FIRST Robotics

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For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating students about science and technology through hands-on robotics competitions. Students learn and practice skills ranging from mechanical fabrication to computer programming, and time management to leadership. Inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen founded the charity in 1989 in Manchester, NH, but it now reaches over 306,000 students over 60 countries and all 50 states.

What is FIRST?

The FIRST 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". The organization succeeds in just that through four different programs, reaching over 306,000 students in grades K-12.
FIRST is led by Dean Kamen (inventor), Dr. Woodie Flowers (emeritus MIT professor), Paul Allaire (retired CEO of Xerox), Walter Havenstein (retired CEO of SAIC) and Jon Dudas (former Director of the US Patent Office), among other reputed STEM professionals.


(Downingtown Area Robotics doesn't participate in JFLL.) FIRST's youngest students (grades K-3) use LEGOs and posters to model and explain their answers to annual real-world based Challenges. Teams present their work and receive awards at community-held showcases. This is the program our friends at Sugartown Elementary have.

"FLL Logo"link=


The students in FLL participate in a annual real-world based Challenge involving a problem-solving Project and LEGO Robot Game. In the Project, teams research the science behind the Challenge (e.g. 2010's biomedical Challenge), develop an innovative solution, and share their ideas with other teams and the community. In addition to working on the Project, teams get the opportunity to design, build, program and compete with autonomous (not driver-controlled) LEGO robots in the Robot Game. The annual Game constitutes 2.5 minutes of tasks or missions that often represent solutions to problems in the Challenge. Teams showcase their Projects and participate in the Game at numerous events throughout the year (events and award information). FLL reaches roughly 147,250 students in 56 countries, and students often play and interact with teams from all over the world.
Downingtown Area Robotics runs FLL for grades 4 & 5 through the Downingtown Area Recreation Consortium (DARC). See the program page for details.

FIRST Technical Challenge

FTC students (grades 9-12) use special kits to build robots which compete in an annual nondestructive sports-like game. Downingtown Area Robotics participates in a similar competition, the VEX Robot Challenge, and opens the program to students grades 6-8 and above. See the program page for details.

FIRST Robotics Competition

"FRC Logo"

FRC is FIRST's founding and capstone program, open to students grades 9-12. The "varsity sport for the mind" challenges teams of high school students and adult mentors to compete in an annual nondestructive sports-like game as well as its associated technical and non-technical challenges. The annual robot game consists of randomly selected and rotated three-robot alliances competing head-to-head to achieve specific game objectives. Robots (roughly 5' tall and 150lbs) are made of off-the-shelf parts. Teams must prototype, design, construct, wire, program and test their robot in just six weeks. Associated competitions include animation and CAD challenges, and design, entrepreneurship and service awards (full awards listing). FRC reaches roughly 45,200 students in 12 countries, and students often compete and interact with teams from all over the world.
Downingtown Area Robotics runs FRC for students in grades 9-12; see the program page and team page for details.

Benefits of FIRST

FIRST participation benefits students, mentors and sponsors a like.

"FIRST isn’t about building robots, it’s about developing life skills. The kids learn skills in relationships, teamwork, finance, fundraising, budgeting and project management. The partnership between academia, the community and industry…will build our future employees and future citizens." - Steve Sanghi, Chairman of the Board, President & CEO Microchip Technology

Benefits to Students

"FLL Benefits"


  • Enjoy hands-on STEM activities
  • Discover how STEM can help solve world problems
  • Learn basic building, programming, research, writing & presentation skills
  • Apply basic STEM principles to their own inventions
  • Get on the Fast Track to STEM education & future robotics programs

FIRST Robotics Competition

"FRC Benefits"
  • Employ teamwork, leadership, time management, sportsmanship & problem solving
  • Strategize how their robot will compete, technically & tactically
  • Prototype, Test & Analyze concepts, designs & tactics
  • Design the robot in 3-D CAD
  • Program the robot, controller & support functions
  • Learn Mechanical & Electrical Skills from welding to vacuum forming and wiring to soldering
  • Apply Their Work by testing the robot & training the drivers

FIRST participation also opens up over $12.2 million (2010) in college scholarship opportunities from over 136 scholarship providers. See the FIRST Scholarship page for details.
Several Downingtown Area Robotics Alumni have become successful interns at sponsoring companies.

Student Quotes

"…[I] never even considered myself in the engineering profession and now I am at a college with a full tuition scholarship, studying to become an engineer."

- FIRST Alumna

"Robotics was the only thing in the entire year that I looked forward to all four years of high school."

- Downingtown Area Robotics Alumnus

"The most important part of the FIRST experience for me was being part of a team and getting to know, meet and interact with new people on a personal and professional level."

- FIRST Alumnus

"Robotics has helped me determine who I want to be. Not just academically, but as a person."

- Downingtown Area Robotics Alumna

"They get to go all the way from concept to competition and see their ideas play out. There’s nothing better as far as practical application."

- Downintown Area Robotics Parent

See the Downintown Area Robotics Alumni page for more success stories.

Benefits to Mentors

"Mentor Benefits"
  • Make a difference in students’ lives
  • Share, practice & learn technical and/or professional skills
  • Empower the next generation of STEM professionals
  • Serve as a role model for today's youth
  • Network with like-minded citizens
  • Help celebrate science & technology!

Mentor Quotes

"The students can teach me as much as I can teach them."

- Downingtown Area Robotics FRC Mentor

"Mentoring an FRC team has been a great way to keep my design skills current, while challenging my project management capabilities."

- Downingtown Area Robotics Head Mentor

Benefits to Sponsors

"Sponsor Benefits"
  • Builds a technologically literate workforce
  • Inspires local youth and future STEM professionals
  • Increases employee volunteerism
  • Provides employee team-building and training opportunities
  • Renews inspiration to company engineers and employees
  • Strengthens company reputation in the community

Several Downingtown Area Robotics Alumni have become successful interns at sponsoring companies.

"The workplace of today and especially tomorrow needs a diverse group of individuals who are comfortable solving complex technical problems in a team setting. It is rewarding to see these skills demonstrated in abundance with such passion in the FIRST LEGO League."

- Dennis Roberson, Vice Provost of New Initiatives, Illinois Institute of Technology

"I'm standing in front of some of the best and brightest in the U.S. and from around the world, and I know you're going to do things that people said could never be done."

- Joe Astroth, Ph.D, Vice President of Learning and Education, Autodesk

Downingtown Robotics and FIRST

Downingtown Area Robotics participates in two FIRST programs, the FIRST LEGO League (run through DARC) and the FIRST Robotics Competition (open to students at Downingtown East and West High Schools) though FRC Team 1640.

How You Can Get Involved in FIRST

  • Join a Downingtown Area Robotics (or your local program) team as a student, mentor, or sponsor. No experience required!
  • Help out as a judge, referee, or other volunteer at your nearest FIRST event

Locate teams and events near you!

Becoming a Mentor

  1. Any adult is welcome, regardless of profession or skill set
  2. Contribute as much or as little time as you’d like
  3. Learn & practice new skills through Mentor Training
  4. Join the team & start making a difference in kids’ lives!

Technical Areas

  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Programming
  • Computer Aided Design
  • Woodworking
  • …And many more!

Non-Technical Areas

  • Finance & Fundraising
  • Logistics
  • Promotional Materials
  • Media and Arts
  • Animation
  • Help with Transportation & Food
  • …And many more!

Becoming a Sponsor

1. Contact Downingtown Area Robotics at DEWBOTrobot at yahoo dot com
2. Join our sponsor family (as an individual or corporation) via any of the following:

  • Offer monetary and/or in-kind donations (any level is welcome)
  • Provide equipment and/or facilities
  • Involve employees as mentors and/or volunteers
  • Offer scholarships
  • Provide internships

3. Receive tax deductibility
4. Enjoy recognition at local, regional & national events frequented by thousands of STEM professionals and the general public. Sponsor names and/or logos are display prominently by donation size on team robots, uniforms, banners, advertisements & assorted media.
All Donation Levels Welcome
Donations are Tax-Deductible