FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring generations of students to pursue their dreams in STEM fields. Since 1989, FIRST has hosted several robotics and technology-related competitions that cater to children from 5-18 years old. In addition, FIRST emphasizes philosophies such as gracious professionalism and "coopertition" among the young engineers who compete in their programs, encouraging respect to one another and helping others when necessary.
FRC, FIRST's "varsity sport for the mind," tasks high school students all over the world to build a robot that can complete a task that varies each year. Starting in January, each team has only six weeks to prototype, assemble, program, and test their robots. Throughout this period, students receive hands-on experience of real-world engineering scenarios and cooperate with engineering mentors from local companies. Competitors are educated in various fields such as welding, wiring, computer-aided drafting, pneumatics, electronics, use of power-tools, soldering, and computer programming. FRC teams also require the skills of other non-engineering disciplines such as Public Relations and Finance, effectively turning them into businesses of their own. The TorBots compete in this competition.
This program, also aimed at high school students, incorporates many of the same elements as FRC, although at a fraction of the cost and at a much smaller scale. Starting in September, FTC teams build robots to accomplish varied tasks; however, unlike in FRC, teams can build all the way up to and after competitions. FTC teams are also required to create an "Engineering Notebook" that documents their build season experiences, assisting teams in analysis on their positive and negative moments, as well as helping teams reflect on how to improve.
FIRST LEGO League allows elementary and middle school students to also join in the thrill of engineering through a joint venture between FIRST and the LEGO group. Each September brings a new challenge for the young engineers that is based on a real-world topic related to the sciences. Using parts from the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits, children 9-14 construct a robot that will complete a designated task autonomously. An FLL competition consists of four major parts: a teamwork activity, a technical presentation, a research project, and the performance of the robots themselves. For the teamwork activity, students are assessed by judges through interviews or exercises on their cohesiveness as a group. The technical presentation puts students on the spot to explain their design choices and why they believe them to be optimal. A team's research project is accompanied by a short presntation that demonstrates a team's problem-solving ability. Junior FIRST LEGO League provides a scaled down version of this same experience to children ages 6-9.