Read on to learn more…
What is FIRST and FRC?
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology“, and is the world’s leading youth-serving nonprofit to advance STEM education. In 2018-19, well over a half-million students from 100+ countries participated in FIRST activities and competitions designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.
FRC stands for FIRST Robotics Competition, a competition for high school students (ages 14-18), which combines the excitement and challenge of sport with the rigor of science and technology. Other FIRST activities for younger students include FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL Jr., ages 6-10) , FIRST Lego League (FLL, ages 9-14), and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC, ages 12-18).
Each year, FIRST designs a completely new game and field for FRC teams to compete in. The game manual (usually 120+ pages!) is released in early January, and FRC student teams (with the support and guidance of dedicated “mentor” coaches) around the world all dive in to carefully analyze the game, try to determine the best strategies for success, and how to build a robot to best accomplish the tasks and challenges presented by that year’s game. Teams then design, build, test, and practice driving their robots to be ready for official regional FRC competitions which begin in late February. The top performing teams at the regional events are invited to the World Championships in late April, held at two sites in Detroit and Houston.
This is a great video from FIRST describing FRC and the student experience:
Watch the video animation below explaining the most recent FRC game theme…Destination Deep Space!
Soooo…what is EMCC then?
The East Metro Collaborative Competition (EMCC) is an “off-season” robotics event hosted by four FRC teams from high schools in Woodbury and Cottage Grove, and held at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, MN. Off-season events use the same game and fields from the most recent FRC official competition.
Off-season events like EMCC provide FRC teams a chance to continue their team and students’ development and growth beyond the official FRC season which runs from January to May each year. But the teams also enjoy the friendly competition, seeing old friends (and friendly rivals), and sharing the fun and excitement of FIRST robotics with new friends and families in our communities!
What goes on at a robotics competition?
The competition begins with qualification matches, with a match running about every 8-9 minutes. In each match, two “alliances” of three teams each compete on the field at a time. One alliance has red bumpers on their robots, the other alliance uses blue bumpers. The three teams on each alliance work together to accumulate more points during the match than the other alliance, and the overall win/loss records and other on-field performance aspects of each individual team determine their qualification ranking. Watch the video below of a match from the most recent FRC season game:
Each team in the competition competes in 6-10 randomly assigned qualification matches (depends on the total number of teams in the competition), with different alliance partners and opponents in each match.
Teams are trying to earn a high enough ranking by the end of the qualification matches to be an “alliance captain” for the playoffs, or at least build a strong reputation so that an alliance captain will select you to join their alliance for the playoff run. Once the captains draft the teams for their alliances, the alliances are locked for the playoffs, and the alliances compete in a playoff bracket until there is a winner. It is exciting!
This sounds cool…what is it like to be on a robotics team?
Well, be sure to try to make it to EMCC if you can! Experiencing a competition in person helps you understand this unique “sport of the mind,” and see the amazing machines the student teams build. You can even walk around the pit area and get up close to the robots and teams.
Ask the students questions – in the pits or in the stands. They LOVE to talk about their robots, the hard work they put in, and how much they enjoy being part of a TEAM that works together to accomplish amazing things…and learn some important life lessons and skills along the way.
If you can’t attend EMCC, we encourage you to find and reach out to your local team, and ask how interested students can learn more and maybe come to a meeting…see below on how to find a team.
What if I am not sure I want to be an engineer or computer programmer?
That’s fine…you do not have to be a “techie” or robot expert to contribute to an FRC team! A good robotics team needs all sorts of creativity and contributions, so bring the skills and interests you have now, and they’ll put them to use…but be ready and open to try new things and develop new skills!
You might find you really like fabricating parts, wiring, or coding…even if you’ve never done it before. But there are also many other fun opportunities and important roles to help run and promote the teams – scouting and game strategy at competitions, managing team websites, writing award submissions, shooting/editing videos, speaking in front of groups…FRC students develop important life and professional skills in so many areas (while having fun of course).
OK…I am pretty excited. How can I (or my student) find a team near me to join?
If your family is in the South Washington County School District (833), you can find links to all the FIRST Robotics high school teams at the bottom left of this page. Visit their page and reach out to them to learn more! New students joining the teams for the upcoming FRC season must register with the team by certain deadlines – so be sure to check with them.
To search for another FRC Team near you in Minnesota, click here. You can also use the filters on the left of that page to search for other FIRST teams (FLL, FTC, etc.), and for FIRST teams outside of Minnesota.