FIRST HQ Update on 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition Season

Date: Sep 24, 2020
Written by FIRST Staff

Dear FIRST® Community,

We have been evaluating different scenarios for all our programs over the past many months and have already implemented several changes to provide every student participant a valuable, enjoyable experience, regardless of learning environment this season. With the launch of the FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge programs, we’ve introduced Remote Events for regions unable to hold in-person competitions.  Also, we recently announced an extension to our season to provide additional time and flexibility to start build seasons and prepare for local and remote events. 

With the opening of FIRST® Robotics Competition team registration the week of October 5, we would like to share what we have in store for the 2021 season. Recognizing ongoing challenges for teams with remote and hybrid learning, limited access to build spaces, tools, and robots, as well as uncertainty for traveling to and attending in-person events, we are excited to introduce these new opportunities for FIRST Robotics Competition teams to participate this season:

  • The Game Design Challenge will allow registered teams to design their own FIRST Robotics Competition game using real-world, virtual, or hybrid design elements, and compete for judged awards. Winning concepts will be considered for use in future official games. 
  • In the Innovation Challenge presented by Qualcomm, registered teams will identify a real-world problem related to this season’s theme, FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM powered by Star Wars: Force for Change, design a solution, build a business model, and deliver a pitch to compete with other FIRST Robotics Competition teams for judged awards. This new challenge will have an advancement track, culminating in the Global Innovation Awards, a multi-day experience where students showcase their innovations, participate in workshops and receive mentorship from experts, and compete for awards.
  • INFINITE RECHARGESM at Home brings components of events to you in two ways:
    • Teams show off what their robots and drivers can do in a skills challenge based on the 2020 INFINITE RECHARGE game. Scores are posted, and teams virtually compete against each other for the Skills Challenge Awards
    • Teams illustrate their robot’s technical qualities by sharing information with judges remotely in competition for traditional robot-based awards. Teams can participate with or without access to their robot. 
  • In addition, our entire community, regardless of team registration or payment status, will continue to have opportunities to participate in online activities through FIRST @ Home throughout the entire season.

All aspects of the Kit of Parts will be available, including the Kickoff Kit, the Virtual Kit and FIRST Choice. New rookie teams will receive Kickoff Kit items comparable to those shipped in the 2020 rookie Kickoff Kits.  The Veteran Kickoff Kits will be limited in breadth and quantity of items while still helping support teams this season.

In addition, teams will have the ability to compete for traditional submitted awards including Chairman’s Award, FIRST Dean’s List Award, and the Woodie Flowers Finalists Awards and access to more than 3,000 scholarship opportunities from over 200 FIRST Scholarship Providers with additional opportunities for career discovery throughout the season. 

For in-person INFINITE RECHARGE game play, we’ve been exploring ways to comply with anticipated social distancing requirements, which would likely include single-day events, reducing the number of teams and team members attending, making judging entirely remote, eliminating spectators, and extending our season.  Unfortunately, we recognize that even with these adjustments there are many areas where it will likely be difficult, if not impossible, to hold these in-person events unless there is major and unexpected change with the pandemic.

As a result, we’ve made the difficult decision that we will open the FIRST Robotics Competition registration built around a season experience that does not include in-person game play.  This means that we will not be including initial game play events with team registration, nor will we publish a season game play schedule.  Teams won’t be participating in the usual event preferencing, nor will they sign up for any game play at this time.  We made this decision partially in an effort to be fully transparent with FIRST Robotics Competition teams, so they know what to expect when they register.

If conditions change, we will evaluate the possibility of adding in-person game play events later this season.  We have targeted January for the first re-evaluation. If in-person game play is determined to be possible, that option would be made available to registered teams for an additional event fee later in the season. But as of now, teams should not expect that the FIRST Robotics Competition season will include official in-person game play. 

In light of not rolling out a new FIRST Robotics Competition game this year and the likelihood that in-person game play cannot happen (and if it does, most team members will not be there in-person), the 2021 registration fee will be reduced to $2,000 for veteran teams and $3,000 for rookie teams who will also receive the full rookie kit-of-parts.

While this season will look different and present many changes for our entire community, we are confident the new team-based opportunities mentioned above will allow our participants to have a fulfilling season, as we continue to execute the mission of FIRST and inspire the next generation of our future science and technology leaders – the same mission that has guided us for more than 30 years.

Here’s a message from FIRST founder Dean Kamen:

 “The world needs FIRST more than ever because the world needs you – our best leaders and innovators of science and technology. I’ve said since the beginning that FIRST isn’t about the robots. It’s not about the competitions. It’s about the community and the inspiration that comes from collaboration, creative problem solving, and innovation. That’s why I am thrilled about the opportunities FIRST has to offer for FIRST Robotics Competition and all our programs this season. These fun and rigorous new challenges will inspire our participants in new ways, and allow each of you to have a true impact on FIRST and your communities. I hope you’ll join us for this exciting season, and I look forward to seeing everyone back on the field when the time is right.”

As Dean says, FIRST is more than robots, and FIRST Robotics Competition is more than in person game play – it is about mentorship, teamwork, learning new skills, being part of a community, and creating innovative solutions to problems never seen before. 

We hope that you will join us as we head into a new and exciting season with your safety and wellbeing as our top priority.

Your friends at FIRST HQ

[please note that they are added to the FAQ at the bottom of the original post at]

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2021 Championships and how it affects West TN

As announced by FIRST HQ today, the two World Championships have been moved to Mid July (Houston) and Early August (Detroit).

What does this mean for West TN? Well it means we will also be moving events to latter in the season to allow teams more time to prepare given the extra burdens placed on teams due to Covid 19.

West TN FLL Challenge and Explore will be having their Remote Event(s) in Feb and March. FTC TN Championship will be latter in the season (probably a Remote Event – Date TBD). We have yet to hear about FRC plans (but this is to be expected since FRC kickoff is not for some time yet).

Stay tuned to this website for more news on FIRST Events for teams in West TN.

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2021 FIRST Scholarship Program

The 2021 FIRST Scholarship Program has officially launched! High-school-level FIRST participants are eligible to apply for over $80M in scholarship opportunities for post-secondary education. Learn more here and #applyapplyapply today.

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New FIRST® @ Home Curriculum

Whether in the classroom or at home learning, continue to engage students in STEM learning, skill development, and FUN with a 12 session learning series for teachers, parents, and coaches created by FIRST Education. These free and flexible PreK-12 STEM activities are available for download now.  

There is a different curriculum targeting PreK-1, 2-4, 4-8 and 7-12 grades.

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Covid-19 and FIRST

Wondering what your season might look like if your team is being affected by Covid-19? FIRST has THIS WEBPAGE to help your navigate teams and events in the age of Covid. This includes info on the Remote Event Hub.

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2021 FIRST® Scholarship Program

Only one week until the 2021 FIRST Scholarship Program launches! Head over to to learn everything you need to know about how the program works, check out the over 200 Scholarship providers who made available scholarships last year and get students ready to #applyapplyapply on September 1.

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Did you see

Just wanted to point out that our very own FIRST Senior Mentor (Randall Phillips) was featured at the top of this weeks Volunteer Newsletter:

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FIRST Robotics Virtual Reality Experience

Check out the FIRST Robotics Virtual Reality Experience webpage…but here is the video that shows all sections of FIRST in a 360 environment::

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Download RePLAY posters, wallpapers, and more

Rally your team for the FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM, powered by Star Wars: Force for Change, season with posters, wallpapers, and more free, downloadable content!

Here’s a preview of what’s available:

  • Season logo files to create your own shirts and other swag
  • Social media graphics to share your excitement for the season
  • Recruitment posters to help you grow your team
  • Trading card template that your team can design and share with other FIRST teams
  • Approved Star Wars images kindly put together for teams to use on promotional merchandise and materials that are not for sale
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West TN STEM Hub to host NASA Virtual Event

Click on image above to register.

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