FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen to motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. Each year, around 3,000 FIRST Robotics Competition teams, composed of 75,000 high-school students (Grades 9-12) with the guidance of adult mentors, have six weeks from the first Saturday in January to design, build and program a robot to play a sport’s based game. The robots, typically weighing approximately 120 lbs., are built from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST and from other materials purchased by the team. These robots compete in regional events for a chance to go to the FIRST National Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.
Participation in FIRST Robotics allows students to learn valuable skills in engineering, computer science, and business. Along with building and programming a robot, students must run the team as a company by marketing the team, fundraising, and making a strategic business plan. Students also develop teamwork, as they are encouraged to share strategies and work with other teams. Not only that, but FIRST students qualify for $20 million in college scholarships. Students in FIRST Robotics are being prepared to join the workforce and be positive influences on their communities. Several former Robotichauns have been offered prestigious internships following high school due to their work in FIRST Robotics. FIRST also provides valuable opportunities and exposure for females in STEM-related fields, as the Robotichauns are about a third female.