The FIRST® Tech Challenge in Illinois is more than building robots. FIRST Tech Challenge teams (grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have!” (See This Isn't a Robot 2 min)

FIRST® participation has proven to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM related fields, inspired them to become leaders and innovators, and enhanced their 21 st Century work-life skills.

Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and can be programmed using a variety of languages. Teams also must raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach for which they can win awards. Participants have access to tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships.  

Our FIRST Illinois Robotics programs teach technology and entrepreneurship skills to middle and high school students and inspire them to pursue a career in STEM. FIRST Illinois Robotics uses robots as the vehicle to bring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based leadership enrichment programs and competitions to youth in Illinois.

The FIRST Tech Challenge-in Illinois, the high-school robotics program reaches 100 different high schools and community groups in the Chicagoland area. In 2023, we supported 170 teams across the state. The First Tech Challenge in Illinois organizes and runs a state championship hosted 54 events with over 500 volunteers. Our volunteer base is committed to FTC in Illinois.

  • 14 Volunteers worked more than 10 events=estimated volunteer hours = 1000
  • 132 Volunteers worked 3 or more events or estimated hours = 4266
  • 438 other volunteers donated 5520 hours

"FIRST competitions provide an incredible opportunity to experience the tremendous potential of the next generation 'first-hand'. As a first-time judge, participant, and observer of a FIRST competition, I can attest, without hesitation, to having experienced each of the latter. You owe it to the young minds that depend upon you, in addition to yourself, to embrace this opportunity to make a difference and to play it forward - the progress of the World will not wait, nor should you."

"FIRST TECH Challenge was an excellent showcase of creative and innovative robots designs by students. I was blown away by the motivation, effort and ingenuity that these kids demonstrated through their presentations, engineering notebooks and robots. It's a great opportunity to serve as a volunteer judge and encourage these kids in their pursuit of STEM related activities." 

The great thing about volunteering for events is that the time commitment is well defined. The time commitment is well worth it - there is nothing like being part of the joy of the awards ceremony at the end of the day. You know that you have made a memorable impact on the lives of hundreds of future technical professionals.

This was such a rewarding experience! I was so impressed with the students knowledge and their ability to share. I was also very impressed with the Gracious Professionalism demonstrated by all!  Can't wait to do this again!

I was very impressed with the event and wish my high school would've offered this for students!  As a young female engineer, it was very inspiring to see so many females participating and I loved the opportunity to interact with the students and continue to motivate them towards a career in STEM. I thought the event was well organized and that the responsibilities were reasonable and easy to follow through on.

Create space for students to explore, fail and think

Looking back on my time spent in classrooms as a youth, I wasn’t lucky enough to have robotics or other hands-on STEM programs in my small rural grade school in central Missouri.  I was lucky that I had a handful of caring teachers that pushed us to explore, fail and think

Give students opportunities to find their passion and gain skills for success

FIRST has become a platform in our school district for students to find their passion: coding, mechanical, fabricating, electrical, computer-aided design (CAD), web design, public oration, graphics, marketing, finances, or fundraising. These areas, among others, can be explored and developed through real-world applications to help students decide what career they want to pursue

The impact of FIRST is bigger than STEM. FIRST inspires a lifelong love of learning that is critical to perseverance in an ever-changing workforce.

Using robotics competitions as the vehicle, FIRST is developing innovators, technology leaders, and creative problem solvers. FIRST programs help students channel their raw curiosity to think critically and seek ways to improve the world around them. FIRST is More Than Robots

Not satisfied just to participate at his robotics team’s kick-off event at Back of the Yards High School, Ruben took the initiative to attend a regional event on his own so he could bring home even more information and insight about the year’s game. Ruben’s dedication, despite work and other responsibilities, sets a high standard for his teammates who also recognize him for his strong technical skills and his ability to inspire them to collaborate effectively all the while having fun..  His talents paid off in the success of the rookie team he led. Ruben loves to be an ambassador for robotics, welcoming classmates to check out what his team is up to and reaching out to share his enthusiasm with all.

Owais has participated in FIRST for three years now at Chicago Math and Science Academy, and has been acquiring a broad range of robot building, programming, and leadership skills ever since 5th grade when he participated in local robotics competitions. Over the recent winter break, Owais travelled to his home country of Pakistan with an ambitious agenda to bring FIRST to his community there by partnering with ZONG, a multinational telecommunications company based in China. His future goals include studying automation, computer science, and engineering at college and mentoring a FIRST team.

An academic star at Back of the Yards High School, Maria has found that robotics gives her the chance not only to apply her intellectual talents to real engineering problems but also to develop as a strong and effective leader. Maria joined Bearcats Robotics as a freshman and quickly learned to come up with insightful ideas to help make her team’s robot the best it could be. But when the program wanted to start a second team, Maria jumped at the chance to lead and empower younger students. With kindness and understanding she guides them to work together effectively as a team, helping them to have productive discussions, providing personal guidance, and being a role model for professional conduct and positivity. 

It started for Laysha as a quest to discover new things in her life. Now in her fourth year as part of the robotics team at Eric Solorio Academy High School, Laysha has embraced engineering, specifically mechatronics, as a career goal for college. In her enthusiasm and pursuit of excellence, Laysha has developed deep expertise in the mechanical aspects of robot building but this is not enough. She is now seeking to hone her coding skills by collaborating and learning from the experienced programmers on her team. 

With a calm and quiet demeanor and an eye for detail, Camila can observe the workings of a robot and understand how the relationships between its parts can make or break its performance in competition. She expects no less of her teammates, who she pushes to solve difficult problems, teaching those who need help. In the same way, Camila understands how best to work with alliance partners during competitions, guiding her team to build effective collaborations on the fly.  

Help transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.