There are several high school robotics competitions with active teams in Philadelphia. Our Coalition focuses primarily on teams competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge, which is by far the most popular high school robotics program in the city.
Each school year, FIRST Tech Challenge teams receive a new challenge—a game, really—and have several months to design, build, and program a robot to play the game against other teams. The 2019–2020 season features a space-themed game called Skystone, that was revealed to teams at the beginning of September.
In addition to building their robot, teams must keep an engineering notebook and make an oral presentation to a panel of judges detailing their engineering process and product.
FIRST is a New Hampshire-based non-profit that organizes four different robotics programs, each with a different age range covering kindergarten through twelfth grade. Their FIRST Lego League for fourth through eighth graders is very popular in Philadelphia’s elementary and middle schools, with over forty schools participating.
Founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST pairs engineering challenges and sports-like competitions with valuable life lessons about teamwork and professionalism. A recent HBO Real Sports segment with Kamen gives a great overview of the program and mission.