Press Release - September 10, 2013

Dean Kamen Invites More Than 30,000 Students Around the World to the FIRST® Tech Challenge “ FTC® BLOCK PARTY!SM

FIRST® Tech Challenge launches new robotics season game that challenges students to think like engineers and scientists

MANCHESTER, N.H., September 10, 2013FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, officially launched its 2013-2014 FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) season with an online game reveal on Saturday, September 7, 2013. FTC teams gathered at 44 local Kickoff events throughout North America to get a first glimpse of this season’s game: “FTC® BLOCK PARTY!SM” An estimated 30,000 students on 3,000 teams around the world will participate in the 2013-2014 FTC season.

FIRST Tech Challenge is a widely-accessible robotics program for grades 7 through 12 that promotes project-based learning. Using a proven formula to engage student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), FTC is one of the fastest-growing programs of its kind in the world. FTC is highly-scalable and easily integrates into the classroom with measurable results. FIRST teams engage business, engineering, and science professionals, and working together, become a focal point of the community in which they live.

“When students participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge, they are encouraged to think like engineers and scientists,” said Don Bossi, President of FIRST. “Throughout the FTC BLOCK PARTY! season, these young people will employ the same disciplines and complex problem-solving skills that will someday enable them to solve society’s greatest challenges.”

Using a combination of motors, controllers, wireless communications, metal gears, and sensors, including infrared tracking (IR) and magnet seeking, students will program their robots to operate in both autonomous and driver-controlled modes on a specially designed field.

The object of the 2013-2014 game is to score more points than an opponent by placing plastic blocks into pendulum goals. Teams will be challenged to raise their team alliance flag up a flagpole, raise their robots off the ground using a platform pull-up bar, and end the match with a balanced pendulum to earn extra points. FTC BLOCK PARTY! matches will last two minutes and 30 seconds, and begin with a 30-second autonomous period followed by a two-minute driver-controlled period. The final 30 seconds of the driver-controlled period is the “end game;” it is during this time that teams can attempt to earn bonus points.

This 2013-2014 FTC BLOCK PARTY! season will introduce a new layer to the FTC event advancement structure. Teams in the United States will advance from state or regional-level Championship Tournaments to one of four Super-Regional Championship Tournaments before advancing to the FTC World Championship in St. Louis, Mo. This new event structure will allow FTC to retain a merit-based advancement structure as the program continues to grow. Teams who win at a State Championship will have the opportunity to advance to a high-quality, multi-region, two-day event – a Super-Regional. The four Super Regional tournaments will be hosted in Northern California, Texas, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

“Alignment between the FTC BLOCK PARTY! game, the overall experience of the FIRST Tech Challenge program, and what engineering schools and businesses need, are totally in sync,” said Ken Johnson, Program Director of FIRST Tech Challenge. “Like all FIRST programs, FTC is more than just robotics. These students are learning engineering principles, yes; but they are also learning the values of teamwork, collaboration, mentorship, and strategic thinking.”

Prior to Super-Regionals, an estimated 3,000 teams will compete at more than 200 Qualifying and Championship Tournaments taking place in the U.S., Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, and Taiwan during the 2013-2014 FTC season. The FTC BLOCK PARTY! season will culminate with the FTC World Championship, April 23-26, 2014, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo. The 2013-2014 FIRST® Tech Challenge Sponsors include Official Program Sponsor for the FIRST® Tech Challenge, Rockwell Collins, and FTC CAD and Collaboration Sponsor, PTC®.

As a result of generous contributions from several FIRST supporters, FIRST is able to announce an exciting new FTC® Rookie Team Grant program for the 2013-2014 FTC season. All new North American teams are now able to receive a $500 grant to ease their entry into the program. These grants will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis for the first 1,000 teams to register. There are currently fewer than 400 FTC Rookie Team Grants remaining. For more information: http://usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc/grow.

About FIRST®  
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $16 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC® ) for Grades 7-12; FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL® ) for Grades 4-8; and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for Grades K-3. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

FIRST®, the FIRST® logo, FIRST® Tech Challenge, and FTC® are registered trademarks, and FTC® BLOCK PARTY!SM  is a service mark, of the United States Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®).

Media Contact:

Haley Dunn, FIRST 
Ph. 603-206-2494
hdunn@usfirst.org