Representing, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” FIRST is an international organization devoted to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in today’s youth.
“Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, and is headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire. The organization is supported by over 130,000 volunteers and over 3,500 sponsors of all kinds. Since it’s kickoff in 1992, FIRST has gone from 28 teams to over 32,650 teams, engaging 350,000+ students, who create 28,000+ robots, with the help of 64,000+ mentors.
One of the primary focuses of the program is giving students 4 years of real-world engineering experience. All of the technology used on the FRC robots is also being used in the field. In order to understand how to use this technology, students work with adult mentors. These mentors are all engineers, programmers, and other adults who can contribute to the program. Through the mentorship program, students are able to develop close relationships with the mentors and learn more effectively through that.
Not only does FIRST change the lives of high school students, but for youth of all ages. The FIRST Robotics Competition, or FRC is the high school level competition that uses industrial grade materials. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) works with high schoolers and middle schoolers with Tetrix kits and smaller robots. FIRST Lego League (FLL) uses the Lego Mindstorms and competes with middle school students. Finally, FLL, Jr. encourages problem solving and basic physics principles with elementary students.
Students benefit especially from the FIRST scholarship fund as well. In 2013, over 150 scholarship providers provide over 750 scholarship opportunities to FIRST students. Overall, it totals to more than $16 million in college scholarships.