The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a global high-school robotics competition. Every year, teams consisting of students and mentors have only six weeks to work together to build a robot to solve that year’s challenge. Each year has a new challenge, consisting of tasks such as scoring balls of varying sizes through goals, hanging tubes on racks, crossing obstacles, and more. Teams are responsible for doing everything the team requires, from fundraising to community outreach to engineering to programming. FRC emphasizes a culture of gracious professionalism and coopertition, creating an environment that while competitive, remains friendly.
Each event, or competition, in the FIRST Robotics Competition is structured similarly. In every match, two alliances of three teams play against each other on the field. Each match is approximately two minutes long each. Matches are split into an autonomous period and a teleoperated period. In the autonomous period, robots perform without input from team drivers. In the teleoperated period, robots are remotely controlled by drivers. Team performance in the autonomous period is often the difference between a win and a loss in a match. At the end of the match, the alliance that receives the highest score wins. These matches are split into two categories - Qualifying Rounds and Elimination Rounds. At the beginning of each competition, teams play 10-12 qualifying matches. In these rounds, the alliances are selected at random from the teams attending the competition. Teams are partnered with different alliance members in each match they play. When the Qualifying Rounds are complete, the eight teams with the best on-field performance are selected to be Alliance Captains. These Alliance Captains select two other teams to join their Elimination Round alliance. Elimination round alliances play best of three in each round of elimination, from quarterfinals to finals. The teams in the alliance that wins the finals are winners of the event.
For teams in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area (FIRST’s Chesapeake District) such as Team 4099, there are three levels of these events. First, teams compete in two district events. The team’s performance at these events determines whether or not the team progresses to the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship. If a team performs well enough to reach this championship, they compete among the best teams in the Chesapeake District. After the District Championship, teams’ aggregate performance across the two district events and the Championship is evaluated. About twenty teams with the best performance in the district are then selected to attend the FIRST Championship in Detroit. At this event, teams compete among half of the best teams in the world. The other half attend the FIRST Championship in Houston. The teams that performs the best at these events are crowned World Champions, and attend the Festival of Champions.