FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a multi-faceted organization that promotes STEM education through robotics. Their four programs cover grades K through 12 and push a message of teamwork and gracious professionalism. Flower Mound Technology Club competes in FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC), the most complex of the programs.
In FRC, teams are presented with a newly developed robotics "game" and are given six weeks to build a robot ready to compete against other teams from around the globe. Unlike similar robot programs such as VEX and BEST, these robots are built on a large scale. The average rectangular robot is 3 to 4 feet on any given side and weighs over 100 pounds. Students and mentors are allowed to use nearly any parts and tools at their disposal to build, program, and drive these massive machines, not constrained by proprietary parts or programming languages.
After the 6 week build season ends, build season is finished and competition season begins. FRC teams travel to their regional competitions in March and early April to learn and compete. The game is played on a basketball size field with teams competing on 3-team alliances. In the qualification matches, the 3-team alliances are randomly assigned. However, in the finals, alliance captains choose their teammates. Therefore, scouting is an important part of the game. If a team qualifies, they will compete at the FIRST World Championship held in April in Houston. Finally, FIRST in Texas has partnered with UIL inviting the top 32 teams in Texas to compete in May at Austin to be crowned the Texas UIL Robotics champion.
In our club, anyone can be a member of the FIRST program. Anyone who wishes to join gets a role. Students build, program, drive, and market our robot. Underclassmen are welcomed and we hope to further their interest and understanding of STEM. Our upperclassmen and adult mentors spend countless hours before the season begins teaching new skills to anyone who wishes to learn. When build season starts in January it's hard not to make friends. The team meets daily for a couple of hours, working together to finish the robot in just over a month and a half.
More information about the FIRST Robotics Challenge can be found here: