Pittsburgh FIRST

What is FIRST?


FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity that designs accessible, innovative programs that inspire young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, engineering, technology, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.

Supported by a strong network of sponsors and volunteers, FIRST provides four programs: FIRST Robotics Competition (grades 9-12) FIRST Tech Challenge (grades 7-12); FIRST LEGO® League (grades 4-8; and FIRST LEGO® League Junior (grades K-3).

Each year FIRST presents the teams with a challenge specific to their program level.  As examples at the FIRST Robotics Competition level, the challenges have included throwing basketballs and balancing robots on bridges (2012); and throwing Frisbee-like discs and climbing a tube pyramid (2013). While during some of the competition the robots are remote-control assisted, these timed competitions include periods when the robots have to operate entirely on their own.

Founded by inventor Dean Kamen 25 years ago in Manchester, NH, FIRST has grown to reach over 400,000 youth in the US and internationally.  For more info, visit the FIRST website.

FIRST  Programs

FIRST has robotics programs targeted for students of all ages, with varying challenges and difficulty levels. These programs bring together students, parents, teachers, mentors, and sponsors and nurture real-world skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving while cultivating interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The FIRST programs include FIRST LEGO League Junior (Grades K-3), FIRST LEGO League (Grades 4-8), FIRST Tech Challenge (Grades 7-12), and FIRST Robotics Competition (Grades 9-12). For more information, visit the archived page on the FIRST Progression of Programs or FIRST FAQ’s (pdf).

FIRST  Regions

Within North America, FIRST divides the United States and Canada into regions or districts to support teams and to provide local opportunities to test their robots in competitions. Our region is the Western & Central Pennsylvania Region, which is comprised of 41 counties west of Harrisburg.  Teams throughout the region, from downtown Pittsburgh to rural farming communities, all celebrate FIRST as a way of inspiring students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  Click here to see FIRST Robotics Competition teams and locations in our region.

FRC teams in Eastern PA are part of the Mid-Atlantic Robotics District, which also includes Delaware and New Jersey.

FIRST Teams & Events in our Region

Click here to see FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams in our region. If you’re interested in joining or forming an FRC team, please contact us here. Be sure to ask about opportunities for funding for new rookie teams.

For FRC, the “FIRST Robotics Competition – Greater Pittsburgh Regional” is the official competition tournament for our region.

Multiple competitions are held throughout our region for the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST LEGO League programs.

The FIRST Tech Challenge program is managed state-wide by a FIRST Affiliate Partner. Visit www.firstinspires.org for more info about FIRST Tech Challenge, and  www.FTCPenn.org for details about events and teams in PA. Thanks to our hardworking volunteer partner and local host schools, we’ve had a local tournament – the Southwestern Pennsylvania FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament – for a few years now. See the links for more information. Also, our local teams have done a great job over the past few years running local workshops & scrimmages. If you’re interested, be sure to ask either here or at FTCPenn.org.

The FIRST LEGO League is managed by several volunteer Operational Partners across the state. For contact information, click here and choose FIRST LEGO League. Southwestern PA FIRST LEGO League info is also located here.

The FIRST LEGO League Junior program is not centrally organized as of yet, but is a terrific program that can be run on a very low-key level. A FIRST LEGO League Junior event is an “Expo” as opposed to a competition, and can be held in a community room at a local library, for example. If you or someone you know might be interested in organizing teams, Expos, and/or volunteering as a FIRST LEGO League Junior Operational Partner, please contact FIRST Regional Director Patricia DePra (PDePra@firstinspires.org).

FIRST would not exist in our region without the generous gift of time by our volunteers, and the generosity of donations by our sponsors, to whom we are deeply grateful. If you’d like to support FIRST programs in our region, please click here, and/or contact the Regional Director, Patricia DePra (PDePra@firstinspires.org), or the FIRST Tech Challenge or FIRST LEGO League program partners mentioned above.

Thank you for your interest in FIRST! 

Note:  If the Western & Central  PA region is not your region, you can find FIRST contact info here, or contact us and we’ll help you get in contact with a FIRST representative.