About FIRST ®
Our Mission, Purpose & Values

FIRST is More Than Robots®

Founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a global nonprofit (501(c)(3)) organization that prepares young people for the future through a suite of inclusive, team-based robotics programs for ages 4-18 (PreK-12). Our programs are suitable for schools or structured afterschool activities and receive support from a vast network of volunteers, educators, and sponsor/donors, including over 200 Fortune 500 companies.

Because our programs are More Than Robots®, FIRST participants are guided by a signature set of Core Values to conduct research, fundraise, design, build, and showcase their achievements. Our thrilling, sports-like challenges build their self-confidence and collaborative problem-solving skills and have a proven and lasting impact on STEM learning and interest. Our participants and alumni gain access to education and career discovery opportunities, connections to exclusive scholarships and employers, and a place in the FIRST community for life.

Learn about the impact of FIRSTWatch


Our Core Values

The FIRST Core Values are fundamental to FIRST and unique to its programs. They emphasize friendly sportsmanship, respect for the contributions of others, teamwork, learning, and community involvement and are part of our commitment to fostering, cultivating, and preserving a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Our community expresses the FIRST philosophies of Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® through the FIRST Core Values.


We explore new skills & ideas.


We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.


We apply what we learn to improve our world.


We respect each other and embrace our differences.


We are stronger when we work together.


We enjoy and celebrate what we do!


Gracious Professionalism®

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

Through Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain coexist. Participants compete intensely while treating each other with respect and empathy. There is no trash talking, nor disingenuous platitudes. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

The term was coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, (1943 - 2019) Executive Advisory Board Chair Emeritus & Distinguished Advisor.


Coopertition fosters innovation by promoting unqualified kindness and respect in the face of intense competition.

At FIRST, Coopertition means that teams help and cooperate with each other, even as they compete. It's about learning from teammates, teaching others, collaborating with mentors, managing and being managed. Coopertition embodies the spirit of competing while assisting and enabling others whenever possible.

Purpose, Vision and Mission

Our organizational statements are more than words on a page; they encapsulate our promise to build a thriving global robotics community and to remain at the very forefront of STEM education.


FIRST exists to prepare the young people of today for the world of tomorrow.


To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.


The mission of FIRST is to provide life-changing robotics programs that give young people the skills, confidence, and resilience to build a better world.

Special Recognition

FIRST is proud to receive the following special recognition for our efforts in inspiring children to explore science and technology.

FIRST has a top-ranked 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for consistently executing its mission in a fiscally responsible way. Read about our rating.

FIRST receives a top ranking from Candid. GuideStar (Platinum) for transparency, efficiency, and sustainability in our opeartions. Read about our rating.

View Annual Reports & Financials


Dean Kamen is a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology. His passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST. For over 30 years, Kamen has resolutely led the growth of FIRST to where it is now universally recognized as the leading, not-for-profit STEM engagement program for kids worldwide.

FIRST is More Than Robots. The robots are a vehicle for students to learn important life skills. Kids often come in not knowing what to expect – of the program nor of themselves. They leave, even after the first season, with a vision, with confidence, and with a sense that they can create their own future.”
– Dean Kamen

Learn more about FIRST history