The FIRST Robotics Competition

While many will be focused on the final four next weekend, the Gotham Gal and I plan to attend another competition, the NYC FIRST Robotics Competition at the Javits Center in NYC.

robotics competition

FIRST is a global robotics program with a number of competitions. Next weekend is the NYC competition and the winning teams will go on to the global competition in late April in St Louis.

The competition will go on for three days next weekend in NYC and attendance is completely free. Details are as follows:

April 4-6, 2014 – 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Jacob Javits Convention Center
655 West 34th St., New York, NY 10001
Download Full Program Agenda and Layout

We plan to attend saturday afternoon. I’ve never been to one of these and am looking forward to it.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    What do you think about the robotics market from an investment point of view?

    1. fredwilson

      it’s not our thing but i think its a market some VCs are interested in

      1. awaldstein

        Does this apply to devices as well, embedded and wearable?Is your perspective to not invest in the device but in the networks that connect to them?

        1. fredwilson


          1. Twain Twain

            Google’s recent acquisitions have included several robotics companies like Boston Dynamics.

          2. John Revay

            Internet of Things

    2. BillMcNeely

      Checkout QuiQui and Skywatch

    3. Dave W Baldwin

      I’d suggest looking at Boston Dynamics. The putting together something with a competent team to take care of a big need will lead to money from the military, NASA, DARPA and things are pointing to doing that and then get bought by one of the big boys like Google.iRobot fell asleep.Remember too, that the realm of AI, Deep Learning, Synthesis and then all of the parts that make the whole will be growing in need big time. That is what I’m always referring to when I mention the move toward 2015-17 and going crazy between then and 2020.Note to @twain, sorry I didn’t scroll down and see your mention of Boston Dynamics.

  2. mikenolan99

    My son’s roommate posted this on Facebook:”I will never again call anything love, less it be of the same level of affection Jack Nolan is displaying towards his new Roomba.”We too now own one of the little robots – and our floors look much better. Watching this little guy wake up everyday, scurry around my house and clean makes me smile. It also makes me think about the potential for robots in the home.I think “home robots” and “office robots” this will be a huge market someday – and hope I’m around long enough to see what comes next.Oh, and since my son is a coder – he already is thinking of ways to hack Roomba – linking him to Chromecast, streaming video to his desktop, etc. And, of course, turning him into a battle bot to annoy his roommate.

    1. JLM

      .The love between a boy and his Roomba is truly inspiring. Labradors everywhere are worried.JLM.

      1. mikenolan99

        We lost our Lab “Scuba” about a year ago… and we know that somewhere in puppy heaven she is growling at Roomba… would have been fun to watch her turn it into a $600 chew toy!

        1. JLM

          .Nothing sadder than losing a dog particularly a Lab.The cure is clear — get another 4 Lab puppies.JLM.

          1. LE

            I lost two golden’s. One in a breakup the the other as a kid because the puppy became to wild.

  3. Josh Rutstein

    FIRST is awesome. I have attended the events in NH the past few years, the Frisbee challenge last year was cool, great to see the camaraderie and teamwork of the kids. There is a younger version called Lego League for 5/6/7 graders, I coached this past fall. So rewarding and good options for local companies to be corporate sponsors and mentors.

    1. PhilipSugar

      Exactly right sponsor and mentor totally worthwile. Some of the best money I ever spent was sponsoring some kids from the barrios of Phoenix who were coached by my brother a robotics professor to compete and win in LA.

      1. LE

        I love the impact of things like that. Seems so much better than giving your money to the usual suspects or charities.One of my pet peeves is when celebrities or wealthy people go overseas and help and do things in some far away place. Of course it’s their right to do what they want obviously. But I just wonder why they don’t put that effort into helping people in a poor area in our own country.

        1. PhilipSugar

          My pet peeve is when people helicopter in for a specially staged event. Sure its easy to feel good about things when you come in for an event. Some of those kids didn’t show up and were off the team.Get out there and work everyday. You’ll see that is not just all Kumbaya.I have a friend that has a charity where they teach inner city kids how to interview, give them some skills, and give them the right clothes to wear. One of their rules is that if you are late, you are out. Many fail out.My wife’s charity for Veterans requires that you get drug testing to make sure you are not abusing or selling the medicine you have because of your injury. Many fail out.My point is, that it is not just the event where everybody gets together and says how great.the whole program is, you have to see the nitty gritty, or you have this view that is totally starry eyed.

  4. phdc

    I see girls! It’s great 🙂

    1. Anne Libby

      NYC First’s Executive Director Pat Daly is a former techology executive in the finance sector, and she has a true interest in attracting young women and girls to the program. Maybe she’ll chime in here?

      1. Pat Daly

        We do have many girls participating in all of our programs from JFLL to FRC. My initial introduction to FIRST was through mentoring the FeMaidens, an all girls FRC team from Bronx HS of Science.

        1. Anne Libby

          Awesome. If people want to mentor or sponsor a team, how can they connect?

          1. Pat Daly

            Lots of opportunities to mentor, sponsor or volunteer at events. Use this link… – or contact me directly.

          2. Dave W Baldwin

  … this will take you to the FIRST website and you can find the teams closest to you.

          3. Anne Libby


        2. ShanaC

          Welcome Pat!Are there any other all science teams open to competition?

          1. Pat Daly

            Hi Shana. There are 4 all girls FRC teams in NYC and many more FTC and FLL teams. There are also a lot of girls on the other teams – but not enough!

          2. Dave W Baldwin

            The number of all girl FRC will grow.

    2. D. Lambert

      Girls in safety glasses, no less! I shot a team picture at the end of our competition last Saturday, and just out of curiosity, I went back and did a head-count: 17 guys; 13 girls. There aren’t too many tech environments that have that kind of equality, and that’s not unique to our team — it’s all over in FIRST.

  5. pointsnfigures

    This is great!! They do this at the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans now too. http://www.nationalww2museu

    1. Anne Libby

      There’s a lot in Chicagoland, too. (Have researched the offerings for local family members.)

      1. pointsnfigures

        http://www.builtinchicago.o… Yup, here is one from the school my kids attended. Robotics have a great history in Chicago.

  6. Dave Katz

    FIRST is an amazing program. I participated in high-school and also mentored a middle-school Lego FIRST team. Thanks for posting this – I’ll try to attend next week.

  7. Dave W Baldwin

    You know I’m glad to hear the news! You’ll love it.

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Well, that’s it. Taking the kids to this one. My 6 year old just might lose his marbles from excitement.Great share 🙂

    1. Pat Daly

      If you come on Saturday your son can see JrFLL (ages 6 to 8) and FLL (9 to 14) as well as the high school programs. He just may want to join a team next season.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        It’s a date! Maybe we can give 4 year old daughter the bug, too.

        1. Anne Libby

          You and @PatDaly should definitely meet in real life…

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Would love that. Does @PatDaly bowl?

          2. Pat Daly

            Would love to meet. When you come to Javits be sure to ask for me.

  9. Richard

    I love how the word “failure” has been redefined in the American culture from being too ambitious to not being ambitious enough. One of the great changes to the American culture.

  10. BillMcNeely

    Interesting read in this month’s PopularMechanics on the DARPA sponsored Robot Olympics commentary on Google not taking military money going forward. http://www.popularmechanics

  11. Twain Twain

    Here’s the type of robotics some of this w/e’s FIRST Robotics participants might end up working on in their futures:*'m more interested in how to enable the machines to make sense of language and meaning rather than the strand of AI which is Robotics and ‘Internet of Thing’ sensors.According to the Washington Post, “Artificial Intelligence is the next big trend”:* http://www.washingtonpost.c…Quite apropos, given AVC community’s recent conversations about what’s the next platform following FB’s acquisition of Occulus…….

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      The FIRST programs will lead more to this. Already on the FTC (18″ cubed), though the use of wheels/tread is mandatory, the placement of the main body weight is moving up rather than barely off the ground. At least those that move on up to state and world. The fourth shot is from my FRC team that went to world a couple of years back (couldn’t resist) 😉

  12. Shyam Subramanyan

    FIRST is great. My 15 year-old has been on a team in the Bay Area the last couple of years and went to St. Louis last year for the Worlds after winning a regional tournament in California. Google is a great sponsor to the league, but the teams do have a tough time making ends meet. It is also interesting to note that these teams are setup like a real company and have a business division comprised of kids that work on bringing in corporate sponsorship, building awareness etc. Post such as yours will hopefully bring more visibility to this league.

  13. WoodrowAWalters

    St. Louis last year for the Worlds after winning a regional tournament in California. Google is a great sponsor to the league, but the teams do have a tough time making ends meet. It is also interesting to note that these teams are setup like a real company and have a business division comprised of kids that work on bringing in corporate sponsorship, building awareness etc. Post such as yours will hopefully bring more visibility to this league

  14. JLM

    .While this project is nominally about robotics, it’s real value is the development of critical thinking and problem solving.Critical thinking and problem solving are applicable to every endeavor that we ever undertake.Many things in life have an apparent reason for being of interest or value while they have an underlying reason which is infinitely more important.JLM.

    1. Pat Daly

      The robot is a catalyst and can make engineering and technology fun for kids but it’s the life skills they develop – problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking and planning – that make the program so unique.

      1. JLM

        .I agree slightly more with you than you do with yourself.Well played.JLM.

    2. fredwilson

      YupppppppppChess, Robotics, Coding – those are things I want to see more of in K-12

      1. PhilipSugar

        Yes, yes, yes. One of my happiest moments this weekend was when I caught my sister scouting my 9 year old son for her husband. “take his knights quick he will kill you with those” Really? We are scouting a 9 year old? We laughed and laughed.

      2. BillMcNeely

        The Chinese, Indians, Pakistianis, folks from the Middle East do.

    3. LE

      it’s real value is the development of critical thinking and problem solving.My step daughter [1] is doing/did the lego league. Things went so well they are going to ramp it up next year I’m told. I wish my step son would but he’s 100% sports. Oh. Well.My wife is involved coaching but there is definitely a benefit to kids whose parents are engineers and the like. Or maybe not.I think it’s a great benefit – the entire program – obviously.But the one thing I wonder about is to what extent you can develop critical thinking and problem solving when you are with a group of people. Serious question here. I mean there are certainly going to be kids that shine and/or have parents that answer all the questions. So you don’t have as much adversity to overcome as if you are doing something on your own.I see this with my wife who is quite intelligent obviously but will run to me for answers to computer problems (or even with the lego stuff or “change the filter or toner cartridge”).Last thing was how to remove a particularly nasty small battery compartment from a lego piece. It was a snap for me I had all the tools and techniques (real difficult huh?) to do that. The reason why it was a snap for me was because I have spent time on similar things before with no help at all. [2] Trial and error, tools, not stripping things, looking at the mechanics of things, reverse engineering, taking apart and breaking things, not having all the answers.I have to fight this tendency of my wife to do a large part of the work for my step. While the step is off doing something else.My advice to any parent is to make sure, at the risk of your child not winning, to let them do everything and figure it out themselves. I realize that you run the risk of them getting frustrated and loosing interest. But the other risk is not allowing them to experience and learn to overcome frustration and defeat. Not to mention the fact that winning these things (JLM’s point) is not the real prize. It’s learning how to solve problems. In order to do that you have to be the one to solve the problem.[1] (My own daughters did odyssey of the mind going to the nationals that was some time ago..)[2] My dad used to make me spend hours coming up with solutions before giving me any answers at all. It was like a game to him. That came in handy later when I started my first business and had nobody to ask questions or take guidance from (involved business and also machinery and mechanics). Also when spending the whole day trying to solve some computer issue.

      1. JLM

        .Everything you say is truth and valuable.Much of leadership development requires young folks to see a leader in action. Captains of sports teams mimic last year’s captain and thus the embryonic leadership skill is passed along.Ingenuity is also something to be learned in the process.JLM.

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        You have to hang with it. There is plenty with MindStorm the FLL kids can do at home and bring to FTC. Then it is more C++ in FRC. At the same time you will find the core that builds is a smaller group with others learning other responsibilities from fundraising through working the testing, display set up and so on.

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yes, but… it’s about the freakin’ robots, dude!

      1. JLM

        .Yes, the robots indeed.Much of life is not about what it seems to be about.JLM.

    5. jason wright


  15. Matt Zagaja

    I wish my high school had FIRST. I learned about it in college because an alum (Dean Kamen) was really involved so my school hosted competitions and worked to recruit students through it. It is fun to watch the robots go through the challenges and I’m sure it’s rewarding for the students. It is also amazing to see what high school students can accomplish with the right support and encouragement.

  16. John Revay

    I attended a FIRST event in Hartford CT 3 years ago, I took my son who was in first grade and one of our daughters (7th grade). They were both very interested as we walked about the event. My son at the time was in to LEGOs and they were a sponsor, and had a side program where people were making bots w/ Legos.Photo shows part of the competition – the bots had to hang as many yellow tubes as possible on these hooks – almost like basketball.It is great Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and software engineering all in one event.

  17. John Galvin

    Keep an eye out for the kids from I.S. 318. We have robotics program during the day and after school. We also introduced coding this year and its been a big hit! Thanks for all the help and sparking the coding initiative.

    1. Pat Daly

      Tsunami Bytes and Blood, Sweat and Gears from IS 318 will be competing on Saturday. I’ll look for them.

    2. fredwilson

      coding, chess, and roboticsyou have the formula down. kudos to you

  18. ShanaC

    Would it be weird to run a betting pool for charity for which robot wins (to sponsor more robots, of course)

  19. Donald E. Foss

    Both of my high school daughters are in the Robotics Club, and we went to the FIRST competition in Richmond, VA last weekend. It was a lot of fun! I love having my daughters in STEM projects. They are the only 2 girls out of 40 guys and none of the guys mind.We took our middle school daughter to the competition too so she could get interested. She’s participating in the Lego robot competition next year.I just keep telling them to BE SUPER AWESOME! courtesy of FAKE GRIMLOCK.

  20. Ken Greenwood

    Don’t miss it. Nothing better than seeing nextgens making good with tech and problem solving…and competitiveness!

  21. Emily Merkle

    Was it like the Big Bang Theory episode where the guys build M.O.N.T.Y. and go up against the Kripke Krippler?

  22. D. Lambert

    I think you’ll have a great time. My son competed with his team in the Queen City Regional competition last weekend. This was his third year competing, and he had a great time. I couldn’t be more proud of the growth he’s achieved via the team, and I’ve seen improvement in our school’s team each year as well.I was really surprised by the high-energy atmosphere in the arena the first time I attended one of these tournaments — especially on Saturday. It’s really fantastic to see teams, families, fans, and even mascots having a great time together, and the friendly but competitive environment is great, too. What a fantastic change of pace from the nastiness seen too often in some youth athletic competitions!Here’s a picture of the opening salvos of one of my son’s team’s quarterfinal matches — the first part of the match is played autonomously (without input from drivers), so robots are doing this on their own. They’ll do a quick review of the game rules before the elimination matches in the afternoon, but if you make it in time for alliance selection, that’s sort of cool, too.