FIRST Tech Challenge

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FIRST Tech Challenge
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event FIRST Velocity Vortex
FIRST Tech challenge logo.png
Formerly FIRST Vex Challenge
Sport Robotics-related games
Founder Dean Kamen & Woodie Flowers
Inaugural season 2005
Director Ken Johnson
Country International
Venue(s) St. Louis and Houston (world level), numerous smaller locations (state level)
Most recent
Inspire Award Winner St. Louis:
United States 5466: Combustible Lemons
Inspire Award Winner Houston:
Canada 3491: FIX IT
Champion Teams St. Louis:
United States 8686: Height Differential
United States 6929: Data Force
United States 5916: The BoBots
Champion Teams Houston:
United States 724: RedNek Robotics Wun
United States 4216: Rise of Hephaestus
United States 8651: Wait For It...
TV partner(s) NASA TV
FIRST Robotics Competition
FIRST Lego League
FIRST Lego League Jr.
Official website FTC

The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is designed for students in grades 7–12 to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots in a 10-week build period to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using Java or the MIT App Inventor. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.[1] The ultimate goal of FTC is to reach more young people with a lower-cost, more accessible opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.


The FIRST Tech Challenge grew out of the existing FIRST Robotics Competition and the IFI Robovation platform. FIRST, RadioShack, and Innovation First collaborated to develop an improved version of the IFI Robovation kit. The kit was significantly upgraded and called the VEX Robotics Design System. For the 2008 season Pitsco developed a platform that uses the NXT brick along with additional hardware and a new structural framework under the new name of TETRIX. Using aluminum parts that will allow participants to add Lego parts and sensors, the kit includes 4 DC motors and larger wheels. In addition to hardware changes, the system was programmed with LabVIEW or RobotC.

In 2005–06, FIRST piloted the FIRST Vex Challenge as a potential program.[2] The pilot season brought together over 130 teams to compete in 6 regional tournaments[citation needed] in a 1/3 scale FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar.[3] Fifty teams participated in the FVC tournament at the FIRST Championship in April, 2006. On April 29, 2006 the FIRST Board of Directors voted to extend FVC for the 2006–2007 season.

In Summer 2007, after two seasons as the FIRST Vex Challenge, FIRST announced that the program would be renamed the FIRST Tech Challenge.

In the 2015-2016 FTC Res-q season, the NXT bricks that were used previously as the robot controller were replaced by Android phones running Android KitKat (4.4).[4]


Robot of team 8275, the Tech Busters, for the 2015-2016 FIRST Res-Q challenge

Along with building and programming a robot, FTC teams are required to create an 'Engineering Notebook' that documents their build season and team experience.[5] It helps teams learn the value of the engineering process and gives them an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and improve. It also shows the judges at tournaments what the teams have overcome throughout the year.


In September each year, FIRST announces the game challenge to FTC teams at Kickoff. Unlike FRC, there is no 'ship day' when the robot has to be finished; teams can work on their robots up to and during competitions.[6] Qualifying Tournaments and State Championships occur from October through March. For teams advancing from the United States, four Super-Regional Championship Tournaments are held from March through early April, with the World Championship occurring in late April.[7]


Official FTC events are Qualifying or Championship Tournaments; unofficial events are Scrimmage Tournaments. From Championship Tournaments, teams are invited to one of four Super-Regional Championship Tournaments (for US teams only) and then the World Championship based on predetermined advancement criteria. Qualifying Tournaments exist in areas with a large number of teams. Winners of Qualifying Tournaments are invited to Championship Tournaments and winners of Championship tournaments are invited to Super-Regional Tournaments.[8]

Teams advance from one level of competition to the next based on the advancement criteria laid out in the first part of that year's Game Manual. The Advancement criteria was changed for the 2015-2016 season to add criteria 7 "Winning Alliance, 2nd Team selected" and 13 "Finalist Alliance, 2nd Team selected," shifting the successive criteria down one position. [9]


The following are awards presented at official Championship and Qualifying Tournaments:[10]

For Teams
  • Inspire Award
  • Rockwell Collins Innovate Award
  • Motivate Award
  • Connect Award
  • Think Award
  • PTC Design Award
  • Control Award
  • Promote Award
  • Winning Alliance Award
  • Finalist Alliance Award
For Individuals
  • Compass Award
  • FIRST Tech Challenge Dean's List

Competition themes[edit]

In the past, the challenges have been based on several different themes:

Gracious Professionalism[edit]

FIRST Tech Challenge seems, on the outside, a robotics competition, but the core value that FIRST Tech Challenge promotes is embodied in the phrase "Gracious Professionalism." Although FIRST Tech Challenge includes thousands of competitive teams, gracious professionalism makes it a friendly competition where teams help other teams, and fun makes a strong presence in any tournament.

FIRST states that "With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended." [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Finding the Top Bot: High School Students (and Their Robots) Take the Prize at Tech Challenge". Scientific American. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "2005 Vex Field". Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "FIRST® Announces ‘Game-Changing’ Technology Platform for use in Worldwide Student Robotics Competitions". Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "Get Over It! Game Manual" (PDF). FIRST. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "Making the move to FTC". FLL® Community Stories. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  7. ^ "2011- 2012 FTC Season Calendar". FIRST. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Game Manual Part 1" (PDF). FIRST. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 
  10. ^ "Game Manual Part 1" (PDF). FIRST. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "Gracious Professionalism |". Retrieved 2015-12-14. 

External links[edit]