Run a Team
Experience the FIRST Tech Challenge!
FIRST Tech Challenge teams are part of a rich culture comprised of young innovators, guided by coaches and mentors, who tackle real-world challenges with ingenuity, integrity, and a sense of fun. Resources are available to get your team rolling towards an amazing FIRST Tech Challenge experience. We’re excited to have your team on board! Reference also: FTC Team Management Resources
Learn About FTC
Forges the connection between classroom lessons and real-world application.
Experience STEM fields as future areas of study and career choices.
Work side-by-side with mentors from a variety of backgrounds: education, industry, government.
Get hands-on programming and rapid prototyping experience
Apply the engineering process and learn to find the opportunity in failure.
Gain access to over $80 million in FIRST dedicated college scholarships.
Rise to the top in consideration for college admissions, internships, apprenticeships.
About FIRST Tech Challenge
It’s way more than building robots.
FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students in grades 7-12 to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams ( up to 15 students) are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using a variety of languages. Teams, including coaches and mentors, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments. Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team.
The robot kit is reusable from year to year and can be coded using a variety of levels of Java-based programming. Teams design and build robots, raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach to earn specific awards. Participants are eligible to apply for $80M+ in college scholarships.
Each season concludes with regional championship events and an exciting FIRST Championship.
FIRST and TNFIRST
There are two entities that work together to grow and support teams.
FIRST HQ provides:
TNFIRST in Tennessee provides:
Access to FIRST Tech Challenge in Tennessee
Tennessee specific information and grants
Find an Existing Team or Start Your Own
Finding an existing team
TNFIRST does not place students on teams, and FIRST privacy policies forbid us from sharing coach contact information. Our role is to assist new teams in forming by connecting them to local resources to help them be successful and sustainable. Most teams in Tennessee are organized through schools and home school co-ops, so contact your school to find out if a team exists and how to join. If a team is full, or if there is no team existing, we would be happy to assist you in starting a new team. Grants may be available to help pay for your robot kit of parts and registration fee!
Register a Team
Teams register for the season with FIRST HQ. FIRST team numbers are retained season to season so returning teams should register using their previously assigned team number.
FIRST HQ has a grant available to newly forming rookie teams that will cover the team’s $275 season registration fee and provide funds towards the team’s kit of parts purchase. Rookie teams should NOT remit payment for anything until applying for and receiving an award decision on this grant.
Register a New Team (Rookie)
Check to see if a team already exists at your school/organization.
Previously existing teams from a given school/organization must be registered for the current season before newly forming teams from that same school/org. can be considered for rookie grant funding.
To contact a team: Send Nick Pasquerilla an email with this request. Please include the school/organization name and the city in the note.
Registration instructions for Rookie Teams – guide includes screenshots
Follow the instructions in the above linked guide starting with “Create a FIRST Account” (if needed) up to “Enter the Storefront”. Do not enter the Storefront yet!
The Team Profile will require that a Team Name is entered. If your team has not chosen a name yet, just put “TBD”. This field can be updated at a later time.
Complete the “School/Organization” section with your team’s affiliated entity. This is key information for grant eligibility.
Watch for an email from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ with your temporary team number (starts with 2019).
Do NOT pay for anything at this point!
Next step is to apply for the FIRST HQ Rookie FTC Team Grant.
Register a Returning Team (Veteran)
Registration instructions for Veteran Teams – guide includes screenshots
A returning team’s team number and Kit of Parts are reusable and retained from year to year. Veteran teams register for the season using their team’s previously assigned team number.
Organize Your Team
What is the allowable team size?
The maximum number of students on a FIRST Tech Challenge team is 15 with an ideal size of 10-12. The small-team concept works well with the platform and encourages a closely knit team where all are engaged. Multiple teams per school/organization are welcomed!
Registering student team members
New Requirement this year: Youth team member registration via our on-line Youth Registration System is required this year in order to participate in all FIRST programs. Links below provide guides to explain Parent/Legal Guardian steps and Lead Coach/Mentor steps that need to take place.
Coaches and Mentors
Is one coach/mentor enough?
Every team is required to have two registered adult coaches who have completed the FIRST Youth Protection screening process. Any adult can be a coach – teacher, parent, industry professional, college student. Training sessions, workshops, and a supportive FIRST community are available to help get new coaches/mentors up to speed. The scope of the roles is at the discretion of the coaches.
What is the role of a mentor?
Mentors provide assistance to teams, at one or more meetings, in their particular area of expertise. They provide valuable one-on-one interaction and serve as a resource in their specialty. Mentors with skills in these areas are helpful, but not mandatory: engineering, programming, tool skills, electrical, build, CAD, business, marketing, communications, administration.
Where can we find mentors?
Approach area businesses for in kind donations in the form of mentorship. Parents of team members can take on a mentorship role in support of the team. Ask teachers or other volunteers in your area to help with aspects of your team. Reach out other local FIRST teams; their experience and knowledge base can be a tremendous resource.
Do coaches/mentors need to have a technical background?
A technical background is helpful, but not necessary. Mentors can be brought in to help with the technical aspects of the team. Coaches must be willing to acquire some basic knowledge of programming and robot building. The FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor Manual, available on the FIRST HQ site, is a great resource which provides a foundation of knowledge and ideas designed to assist mentors in all aspects of the program.
Meeting Place and Times
Where do teams meet?
Teams can meet anywhere that is appropriate and safe such as a school, homes of team members, meeting hall, or a sponsor provided location. It is important to set a regular schedule and procedure for team meetings. Things to look for in a meeting site:
Safe work space large enough for the team members and their equipment
Safe area for tool usage
Flexible meeting hours
Secure place to store equipment
Work tables and chairs
Share host duties, if possible
What is the time commitment?
Teams will need to arrive at their own optimum time commitment, but generally teams meet 2 to 3 times per week for 2-3 hours per session. Additional meetings are usually planned as competition time approaches. Many mentors report that the “push” to meet more comes from the team members!
The Season and the Game
2020 Tennessee FTC Schedule
May 10- Registration Opens
September 7- Season Kickoff & Game Reveal
September-early November- Build and Practice (no bag day!)
mid October- Sign up for an official event
April 12-17, 2021- Tennessee FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship
July-August- FIRST Championship, Houston!*
*FIRST Championship is advancement based. Separate event fees will apply.
What is the yearly game challenge?
The challenge is the annual game that FIRST HQ reveals to the teams each Sept. at kickoff. Teams determine their strategy then design, build, program, and test their robot to meet the challenge. Working through the engineering process brings the reality of science and technology to students on a more hands-on level while instilling teamwork values. Teams can access game rules and specifics at FIRST HQ. Knowledge is power!
Gather Your Materials
FTC Kit of Parts (reusable year to year): The base FTC Kit of Parts (KoP) is purchased through an online store operated by FIRST HQ called the FTC Storefront.
FTC Storefront: Teams pay their annual FTC registration fee and can order their Kit of Parts through the FTC Storefront. This portal is available on the team’s Dashboard. Under Team Options (left sidebar), click “Payment & Product.
The FTC Kit of Parts is reusable year to year.
Veterans may but do not have to order parts.
FTC Storefront product purchases can be made at any point in the season but are limited to once per season per product category.
The FTC Storefront opens in a separate tab, pop-ups must be enabled in order for this to occur.
Kit of Parts: For new teams, the team’s season registration fee and initial cost for a kit of parts can be covered by the FIRST HQ FTC Rookie Team Grant.
The team’s affiliated school/district/501c3 organization serve as the team’s fiscal partner and must execute the team’s kit of parts purchase as grant funds cannot be remit to individuals.
If your team is affiliated with an organization/school with tax-exempt status, have this documentation on hand when placing your Kit of Parts order. Grants for parts will not cover sales tax.
Rookie teams should order:
Control & Communication Set 2
Electronics Modules & Sensors Set
Build Platform (TETRIX or REV)
When selecting a build platform, take into consideration what build platform the teams around you are using (think robot triage).
T-shirts, hats, and/or other “team swag”. Most teams have a unique team identity which includes dressing alike.
Cart or box to store robot and robot attachments.
Do teams need a playing field and game sets?
A FIRST Tech Challenge “playing field” is comprised of three parts: a 12’X12′ perimeter, 36 Soft Tile mats, and a “game set”. The perimeter and mats stay the same year to year. The game set changes to reflect the season’s theme. The official FIRST Tech Challenge playing field is available from AndyMark, a FIRST certified vendor.
Most teams procure a few Soft Tile field mats and a partial set of game elements for testing purposes. Local sites with fully outfitted playing fields often host open practice times for area teams. These “open site” opportunities will be emailed to teams and posted on the FTC News page.
The average season costs per, including: team registration, a robot kit of parts, event registration, travel, and additional costs for rookie teams is approximately $2,250. The robot kit of parts is reusable each season, so veteran teams can expect to pay less. FIRST offers many fundraising tools and teams are encouraged to create their own opportunities. Grants may also be available, as well as sponsorships provided locally, regionally and nationally by many corporations.
What is a typical team budget?
Sample team budget worksheet for both rookie (tab 1) and veteran (tab 2) teams: Team Budget Worksheet.
What part of the costs do the rookie team grants cover?
The FIRST HQ Rookie Team Grant covers a team’s initial start up costs, purchased through the FTC Storefront, which includes the annual team registration fee and kit of parts purchase.
How do teams find funding?
Teams are encouraged to take responsibility for their budget. Many teams engage in fundraisers and reach out to area businesses for sponsorship in order to sustain the team. Have the parents of team members check with their employers as many companies offer grant funds for youth STEM programs where employees are actively involved. Sponsorship isn’t limited to financial contributions. It can also include mentorship and in kind donations of equipment or work space. This connection between the team and the community is a unique aspect to FIRST. Recognize team sponsors by including their company name and logo on the robot, pit area, team shirt, social media, etc. Sponsors often visit and volunteer at events; take the opportunity to meet them and say thank you!
Grants and Funding
FIRST HQ FTC Rookie Team Grant
Check the FIRST Tech Challenge Grants page for the latest information about team assistance grants.
Questions about the FIRST HQ FTC Rookie Team Grant, please email email@example.com. As always, please include your team number in the subject line of the note.
Available grants for rookies and existing teams
Tennessee Valley Authority
Team grants that cover the FIRST registration fee may be available for teams within the TVA service area. Watch the FTC News page for an announcement of availability.
Other sources of team funding
Teams are encouraged to take responsibility for their budget in order to sustain the team:
Reach out to area businesses – especially those related to technology – for sponsorship.
Have the parents of team members check with their employers as many companies offer grant funds for youth STEM programs where employees are actively involved.
Charge a per student fee to cover team expenses.
Hold team fundraisers.
Connect with organizations such as your school, parent organization, scout group, or area professional organizations who may be able to assist with funding.
Seek STEM grants from local or national organizations.
Tools and Extra Parts
What kind of tools are needed:
Recommended but not limited to:
Allen Wrench, 7/64″ & 1/8″
Wrench (open end / box end), 5/16″ & 1/4″; Hacksaw,
32 tooth blade; Hand Files (flat and round); Wire Strippers;
Wire Cutters; Needle Nosed Pliers, Powerpole crimper. tape measurer. Additional helpful tools: Soldering Iron; Jigsaw; Drill; Heat Gun; Extra Vise Grip.
Can we use parts outside the standard FIRST Tech Challenge Kit of Parts?
Yes, but always check the rules! Allowable parts and season specific equipment information can be found in the annual Game Manual and the Legal/Illegal Parts List. See the FTC Resources page for a list of commonly used parts vendors.
Will there be an event in my area this year?
Events are posted on the FTC Events page and the FIRST HQ website.
How many events does a team participate in?
Teams will have an opportunity to compete in more than one event. Possible event types:
Scrimmages: Non-official events; smaller scale; variable format. Teams can play in as many as they want. Great way to experience the game, shake down the robot, and network with other teams. Scrimmages are usually run by teams.
Tennessee FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship: Official event. Advances a set number of teams to the FIRST Championship.
FIRST Championship: FIRST’s flagship event held in Houston!
Is there a cost to compete in an event?
For FIRST in Tennessee, the event fee comprises the budget for the event host. The Tennessee FIRST Tech Challenge State Championship event fee is $150. Payment is usually remitted in advance. Check the FTC Event page for information about sending fees.
Tennessee Event Registration
For FIRST Tech Challenge in Tennessee, registration is done at the local level, and not with FIRST. See the FTC Events page for a list of events Tennessee teams can attend. Each event details page provides a link to the pre-event information and registration form. The link to the registration form will only be shown when registration is open. It will not show if the event is full, or if registration is closed. After registering for an event, teams will receive their confirmed event placement by email and see their team listed in the event team roster, and not on their FIRST Team Dashboard. Information on event registration is emailed to all registered teams starting in September, and registration occurs in October.
Preparing for Competition
Why are there Judged Awards at events?
Judged awards represent another positive way to recognize teams that embody important values like teamwork, creativity, innovation, and the value of the engineering design process. At competition, all teams rotate through one 15 minute judging session. These judging sessions enable students to practice and hone presentation and public speaking skills.
What do teams bring with them to Judging?
Teams bring their robot (not powered), Engineering Notebook, Control Award Submission Sheet, all team members. Some teams also bring display boards depicting their engineering process, team outreach, other items/activities of note.
Can coaches/mentors attend and speak during the Judging session?
Two coaches/mentors may sit in on the team’s Judging session but they must stay in a designated area and may NOT speak during the Judging session. It will reflect negatively on a team if a coach/mentor does not abide by these guidelines.
Are any Judging resources available?
Judging Self-Reflection Rubric. The Judges Manual is posted on the FIRST HQ website and is open source to teams.
Awards and Advancement
What are the FIRST Tech Challenge Awards?
Synopsis of FIRST Tech Challenge Awards. Optional awards are at the discretion of the event host. Game Manual 1 has a section dedicated to Judging and Award Criteria.
How do teams advance to States and the FIRST Championship?
From Tennessee, teams can earn one of the designated advancement spots to FIRST Championship-Houston.
FIRST HQ has established an Order of Advancement which is documented in Game Manual 1.