FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), The Varsity Sport for the Mind, is an international high school robotics competition organized by FIRST. FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Students aged 14-18 in high school participate in teams of an average size of 25. Students build robots weighing up to 120 lbs. that can complete a challenge, which changes annually. Teams are given a standard kit-of-parts, but they are encouraged to buy or make specialized parts. The challenge is revealed in the beginning of January, and teams are given six weeks to build a functioning robot. Each year, a different challenge is selected, however many of the game rules have remained the same, especially since 2005. Every round consists of two alliances each with three randomly assigned teams. The match consists of an autonomous period of about 15 seconds at the beginning of the match, followed by two minutes of remote operation. The challenge involves different levels of scoring using game pieces, and sometimes there are opportunities for bonus points by completing a special task.
FRC started in 1992 with only one event. Since then the program has vastly expanded. In 2014, there will be 2,850 teams participating in FRC; over 1,200 in the United States, and over 70 in Canada alone. Over the years, FIRST has attracted many sponsors to help fund their programs.