FIRST is a nonprofit public charity that organizes events such as FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) to encourage young people’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and career options while developing knowledge, confidence, and other life skills.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by engineer Dean Kamen. The original goal was to help young people understand how exciting and rewarding STEM related activities can be. Dean Kamen puts it like this: "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."
For most school age individuals, FIRST is associated with robotics. In 1992, FIRST decided to really bring the STEM fields into the schools. There, FIRST Robotics Competition, also known as FRC, was born. The first game, Maize Craze, consisted of only 20 competing teams, 6 of which are still active today. The team count has now increased to 3,647 teams as of 2018 from 28 countries.
In 1999, FIRST decided to expand their presence to elementary schools, which started FIRST LEGO League, also known as FLL. FLL combines a childhood favorite and robots, perfect to be directed to children ages 9-14. The competition is currently played with over 40,400 teams.
FIRST again decided to expand again into younger groups of children in 2004, which brought about FLL Jr.. This program is designed to be a comfortable environment for children ages 6-10 whle also incorporating the STEM values and robotics. FLL Jr. is currently being played with 7,820 teams.
FIRST Robotics Competition is generally directed more towards high school aged students able to work under stressful conditions and a 6 week time crunch, so FIRST decided to inaugurate a more relaxed version of FRC that is available to students in grades 7-12. This competition is titled FIRST Tech Challenge, or FTC. It uses an updated version of the IFI Robovation kit called the VEX Robotics Design System.
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