For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology (FIRST®) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen that has the following vision:

"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."

FIRST®’s “...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® provides four levels of robotics programs, all designed to excite children of different ages:

Junior FIRST® LEGO League (Jr.FLL), ages 6-9

FIRST® LEGO League (FLL), ages 9-14

FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC), ages 12-18

FIRST® Robotics Challenge (FRC), ages 14-18

The above progression provides a continuum for students in The Villages Charter School System beginning at age 6 and culminating at age 18. The FIRST® program routinely exposes student participants to all aspects of STEM and constantly encourages STEM related careers. In addition, the FIRST® program teaches participants how to research, develop presentations, present results to a judging panel, and how to run a business.

It’s NOT Just About the Robot

While the robot is definitely a main part of the FIRST® program, it is NOT all about the robot. Gracious ProfessionalismTM is part of the ethos of FIRST®. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. CoopertitionTM is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. CoopertitionTM is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.

Each level of FIRST® has increasing responsibility on student participants. Basic research projects and presentations to address real world issues are the core of Jr.FLL and FLL. Team involvement in the community, world, STEM expansion and FIRST® expansion and legacy are the staples of FTC and FRC. These non-robot intensive exercises round out the student’s perception and bring a different life experience to all.

Lastly, students are exposed to a variety of experiences that provide them with real world business/vocational skills. Students routinely use computers, spreadsheets, word processors, presentation software, engineering software, shop tools, shop skills, safety skills, and more in their usual daily routines of designing and building robots under tight deadlines and the associated pressures of that environment. These are all skill sets students need to excel in today’s business environment.

Below are a series of YouTube Video links, one providing a broad overview of FIRST®, and then one for each level of FIRST®.

FIRST: A Broad Overview

Jr.FLL: Snack Attack

FLL: Get in the Game

FTC: Overview

FRC: Student Voice

To learn more about FIRST®, please be sure to visit their website.