Why are schools across Australia taking on FIRST?
School based FIRST teams represent their schools wherever they go, even representing their school and Australia if they make world championship events.
In 2011 a team from Macarthur Anglican School competed at the Australian FTC National Competition. Through their success there, they earned the right to compete at the 2012 international FIRST World Championship event in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States.
Macarthur Anglican School earned their way back to St Louis in 2013 where they were joined by an FTC team from James Ruse Agricultural High School.
Not only are these opportunities exciting experiences for the competitors – participation in the competitions teaches students problem solving, public speaking, teamwork, communication, time management, science and mathematics, research and technology skills. These are skills which are not only personally rewarding to the students but also reflect very well on their school.
There are several ways to get your school involved in FIRST in Australia, depending on means and students. The most common ways are:
Start an FLL Team – Primary School
The cheapest and easiest option for schools to get involved with FIRST is participation in theFIRST LEGO League. Registration for the competition includes one competition field kit for teams to practice on. Each team can have up to 10 students and each team also requires a LEGO Mindstorms kit which can be reused year after year.
There are currently regional qualifying tournaments in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and the national tournament is held in Sydney.
At usfirst.org, you can find guides and a coaches handbook to help you start and run your FLL team.
Start an FTC team – Lower Secondary School
An alternative to FLL for high school – students can join the team in year 7 and stay with it for several years. Just like FLL, FIRST Tech Challenge teams needa LEGO Mindstorms kit which is reusable year after year, and they also need a reusable TETRIX or Matrix Robotics kit.
There are currently 3 regional competitions in Australia, and all teams are invited to compete at the national tournament in Sydney. The most successful teams in the Sydney National competition are also invited to attend the World Championships in the United States.
Start an FRC team – Mid to Upper Secondary School
Teams consist of 10-50 students and typically have 3-20 adult mentors with varying skillsets (industry engineers, parents, teachers) to guide them.
Team receive a comprehensive Kit of Parts which form the basis of the robots they construct. Teams also require additional materials (sheet metal, nuts&bolts, etc.) to build their robot, which is far bigger and heavier than FLL or FTC robots – robots can be up to 2 metres tall and weigh over 50kg. Teams will also require tools (a school metalwork shop for example) and space to meet, design, manufacture, assemble and store robots.
Most teams are supported by corporate sponsors to cover the costs of competing, although some are funded solely by their schools.
Each year, the game is announced in early January, at which point teams can start building. If teams can finish their robot by late February, they can choose to compete at the official Australian Regional in Sydney. This event also acts as a qualifying event, allowing high-performing teams to represent their school and sponsors internationally. All Australian teams are also welcome at the June Duel Down Under, held annually in Sydney.
For more information on competing domestically or internationally, please contact us.
FRC requires more time, money, space and manpower than FLL or FTC. The students’ experience of FIRST has been described as ‘the hardest fun they’ll ever have’, and FRC is the most intense, challenging and rewarding of the three programs. Australia has FRC teams from schools such as Normanhurst Boys’ High School (Sydney), the King David School (Melbourne), Barker College (Sydney) and St. Mary’s Senior High School (Sydney). As of 2014, there is even an Indigenous FRC team from the Batchelor Institute, NT.
Host a tournament
Schools have the opportunity to host FIRST events at all levels. For instance, the Duel Down Under FRC competition has been held at Barker College since 2012, and Cedars Christian College is a first-time venue for FLL in 2014.
If your school is interested in hosting a tournament or you would like more information, please contact us.