FIRST Tech Challenge

What is FIRST?

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989. FIRST gives students the opportunity to develop the "muscle between their ears" and to gain experiences that will affect their future. It is truly a "Sport-for-the-Mind". Students who participate in FIRST use and reflect Gracious Professionalism, get real-world application of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts, and participate in an atmosphere that encourages team building, entrepreneurship and sportsmanship. Check out the other FIRST programs.

What is FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)?

FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for those who want to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams of students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year, and is programmed using a variety of languages. 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 for well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

A one-page summary about the successes of FTC program in Iowa from the 2013-2014.

The Robot is Just the Vehicle

Although the object is to build a robot, students who participate in FTC learn so much more. Students learn about working in a team environment, effective communication skills, being able to fail and succeed at the same time, and competing fairly while being supportive of their competition. Students who participate in FTC are well-rounded citizens of the world.

What grades can participate in FTC?

FTC is considered a high school program, but if a middle school team has had several years of FIRST LEGO League (FLL) experiences, and is ready to move up to their next challenge, then FTC might be the right fit. Teams should be careful not to have a middle school student on a team with a upper-class high school student.

Official Program Sponsor

Thank you, Rockwell Collins, for being the FTC Official Program Sponsor! Additionally, a huge thanks to Rockwell Collins for its help supporting the FTC-Iowa Championship tournament, and helping to support FTC teams throughout Iowa! We are very grateful for your support!

What is a typical FTC season timeline?

Officially, the FTC season starts in May, when registration opens, and concludes in April with the FTC World Championship. The following information includes some benchmarks, at different times of the season, to help you plan along the way.

Pre-Season (May - September): when the game is announced. If you are a rookie team, the pre-season begins with your registration, via TIMS. During the pre-season teams should:

  • Attend an FTC tournament (if possible) 
  • Plan a budget
  • Use marketing tools
  • Recruit team members
  • Apply for grants (e.g. Rockwell Collins Grant
  • Register your team
  • Order Kit of Parts
  • Attend workshops and demo

Kick-Off (September): Kick-Off is the date when the challenge is announced.

Build & Practice Season: Teams should use the time, following Kick-Off, to design, build and program their robot. Its also a good time for the team to practice. It is important, especially during this time, the team members become familiar with the Game Manual, as well as other resources, such as the Forums. During this time, there are several scrimmages, which are great opportunities for teams to learn and work with other teams.

Tournament Season (November - February): This time period is the culmination of the season for most teams. Events during this time are Qualifier Tournament Events, in which teams will compete to qualify for the FTC-Iowa Championship in late February. FTC-Iowa will follow the Advancement Criteria for each of the Qualifier Tournaments.

Super Regional Championship (April): Beginning in the 2013-2014 FTC Season, FTC teams in the United States will advance from state to one of four super-regional championship tournaments. The four Super-Regional Championship Tournaments will be hosted in Northern California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Iowa. For more information about the Super Regional Championships, please visit the FIRST Website.

World Championship Event (April): This event is a celebration and an culmination to the FTC program. It is the pinnacle of the FTC Season. Teams must receive an official invitation to attend.

Post-Season: The post-season is very similiar and overlaps the pre-season. During the post-season, teams are encouraged to thank the sponsors, review lessons learned, and begin prepping for the new season.

How much does it cost to have an FTC team?

If you are starting a new team, please take a moment to look at the sample budget.The following sample budget is for a new team, purchasing one FTC competition kit and participating in one event. If your team chooses to purchase an additional kit and/or participate in multiple events, the fees would vary accordingly. Travel costs will vary due to the distance and time needed to travel to an event.

  • FTC program registration fee: $275
  •  FTC competition kit: ~ $1,000
  • Event registration fee: $0 - $300 per event
  • Travel costs (food, lodging, gas, etc.): $0 - $500*
  • Team T-shirts (optional): $0 - 150
  • Additional kit items (optional): $0 - $500 

*Depends on what FTC Events tournaments teams decide to attend. Any additional money that is spent is at the discretion of the team/coach/mentors. Other expense examples include: travel costs, registration fees for competitions, and activity funds for students. A typical team budget ranges from $2,000-$4,000, but it is not a requirement. To find support, we encourage teams to do fundraising.

We want to start a team, now what?

Please visit the pages within this website and contact the Iowa Affiliate Partner, Rebecca Whitaker (319-335-5706) or send an email.