Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Intro to FIRST

I recently accepted a job with a local FIRST© partner - 4-H Youth and Development. Which is an extension program of the local State Land Grant University. I am an associate (part-time) in their sciences robotics program. This means I work in a dorm turned offices, at the University where I did my undergrad. Furthermore, by starting in the middle of the tournament season - I'm getting a crash course in all thing FIRST.

I would like to share my experiences (starting from December when I began), in a series of diary-style entries, but first I will give you an overview of the program - after the jump.

FIRST is a volunteer based organization, based out if Manchester, New Hampshire. The goal of which is to get kids interested in science, engineering, community involvement, teamwork, and professionalism while surrounding it all with a sports-like competition. There are 4 levels of programs, three of which it is now my job to help administer for my state.  

FIRST LEGO League (FLL)© is a friendly competition for 9-14 year olds. The teams of up to 10 kids research a problem based on the year's theme, develop a solution, then also build a LEGO robot to compete in that years field competition.

Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL)© is a non-competitive learning opportunity for kids 6-9 years old. Unlike the other programs that run on a tournament season, Jr.FLL can start at any time in the year and take 6 weeks. Like FLL, the kids form teams and research a problem and create a solution. They then build a model using LEGO (with one simple machine and a moving part) and a show-me board based on their research. This is all taken to an Expo where they talk about their project and experience with an interviewer.

FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)© is a step up from FLL, inviting 7th-12th graders to firm a team and build a small robot that can compete in an alliance against two other allied teams. The game had active referees monitoring the action and is a very intense competition. Students also have to demonstrate the FIRST core values and discuss their robots and procedures with a panel of judges.

FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC)© is the fourth and most advanced of the competition. It challenges high school students to spend an intense 6 weeks running a mock robotics company, developing, designing, programming, documenting, fund raising, the works!  They build a large robot to compete in a competitive game.  This program we are not currently running.

Check back soon to see how my first week went when I was dropped in just before Christmas for the last of the FLL qualifying tournaments!

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