46,000 Students to Build Robots and STEM Skills in FIRST Tech Challenge

More than 46,000 students worldwide are expected to build robots and STEM skills during the FIRST Tech Challenge, “Velocity Vortex,” which kicked off Sept. 10 and continues through 2017.

The FIRST Tech Challenge is a robotics program for grades 7 through 12 that promotes project-based learning. Teams of 10 or more are challenged to design, build, program and operate robots to play a floor game in an alliance format.

The 2016-17 game is called “Velocity Vortex.” Teams work in an alliance to score points against their opponents by placing small balls, called particles, into two different types of vortices, including a center vortex on a rotatable stand in the center of a field. Robots can also light beacons with their alliance’s color, and in the final 30 seconds of the match, raise a large ball off the playing field and place it in the Center Vortex.

Winners are eligible for $30 million in scholarships. Telecommunications company Qualcomm is the presenting sponsor for the event.

“The great thing about the FIRST Tech Challenge program is that it is the perfect complement to the classroom,” said FIRST President Donald E. Bossi in a prepared statement. “Throughout their journey this season, students will develop a deeper understanding of STEM skills, as well as valuable career and life skills.”

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The nonprofit organization was founded by Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. FIRST is based in Manchester, NH.

The cost for fielding a FIRST Tech Challenge team is $275 in North America. International team registration varies by location. Robot kits, travel, event registration and other costs are estimated to total $2,500 per team.

Need-based grants are available for new and returning teams. More information about grants is on the FIRST website.

To learn more about FIRST and the “Velocity Vortex” challenge, and to register, visit

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at

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