FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST organization was founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989. Its purpose is to develop ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields. The organization is the foundation for the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST LEGO League, and FIRST Tech Challenge competition. FIRST also operates FIRST Place, a research facility at FIRST Headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire where it holds educational programs and day camps for students and teachers.

FIRST teaches importance of teamwork and gracious professionalism while also teaching problem solving and leadership skills in a unique and exciting hands-on display of what engineering is all about. FIRST seeks to promote a philosophy of teamwork and collaboration among engineers and encourages competing teams to remain friendly, helping each other out when necessary. The term frequently applied to this ethos is "gracious professionalism," a term coined by Woodie Flowers which supports respect towards one's competitors and integrity in one's actions.

The impact of FIRST can be seen in not only the enthusiasm students show in building and competing with their robots but in how it inspires them, builds academic success, enables careers and provides scholarship opportunities. Hands-on robotics creates student interest and participation in science and technology. For 2011, FIRST assembled over 888 individual scholarships for a total of over $14 million dollars in awards. Sponsors and Mentors find future employees and interns through their involvement with FRC. According to a Goodman Research study, two-thirds of student participants indicated interest in working for one of their team sponsors after completing their education, and one fifth had plans to work for one of their team sponsors in a summer internship or a part-time job.

Impact

FIRST works closely with research and academic organizations to provide tangible evidence of our impact on students' education and career choices. Brandeis University's Center for Youth and Communities conducted an independent, retrospective survey of FIRST Robotics Competition participants and compared results to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences, including math and science.

When compared with the comparison group, FIRST students are:

  • More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
  • Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
  • Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
  • Nearly 4 times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.
  • More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities. 

89% of FRC alumni reported an increased understanding of the role of science and technology in everyday life.
86% of FRC alumni reported an increased interest in science and technology.
89% of FRC alumni reported increased self confidence.

Information and photos courtesy of FIRST website

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