The FIRST® Robotics Competition is the highest age bracket within the FIRST Progression of Programs. At this level, students in the 9th through 12th grade design and build functioning robots that compete to see which robots best meet that year’s challenge. The challenges vary wildly from year from year so that even experienced teams are facing situations that they’ve not had to deal with previously. This Wikipedia page has a summary of all the FRC challenges from 1992 to the present. These are not small robots: They generally go up to 150 pounds, might be four or five feet high and have a time period within each round during which the robots have to function fully autonomously.
Anyone familiar with projects in the “real world” will likely be astonished at what these teams create only having six weeks from the day they learn about that year’s challenge until their robots have to be 100% completed. The “impossible” schedule they are faced with forces the team members to work together closely and extract the best that each person can offer the team.
The FRC competitions, like all FIRST competitions, have all the excitement of an intense sporting event. This Youtube clip from the 2013 FIRST Robotics Competition in Sacramento, California, nicely shows the spirit and excitement the teams — and their fans! — have for the robotics. The tension mounts during the Regional competition as everyone gets closer to the moment in the Finals that determine which team(s) will be able to advance to the prestigious FIRST National Championship! Yet while the competition is very real, the teams maintain the spirit of “Coopetition” where cooperation between the teams is as important as is the competition. This cooperation is amazing to see and is the equivalent of the two NFL teams locked in the midst of a tied Superbowl sharing equipment because one team’s item broke in the fourth quarter.
All this from students in the age/grade bracket that is often considered very hard to motivate. These students are the future.