NEOFRA Presents - FIRST in a Nutshell

So what is this FIRST thing you've heard about?  Read on to learn more.  You can also ask us questions directly by emailing
Step 1 - What is FIRST?
 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology 
FIRST teams of students and their mentors work together to design and build robots based upon a game challenge that changes every year.  Teams then take their robots and compete in some of the most exciting robotics sporting events around.  The true purpose of any FIRST team is to inspire its students to become better problem solvers using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, many of which they learn and apply while a member of the team.  Students are encouraged to pursue technical career paths upon graduation from high school, as well as apply for over $10,000,000 in scholarships available only to students on FIRST teams.  It is the hope of every FIRST mentor that our students will go on to eventually solve some of the greatest challenges facing human society today.
Step 2 - What are the different robotics competition programs FIRST offers to schools?
NEOFRA schools field a variety of FRC, FLL, and FTC teams.  See below to learn more about these programs. 
FIRST LEGO League (FLL) - Ages 9-14

FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) - High School Ages 
Many grants are available to fund new FIRST teams.  NASA is a FIRST sponsor at the national level, providing large grants to start up new FRC teams.  Check out the web link for more information on their grant program -
In addition, FIRST teams qualify for many other local, state, federal, and corporate grant programs.  NEOFRA team members will help any new school/team find the funding and resources they need to get started.
Finally, FRC at its core is all about corporate engineering sponsors and area businesses and manufacturers partnering with students and schools, providing team mentors and supplemental team funding.  Teams can certainly function and succeed in FIRST without corporate sponsors, but bringing technical professionals and students together is always a key goal for any FRC team.  NEOFRA will help new teams identify and reach out to potential sources of sponsorship and mentorship within their own communities, as well as recruit individual parents and other community residents to your programs.  Technical mentors on existing NEOFRA teams also work with rookie teams to "show them the ropes" and keep them headed in the right direction.
What is NEOFRA???
The Northeast Ohio FIRST Robotics Alliance is a partnership among local FIRST robotics teams who have joined together to support each other, share ideas and resources, and promote expansion of FIRST Robotics programs throughout the local Trumbull-Mahoning-Columbiana County area and beyond.  We wish to expand FIRST influence in Northeast Ohio, as well as Northwestern Pennsylvania.  
NEOFRA's high school member teams hail from:
Warren G. Harding High School (FRC 48)
Girard High School (FRC 379)
Berea-Midpark High School (FRC 1248)

Champion High School (FRC 2010)
Austintown Fitch High School (FRC 3193)
Canfield High School (FRC 4601)
    Cardinal Mooney High School (FRC 5077)
    Hubbard High School (FRC 5418)

       Numerous FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams also call NEOFRA home.  NEOFRA hosts two official FLL Ohio state qualifying regional tournaments each December, as well as an Ohio FLL District Championship in January, and an FRC fall offseason competition in September.

      NEOFRA member teams will happily arrange workshops or onsite robot demonstrations for schools and individuals interested in starting new FIRST teams.  Please feel free to contact us by sending an email to or by contacting representatives of one of our member teams directly.
      Step 3 - So what does an FRC team do?
      Glad you asked!  There is no easy way to put the entire experience in words.  What we can do is provide links to numerous online resources, videos, pictures, etc. which demonstrate just how extensive a program FRC is for its participants.  There's nothing quite like it out there for high school students.  This isn't your father's science fair!
      FIRST's FRC Mentor Resources Library provides an outline of many aspects of FRC team organization and function.  Check it out.
      In addition, here are the resources Travis Hoffman and Greg Christman of Delphi/Warren G. Harding FRC Team 48 and NEOFRA presented at the TCESC's STEM Expo:
      FIRST Multimedia Links
      FIRST Overview Video - Dean Kamen introduces and explains FIRST
      FIRST Student Voices Video - See what actual FIRST students gain from the program
      Build Robots!  You probably want to know more about the robots FRC teams design and build.  5+ feet tall, 130 lbs. - these are real beasts! 
      Take a look at the current FRC Game Manual and Game Animation as well as game manuals and other info from previous FRC competitions to learn about the design challenges FRC teams are given each year.  I hope you're up for a real challenge - if FIRST were easy, no one would do it - that's what makes participating in this program so satisfying!
      You want video of robots in action?  Check out the best site on the web for archived FRC match video - The Blue Alliance.
      Learn New Skills!  There is some aspect of a FIRST Robotics team that appeals to everyone.  The team is not "just" about the robot, although you will have the opportunity to learn many of the skills needed to design and build one - 3D CAD modeling, milling, lathing, drilling, cutting, welding, electrical work, programming, and on and on.  In addition to those robot-related skills, FIRST students can learn and apply many other skills such as carpentry, team uniform design, team promotions, public and media relations, photography, website design, video editing and production, 3D computer animation, creative writing, and much, much more!  Individuals of all backgrounds and interests can find a home on a FIRST team.
      Attend Competitions!  We don't just build these things then stick 'em in a closet - we take them and compete in some of the most exciting robotics sporting events around.  This isn't Battlebots - teams are not out to destroy each other.  However, there's always lots of robot interaction, offense, defense, contact, teamwork, 3 vs.3, pit crews, cheering, dancing, music, lights, mascots - you name it, an FRC competition has it!  Check out the list of FRC regional competitions and find out where teams compete.
      NEOFRA teams would love to have potential rookie advisors and students attend some of our competitions as our guests.  Please contact us if you would like to experience these events up close and personal with us.  Local FRC regional competitions are held in Cleveland at the CSU Wolstein Center and Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center in the late-February/March time frame.
      Work with Engineers!  How often do you see an exclamation point following that word?  Not often.  That's the whole "point" of FIRST - to celebrate STEM professions, particularly engineering, and to inspire more students to pursue science and technology careers.  FRC teams do so by challenging local technical businesses and corporations to sponsor their area high schools and mentor students directly.  The mentors become part of the team.  Professional engineers, machinists, fabricators, welders, etc. serving as mentors, partnering with students to work on a REAL, FUN, EXCITING robotic engineering project together.  Even if FRC teams do not have direct support of a local engineering sponsor, students on those teams still have the opportunity to network with engineering and other STEM mentors participating in online FIRST communities and competing with their teams at FIRST events.  The spirit of gracious professionalism ensures that the mentors do not isolate themselves with only one team - they often share their knowledge with everyone such that the entire community is elevated.  Compete like crazy on the field - help everyone learn like crazy off of it - that is the true spirit of the FIRST program.
      Earn Scholarships!  Millions of dollars of scholarships are available to FTC and FRC high school students.  Check out the FIRST Scholarship page for more details, but you can only apply if you're a member of a high school FIRST team!
      Meet People!  FRC is truly an international event - you'll meet people from all over the United States, Canada, and beyond as a member of the FIRST community.  Check out the list of all FRC teams.  You can click the team number links in the team list to get more info on any team, including a link to their team website, if they maintain one.
      Team Websites are a great way to learn about individual teams and what they get to do.  As you'll learn - the team is not just about the robots - and that's a great thing!  You will find many zany team names, uniforms, and team colors that run from one end of the color spectrum to another.  MOE, Cheesy Poofs, Thunderchickens, WildStang, Exploding Bacon, Ultimate Protection Squad, Desperate Penguins - the list goes on and on - if you are lucky enough to be on a rookie FRC team, you, too will have the opportunity to create your own unique identity among the FRC community.
      Step 4 - I'm hooked.  Now I want more video, more information....more contact with members of the FIRST community.  What do I do to get it? 
      You may visit the popular Chief Delphi FIRST Community Forums to read more about FIRST teams and activities worldwide and more importantly, to interact with literally thousands of mentors, teachers, and students participating in the FIRST community.  
      Check out the CD-Media pages where you can browse thousands of photos of FIRST teams and robots in action.
      Step 5 - I'm convinced I want to be a part of the action.  Now what do I do?
      By all means, contact us and let us know - whether it's mentoring or sponsoring a team or volunteering to help out at a competition, we'll help you find your place within the FIRST program! 
      If you are local to Northeast Ohio, You may contact any NEOFRA high school team leader (current teams include Warren G. Harding, Girard, Champion, Austintown Fitch, Canfield, and Cardinal Mooney), or you can send an email to
      If you have questions for FIRST, you may also contact FIRST directly or locate the FIRST regional contact in your area
      Thanks for learning about all FIRST programs have to offer you, your school, and your community.  The people of NEOFRA hope we have convinced you to get involved in this wonderful program!  If you are in our region, we hope you will rely upon our experience to help you build up FIRST within your own communities.  Please contact us - we look forward to working with you! 
      Travis Hoffman,
      Oct 25, 2008, 10:59 AM
      Travis Hoffman,
      Apr 18, 2011, 12:05 PM
      Travis Hoffman,
      Oct 14, 2015, 7:08 PM