FIRST Acting Senior VP of Programs and Chief Program Officer
FIRST is unique from other extra curricular activities. Our mission, volunteers, and our impact are different than what was done before we arrived. You've made us unique.
Being different can be a great thing, but it’s also important to pay attention to things outside ourselves that, well, already work.
To date, FTC's competitive format has primarily been day long events. Whether it's a Qualifier or Regional Championship, we’re pretty good at packing eight, ten, or even 12 hours with FTC competition.
That event format may be the right one for a Regional or State Championship, but it’s not necessarily conducive to attracting the next wave of FTC’ers. To make the program available to more schools and communities, we are taking cues from the traditional high school sports model.
Swim meets, track meets, and other sporting events pull together multiple schools and organizations to compete every day. Teams form leagues, practice, compete and and then they practice and compete some more. As a result, they get better and have multiple chances to apply what they've developed.
Not only that, but the coaches (often teachers) use school resources for practice, buses for transportation and even get stipends for their time spent coaching. Not a bad model.
This season, FTC is piloting a meet format in five regions (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, Florida, St. Louis). The meet format is designed to be a three to four hour event, pulling together multiple teams at a host venue. There will be a number of meets over the course of the season. The culmination of the season will be a Regional or State Championship resembling current full-day events.
The format we've outlined strives to maintain the balance between robot performance and recognition through judged awards. There are some challenges to this balance, but the pilot regions testing the new model will help us hone the approach.
What this all boils down to is priorities. If you’re reading this, you're probably already “sold” on the importance of STEM at every level - from the individual who wants to make a difference to a world that needs solutions rooted in technology.
This new format makes FTC easier to implement by removing several practical barriers to its adoption as a true school sport. A sport in which every student can “go pro” and, more importantly, every student can make a difference in our future.
I can’t think of a better justification for adding FTC as every school’s newest sport, can you?