FIRST in Florida

Florida is home to a growing FIRST (For Recognition and Inspiration in Science and Technology) program that includes more than 60 high school level FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams, as many FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams, a high school program, and over 400 elementary and middle school FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams.

Robots at TNT

FIRST is increasingly in the public eye, from the May CNN story, “Don’t Fail Me,” to ABCs special with Black Eyed Peas singer, who has become the rock star face of FIRST. FIRST works hard to engage and inspire students in science and technology learning, with the long term mission of contributing to the nation’s technological enterprise. Terri Willingham, Assistant Regional Director for FIRST in Central Florida says FIRST’s immediate goal is to get youth excited about science and technology, to encourage them to pursue related studies and careers. Willingham added “We’ve got a host of great ways to do that with FIRST, which tasks students with building robots to compete in annual challenges.”

Through FIRST academic competition experiences, students can work “FIRST hand” with scientists, engineers, and technicians who serve as mentors and coaches in a collaborative, professional environment. The real-world experiences and the relationships students form within the science, engineering and technology community richly supplement and deepen learning in meaningful and enduring ways that go far beyond classroom experiences.

FIRST programs are:
  • Low cost and affordable, with significant funding availability
  • Standards aligned
  • Research based and proven to enhance student achievement and long term success
  • Rich in scholarship opportunities, with over 145 scholarship provides giving out nearly $15 million to participating youth
Nationwide they engage:
  • 294,000+ students
  • 26,900 teams
  • 24,300+ robots
  • 51,000 Mentors/adult supporters
  • 50,000 other Volunteers (e.g. events Volunteers, Operational and Affiliate Partners)
With respect to the Florida workforce community, FIRST offers numerous workforce training, volunteer and sponsorship opportunities that can strengthen an organization’s position and name recognition in the community, and provide both short and long-term returns on investments of time, expertise and funding.

To learn more, visit FIRST in Florida at or write to Terri Willingham at, or visit

Article Contributed by Terri Willingham, Assistant Regional Director, FIRST in Central Florida.

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