This year, 31 teams of high school students from the Capital Region, New York state, Brazil, and Canada—along with hundreds of teachers, industry mentors, parents, and 3,000 pounds of metal, gears, and electronics—will test their skills in a unique competition where math, science, and engineering excellence are celebrated. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will once again host the New York Tech Valley FIRST Regional competition, March 15-17, on the Rensselaer campus in the East Campus Athletic Village.

“The FIRST Robotics Competition isn’t just about the robots,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor in the Rensselaer Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering department, and director of the university’s Center for Initiatives in PreCollege Education (CIPCE). Schoch noted that the New York Tech Valley FIRST® Regional Robotics Competition is the ultimate “Sport for the Mind” where imagination and innovation come together.

Working with adult mentors, students had six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. By combining the excitement of sport and beauty of art with the rigors of science and technology, teams of high school students are challenged to design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform tasks against a field of competitors, according to the organization.

The 2018 competition, FIRST POWER UP, finds competition teams trapped in an 8-bit video game. Each three-team alliance has three ways to help defeat the boss: Tipping the scale or the alliance’s switch in their favor to earn points, exchanging power cubes for power-ups (force, boost, and levitate) to gain a temporary advantage during the match, and climbing the scale tower to face the boss. The alliance with the highest score at the end of the match, which includes autonomous and teleoperated periods, defeats the boss and wins the game.

The competition schedule for March 15-17 includes:

  • Thursday, March 15: Robot Inspections—Students calibrate controls and electronics for optimizing robot performance, 8:30 to 11 a.m. Practice matches will take place from noon to 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 16: Opening ceremony at 8:15 a.m. with brief remarks from several sponsors. Qualifying matches will immediately follow through 5:45 p.m.; awards ceremony, 5:45 to 6:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 17: Opening ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m., with remarks from sponsors and state/local elected officials. Qualifying matches will take place until 12:15 p.m. Final rounds, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Awards ceremony and closing sponsors remarks from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

In its 27th season, the FIRST Robotics Competition anticipates that over 91,000 high school students representing 3,647 teams in the U.S. and 27 countries worldwide will be competing in 63 regional events and 10 district events.

By participating in FIRST, students gain confidence to explore the innovation process while learning valuable science, engineering, technology, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. FIRSTRobotics Competition participants are eligible to apply for more than $50 million in FIRST Scholarships from leading colleges and universities. Students also learn and apply the FIRST ethos of Gracious Professionalism®.

The FIRST Robotics Competition New York Tech Valley Regional sponsors and volunteers come from some of the most highly regarded organizations, including GlobalFoundries, ASML, GE, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, National Grid, KLA-Tencor, Applied Materials, Lam Research, AMD, Bechtel, SCREEN Semiconductor Solution, SCREEN Americas, nfrastructure, Edwards Vacuum, Pickett Family Foundation, Accumetra, and Tokyo Electron. Sponsors provide resources including time and talent from professional mentors, services, equipment, financial contributions, and volunteers.

For more information about the New York Tech Valley Regional Robotics Competition, visit: