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For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen in 1989[1] when he recognized that school-aged students weren’t aware of famous historical scientists and some basic technologies. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Manchester, New Hampshire.

FIRST runs three main programs:

  • FIRST LEGO® League
  • FIRST Tech Challenge
  • FIRST Robotics Competition

All text in boxes below are from


The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.[2]


"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."   -Dean Kamen, Founder[2]


FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) is further divided into three additional programs:

  • FLL Discovery
  • FLL Explore
  • FLL Challenge

FLL Programs.png

Deciding which program a child should go into can be challenging. See Comparing FLL programs for additional information.

FLL Discover

FIRST LEGO® League Discover (FLL Discover) is a program for children ages 4-6. It is an introduction to STEM through activities using LEGO® Duplo bricks.

For children ages 4-6, this playful introductory STEM program ignites their natural curiosity and builds their habits of learning with hands-on activities in the classroom and at home using LEGO® Duplo bricks.[3]

FLL Explore

FIRST LEGO® League Explore (FLL Explore) is a program for children ages 6-10. They form teams of up to 6 people where they do research on the theme of the year and build a LEGO® model representing their research. The model will include a motor for a moving part and is programmable via tablet or laptop.

In Explore, teams of students ages 6-10 focus on the fundamentals of engineering as they explore real-world problems, learn to design and code and create unique solutions made with LEGO® bricks and powered by LEGO® Education WeDo 2.0.[3]

FLL Challenge

FIRST LEGO® League Challenge (FLL Challenge) is a program for 9-14 year-olds (up to 16 outside of the United States). It includes a robot game, and also an innovative project where teams do research related to the theme of the year.

Friendly competition is at the heart of Challenge, as teams of students ages 9-16* engage in research, problem-solving, coding, and engineering – building and programming a LEGO® robot that navigates the missions of a robot game. As part of Challenge, teams also participate in a research project to identify and solve a relevant real-world problem.[3]

FIRST Tech Challenge

FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is a program for 12-18 year-olds (grade 7-12). Teams of up to 15 kids are asked to build robots using real mechanical systems and real electrical systems. They are paired with another team to form an alliance that competes against other alliances.

FIRST Tech Challenge teams (up to 15 team members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.[4]

FIRST Robotics Competition

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a program for 14-18 year-olds (grade 9-12). It is similar to FTC, but with a bigger team, a bigger playing field, and much bigger robots.

Under strict rules, limited time and resources, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded 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.[5]

Additional Resources


  1. "FIRST History". Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "FIRST Vision and Mission". Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "What is FIRST LEGO® League". Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  4. "What is FIRST Tech Challenge". Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  5. "What is FIRST Robotics Competition". Retrieved 1 July 2021.