards

These awards recognize the teamwork, community engagement, and overall performance of the teams:

four students lounging on the steps outside

Award Description
Engineering Inspiration Award Recognizes outstanding efforts in promoting respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school or community.
Gracious Professionalism Award Celebrates a team’s excellent display of FIRST Core Values, like continuous Gracious Professionalism and effective collaboration both on and off the field.
Imagery Award (In honor of Jack Kamen) Recognizes visually appealing and well-integrated designs of the machine and team.
Judges Award Given by the judging panel to teams showing unique efforts, performance, or dynamics deserving special recognition.
Rookie All-Star Award Recognizes rookie teams standing out with exceptional efforts, performance, or dynamics during the competition.
Rookie Inspiration Award Celebrates a rookie team’s impressive impact on promoting engineering and engineers within their school and community.
Team Spirit Award Celebrates teams showing exceptional enthusiasm, partnership, and teamwork in advancing the goals of FIRST.
Team Sustainability Award (Sponsored by Dow) Recognizes teams implementing sustainable practices for a positive environmental impact and long-term continuity.

Check out the specific guidelines for each award here.

Submitted Awards

These awards are based on submissions from teams and recognize their achievements in specific areas. The awards in this category are:

Award Description
FIRST Impact Award (Previously known as the Chairman’s Award) The top honor in FIRST Robotics, it goes to the team that’s the best example for others to follow and embodies FIRST’s mission the most.
FIRST Dean’s List Award Recognizes the leadership and hard work of exceptional high school students in FIRST, particularly for those in 10th or 11th grade.
Woodie Flowers Finalist Award Celebrates effective communication in engineering and design.
Digital Animation Award (Sponsored by AutomationDirect.com) Celebrates digital animation and its connection to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics).
Safety Animation Award (Sponsored by UL Solutions) Recognizes the best animation promoting safety in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Check out the specific guidelines for each award here.

Robot Performance Awards

These awards recognize the performance of the robots during the competition. The awards in this category are:

Award Description
Finalist Acknowledges the teamwork, strategy, and performance that enabled the alliance to progress through the stages of the competition to the final round.
Winner Recognizes the combined efforts, strategic excellence, and outstanding performance that propelled the alliance to victory in the final match.

Other Awards

These awards are presented separately and recognize specific achievements. The awards in this category are:

Award Description
Founder’s Award Acknowledges the organization or individual who has made a significant contribution to the growth of FIRST.
Volunteer of the Year Award Given to an individual, business, or organization that consistently excels in their volunteer efforts.

FIRST Robotics Competition Winning Tips

To excel in the FIRST Robotics Competition, teams need to focus on several key areas. Here are some winning tips to help you succeed:

1. Build a strong team.

To excel in the FIRST Robotics Competition, it is essential to build a strong and diverse team. Here are some specifics to help you create a winning team:

  • Include members with various skills like engineering, programming, project management, and marketing. CAD experts can help with robot design, while coders handle programming. Non-technical roles like fundraising and public speaking are equally vital.
  • Pick a leader. Choose leaders who motivate the team, manage projects efficiently, facilitate collaboration, and resolve conflicts.
  • Designate tasks. Clearly assign roles and responsibilities to each member to manage tasks efficiently.

2. Make a comprehensive plan.

A well-thought-out plan and strategy are vital for success in the competition. Here’s how to approach planning and strategizing:

  • Start planning when the challenge is released. Break tasks into manageable parts set deadlines, and use tools like Gantt charts or Trello.
  • Define clear goals based on the game’s requirements. Focus on objectives aligned with your team’s strengths and the game’s scoring criteria.
  • Study past competitions. Gather ideas and create prototypes to test designs and mechanisms. Check out previous winners listed on the FIRST Robotics Competition Hall of Fame for insights and ideas. This can help you understand the standards of excellence and learn effective approaches to meet those standards.

3. Design and build the robot.

The design and build phase is where your plans come to life. Here are some tips to ensure a successful build:

  • Continuously test and improve your robot through an iterative process. Start with basic prototypes and refine based on feedback.
  • Build a robust robot. Use reliable materials and components to withstand competition conditions.
  • Document your design process, decisions, and test results. Thoroughly test your robot’s functionality in different scenarios to ensure reliability during matches.

4. Program your robot for optimal performance.

Effective programming is essential for your robot’s performance. Here’s how to ensure your robot operates smoothly and efficiently:

  • Write reliable and efficient code. Make it modular and well-documented for easy debugging and understanding. Use clear variable names and comments to enhance readability. Regularly back up your code to prevent data loss.
  • Develop a strong autonomous mode, focusing on precision in performing tasks. Thoroughly test autonomous routines and adjust based on performance. Utilize sensors and feedback loops to enhance reliability and accuracy.
  • Before implementing code on the actual robot, utilize simulation tools to test it virtually. Perform real-world testing to ensure everything works as expected.

5. Practice and test rigorously.

Practicing and testing are key to ensuring your robot performs well during the competition. Here are some detailed steps:

  • Practice on a field that mimics the competition environment. Conduct regular practice sessions to refine strategies and improve performance.
  • Organize mock competitions to simulate real events. This will improve team chemistry and identify areas for improvement.
  • Continuously test and iterate on your robot’s design and programming. Document test results and adjustments to track progress and ensure reliability.

6. Scout and strategize.

Scouting and developing a solid strategy are critical for success in the competition. Here’s how to approach this aspect effectively:

  • Gather information on other teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Record data using scouting sheets for forming alliances and developing match strategies.
  • Collaborate with alliance partners to develop effective strategies. Plan in advance, considering each alliance member’s capabilities and roles.
  • Analyze match performances to identify successful strategies and areas for improvement. Be flexible and ready to adapt strategies based on team and opponent performance.

7. Deliver compelling presentations and community outreach.

Presentation and outreach are crucial aspects of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Here’s how to excel in these areas:

  • Prepare a compelling pit presentation to impress judges and visitors. Showcase your robot’s design, features, and the reasoning behind your design choices. Use visual aids like posters, videos, and models to make your presentation engaging. Train team members to confidently explain their work and respond to questions.
  • Engage in community outreach activities and document your efforts. Offer workshops, demonstrations, and collaborations with local schools or organizations. Highlight your team’s impact on the community and its promotion of STEM education.
  • Utilize social media and local media to share your team’s journey and achievements. Regular updates on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can build a following and attract support.

8. Maintain a positive attitude.

A positive attitude can significantly influence your team’s performance and experience. Here’s how to foster and maintain positivity:

Group of students talking in a room.

  • Embrace gracious professionalism. Compete fiercely while treating all participants with respect and kindness. Celebrate not only your successes but also the efforts and achievements of other teams.
  • Foster high team spirit and enthusiasm through team-building activities. Celebrate milestones and successes to maintain morale and motivation.
  • Encourage team members to support each other, especially during challenges. Recognize and appreciate each member’s contributions. Provide constructive feedback and celebrate individual achievements to build a cohesive and motivated team.

Conclusion

Joining the FIRST Robotics Competition helps students learn technical skills, work as a team, and love STEM. Winning in the contest is cool, but the real value is in learning and growing. Face challenges, celebrate victories, and keep the spirit of innovation and teamwork alive.

FAQs

Where is the FIRST Robotics Competition 2025 Championship?

The FIRST Robotics Competition 2025 Championship will be in Houston, Texas, from April 16 to April 19, 2025. It’s the big finale of the competition season, celebrating STEM achievements from around the globe.

How many members should your FIRST Robotics Competition team have?

A good FIRST Robotics Competition team should have at least ten members. This makes sure there are enough people for different jobs like engineering, programming, managing projects, raising funds, and reaching out to the community.

Also, each team needs at least two adult mentors to guide and help during the season. Having more team members means tasks can be divided better and everything in the competition gets enough attention.

How do you register a team for the FIRST Robotics Competition?

To register a team, just make an account on the FIRST website, finish the team registration, and pay the fee. After that, you’ll get a team number and access to resources for getting ready for the competition.

How much does it cost to join the FIRST Robotics Competition?

The starting registration fee is $6,000 for rookies and $5,000 for veterans. These fees cover joining one regional event or two district events, getting a standard kit of parts, and being able to win awards.

There are extra costs like $3,000 for another regional event and $5,750 for a chance to go to the FIRST Championship. You might also need to pay for shipping and other expenses. You can find more details on the FIRST Robotics Competition Cost and Registration page.

How many teams compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition?

Thousands of teams from all over the world take part in the competition. In 2024, about 3,500 teams of high school students joined in. They competed in 98 District Events, 11 District Championships, 62 Regional Events, and the 2024 FIRST Championship. In total, nearly 100,000 students were part of these teams. This shows that the FRC is a big and important event.

Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.