A major component of FIRST’s mission is creating awareness of our community, the connection that the FIRST community has with the world of STEM, and how to recognize participants that go above and beyond to grow our community. These efforts are recognized at events and the World Championship with the Connect and the Motivate Award. Each award goes to an outstanding team that focuses on outreach to different parts of the community.

The Connect Award is given to a team that focuses their outreach to the existing STEM community to build a relationship with potential mentors, sponsors, and employers.  Inspiration and interest in becoming part of an FIRST Tech Challenge team can come from the amazing projects and the way that you’re able to connect to the community.

We’re celebrating Ada Lovelace’s birthday this month, the mother of algorithms, here at FIRST Tech Challenge with the release of a series of videos that will take you on a journey into computational thinking.

The first video inthe series will travel through time to show you how this type of thinking developed from the Analytical Engine to modern day computing. The second video might make you hungry and will give you the tools to think computationally using a food recipe.

You’ve probably seen the data on how many folks participate in FIRST, it’s impressive. Last year over 570,000 students and 300,000 volunteers participated in FIRST across all our programs. We had teams in 113 countries, and official events in 107 countries.

The mission of FIRST is to change our culture to recognize the critical importance of STEM and inspire our next generation of leaders.

It’s already been a month since the official release of the SKYSTONE℠ presented by Qualcomm game. Now we’re gearing up and getting ready for the official competition season, with the first official events starting mid-October.

Before you head to your first competition, we wanted to remind you about a few changes to robot rules and game specific items you’ll need prior to arriving at your event.

There are devices known as WiFi blockers or jammers that can disrupt the reliable operation of the FIRST Tech Challenge robot control system.

Each season, FIRST receives credible reports of incidents with these WiFi Blockers, particularly if a team is trying to use their robot at a school.

Several companies, such as Cisco Systems, sell WiFi hardware that includes built-in WiFi Blocking technology.

If you saw my blog post back on June 4th of this year you learned about the Control Hub pilot that we're running this season. Since that post, we have expanded the pilot to include a fifth region, Alaska. The reason for extending the pilot to Alaska is to ensure we have enough teams to pilot 250 Control Hubs allocated for this purpose.

Pilot teams can only compete using the Control Hub in their pilot regions.

The FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships are a special experience for everyone involved. Thousands of people come together to make this happen including coaches, volunteers, sponsors and FIRST staff. The time and effort put into World Championships is a function of how these experiences impact students now and into their futures. We understand that impact and it is worth all the effort.

The game release has come!  Now it’s time to build and program your robot. For this year’s game, one scoring opportunity is to recognize and move skystones in autonomous mode. For this season, you have the option to use specialized machine learning software to simplify the task of identifying and tracking the game elements during autonomous mode.

TensorFlow, Google’s “machine learning technology,” has been trained to recognize the game elements from this season’s challenge.

Labor Day weekend and the start of autumn has been a significant milestone in all our lives since the time we started school. As the weather turns our focus also turns to school and buckling down for the new year.

Who got you into FIRST?

FIRST has been around for more than 30 years with the mission of inspiring the next generation of technology leaders. More than 600,000 students per year are involved with FIRST. If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a coach, student, or volunteer and are part of this global movement. 

As we continue to expand and reach more students I ask you one question.