Everything You Need to Know About the FIRST Robotics Competition

Being good at constructing robots is a great skill to really enhance the competitive side of your personality. However, if you’re aiming at the biggest and the grandest of them all, then the FIRST Robotics Competition is just what you’re looking for.

The reason why we consider the FIRST Robotics to be one of the best opportunities for young engineers is because it’s not your typical trash talking competition. It’s more a practical and completely ethical / friendly competition built around two moral values. FIRST asks it’s participants to show Gracious Professionalism, meaning that they can compete without resorting to taunts and insults, instead, they should treat the other team with respect regardless of a win or loss. The second moral is coopertition (or cooperation and competition) which is defined that two teams can be able to compete and cooperate at the same time. While it’s still a competition, FIRST aims to teach participants way more than just robotics.

History of FIRST Robotics Competitions

There were two reasons behind the foundation of FIRST. The first was to educate young minds on the potential career that’s in front of them with the help of robotics. Kids back in the day weren’t really thinking of science and technology and especially robotics as an industry to pursue a career in. The first reason was actually pretty simple. However, there’s more to the second reason than meets the eye.

FIRST was actually founded to counteract some of the disappointing flaws in our society. The founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen said at the first ever competition that “Super Bowl isn’t a sport, it brings the country to its knees, baseball isn’t a pastime, it’s an obsession”. He imagined that just an average competition to promote robotics wouldn’t at all be enough. Instead, in just a few short years, the competition would bow down to politics and cheating which will became of the bane of the very thing it was supposed to do. With inspiration from MIT Professor Woodle Flowers, he knew exactly what had to be done. Hence he came up with the idea for FIRST Robotics Competition with the first variation being held in 1992. It was held on a pretty small-scale in a high school gymnasium, which was, as you can guess, a tremendous success.

Why FIRST Robotics?

So, if the whole history regarding the foundation of the competition isn’t enough to convince you that this is the place young engineers should be, then we still have a couple of things up our sleeve to persuade you. Here are a few reasons why signing up for a FIRST Robotics Competition is a good idea for teenagers.

Varied Fields of Interest

Basically, signing up a team for the FIRST Robotics Competition isn’t just about finding people that can code or people that can assemble circuits, it’s also about a lot of non-technical things which allows students of all expertise level to chime in an offer their services. Apart from actually dealing with the construction hands-on, teens can also deal with other aspects like creating team logos and merchandise, finding and dealing with sponsors, raising funds, tracking expenditures and dealing with accommodations. Sending a team to compete at the FIRST Robotics is a lot like sending a team to the Super Bowl. A lot of the managemental aspects can be compared, and even if a kid may not be super invested in robotics, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for them in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Learning With an End Goal in Mind

To understand this point, we’re going to propose two different scenarios. There’s a person working out just for fun while there’s another working out to enter the weight lifting competition in the Olympics. Who will train harder and better? If you’re a parent that really wants his kid to excel in the world of robotics, you can jam pack all the experience in the world in them in just a few months by signing them up for FIRST Robotics. They’ll be able to prep and enhance their skills with a specific aim in mind, winning the competition.

Team Collaboration

This benefit is quite the obvious one as we already said that the entire foundation of the competition is built around this very concept. FIRST Robotics Competition provides you the complete environment to be able to work well with your team and collaborate to achieve a common goal. The best thing about this competition is that it won’t just allow you to collaborate with your own team, it gives you the incentive to treat your competitors as your own team too and cooperate with them even though you’re competing. If this doesn’t teach a kid a lot about functioning inside a business or a corporate entity, we don’t know what will.

Scholarship Opportunities

You can’t really expect such a big-scale competition to not have any educational affiliation included, now can you? Well, there are several colleges and universities that have representatives attending these competitions. And, the reason behind their presence is to see which of the young minds competing have a chance to make it big through a career in the field of robotics. If they do indeed feel that you could do a lot if given the right amount of resources, those institutions will ensure that you get those resources. This just goes to show the amount of impact FIRST could have in your life. You don’t even need to win, showing potential could get you into big places.

Signing Up for FIRST Robotics Competition

This is a four day event that will be hosted in Detroit in 2020. It used to be hosted in Atlanta, Georgia for a long time, but it bounced around here and there till finally settling down in Detroit. Over thirty countries are expected to be present as this event and if you want your team to be one of them, we’re going to go over a complete set of steps to help you sign up for the event.

Finding a Team

The first thing you need to do is find partners for your team. You could either create your own team or find a team that’s in need of members. You can contact your local FIRST Senior Mentor for this information. There’s a Senior Member in a lot of schools and localities. You can contact them and find out if there are any teams in the area looking to recruit an individual.

Looking for Coaches

The next step is to find people that will guide you with the technical aspects of the competition. This could be someone from your school or college or some organization representative that’s interested in leading a team of young engineers. Finding the right coach is extremely important since you need a responsible adult to mentor you and they must also have the skills necessary to lead a technical team like yours.

Raising Funds

The FIRST Robotics Competition is not cheap at all. Registrations start at $5,000 which include team registration, kit of parts and event participation. Further charges could also be instilled for accommodations. It not easy to sponsor a team on your own, so, FIRST fully allows the option for sponsors and fundraising. If you’re looking for a sponsor, then visit some of the local robotics companies and talk to them regarding your participation. A lot of companies looks for such chances because it’s good PR for their company. But, it might take a bit of convincing to make them sponsor your team. If this doesn’t work, your next option is to start a fundraising campaign. This step is quite the nightmare and will take a lot of manpower and even more hours. However, it is completely possible. Start off by spreading the word in your school. You may be able to make about a couple of grand or more off of your faculty and students considering that your marketing skills are insane. After that, you need to take things beyond the borders of your school and start talking to people in your locality and having them help out in your cause. Remember that just the $5,000 for registration aren’t enough. You’ll be travelling to another state and staying there for four days. You’ll also need to prepare some money for food, transport, hotel accommodations as well.

Registering

That’s the entire process. The only thing remaining right now is to register for the competition. For the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition, registration will start in November. So, make sure you have your team ready, because there are only a few months left for the early prep!

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