FIRST HQ Update on 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition Season

Sep 24, 2020




Dear FIRST® Community,

We have been evaluating different scenarios for all our programs over the past many months and have already implemented several changes to provide every student participant a valuable, enjoyable experience, regardless of learning environment this season. With the launch of the FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge programs, we’ve introduced Remote Events for regions unable to hold in-person competitions.  Also, we recently announced an extension to our season to provide additional time and flexibility to start build seasons and prepare for local and remote events. 

With the opening of FIRST® Robotics Competition team registration the week of October 5, we would like to share what we have in store for the 2021 season. Recognizing ongoing challenges for teams with remote and hybrid learning, limited access to build spaces, tools, and robots, as well as uncertainty for traveling to and attending in-person events, we are excited to introduce these new opportunities for FIRST Robotics Competition teams to participate this season:

  • The Game Design Challenge will allow registered teams to design their own FIRST Robotics Competition game using real-world, virtual, or hybrid design elements, and compete for judged awards. Winning concepts will be considered for use in future official games. 
  • In the Innovation Challenge presented by Qualcomm, registered teams will identify a real-world problem related to this season’s theme, FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM powered by Star Wars: Force for Change, design a solution, build a business model, and deliver a pitch to compete with other FIRST Robotics Competition teams for judged awards. This new challenge will have an advancement track, culminating in the Global Innovation Awards, a multi-day experience where students showcase their innovations, participate in workshops and receive mentorship from experts, and compete for awards.
  • INFINITE RECHARGESM at Home brings components of events to you in two ways:
    • Teams show off what their robots and drivers can do in a skills challenge based on the 2020 INFINITE RECHARGE game. Scores are posted, and teams virtually compete against each other for the Skills Challenge Awards
    • Teams illustrate their robot’s technical qualities by sharing information with judges remotely in competition for traditional robot-based awards. Teams can participate with or without access to their robot. 
  • In addition, our entire community, regardless of team registration or payment status, will continue to have opportunities to participate in online activities through FIRST @ Home throughout the entire season.

All aspects of the Kit of Parts will be available, including the Kickoff Kit, the Virtual Kit and FIRST Choice. New rookie teams will receive Kickoff Kit items comparable to those shipped in the 2020 rookie Kickoff Kits.  The Veteran Kickoff Kits will be limited in breadth and quantity of items while still helping support teams this season.

In addition, teams will have the ability to compete for traditional submitted awards including Chairman’s Award, FIRST Dean’s List Award, and the Woodie Flowers Finalists Awards and access to more than 3,000 scholarship opportunities from over 200 FIRST Scholarship Providers with additional opportunities for career discovery throughout the season. 

For in-person INFINITE RECHARGE game play, we’ve been exploring ways to comply with anticipated social distancing requirements, which would likely include single-day events, reducing the number of teams and team members attending, making judging entirely remote, eliminating spectators, and extending our season.  Unfortunately, we recognize that even with these adjustments there are many areas where it will likely be difficult, if not impossible, to hold these in-person events unless there is major and unexpected change with the pandemic.

As a result, we’ve made the difficult decision that we will open the FIRST Robotics Competition registration built around a season experience that does not include in-person game play.  This means that we will not be including initial game play events with team registration, nor will we publish a season game play schedule.  Teams won’t be participating in the usual event preferencing, nor will they sign up for any game play at this time.  We made this decision partially in an effort to be fully transparent with FIRST Robotics Competition teams, so they know what to expect when they register.

If conditions change, we will evaluate the possibility of adding in-person game play events later this season.  We have targeted January for the first re-evaluation. If in-person game play is determined to be possible, that option would be made available to registered teams for an additional event fee later in the season. But as of now, teams should not expect that the FIRST Robotics Competition season will include official in-person game play. 

In light of not rolling out a new FIRST Robotics Competition game this year and the likelihood that in-person game play cannot happen (and if it does, most team members will not be there in-person), the 2021 registration fee will be reduced to $2,000 for veteran teams and $3,000 for rookie teams who will also receive the full rookie kit-of-parts.

While this season will look different and present many changes for our entire community, we are confident the new team-based opportunities mentioned above will allow our participants to have a fulfilling season, as we continue to execute the mission of FIRST and inspire the next generation of our future science and technology leaders – the same mission that has guided us for more than 30 years.

Here’s a message from FIRST founder Dean Kamen:

 “The world needs FIRST more than ever because the world needs you – our best leaders and innovators of science and technology. I’ve said since the beginning that FIRST isn’t about the robots. It’s not about the competitions. It’s about the community and the inspiration that comes from collaboration, creative problem solving, and innovation. That’s why I am thrilled about the opportunities FIRST has to offer for FIRST Robotics Competition and all our programs this season. These fun and rigorous new challenges will inspire our participants in new ways, and allow each of you to have a true impact on FIRST and your communities. I hope you’ll join us for this exciting season, and I look forward to seeing everyone back on the field when the time is right.”

As Dean says, FIRST is more than robots, and FIRST Robotics Competition is more than in person game play – it is about mentorship, teamwork, learning new skills, being part of a community, and creating innovative solutions to problems never seen before. 

We hope that you will join us as we head into a new and exciting season with your safety and wellbeing as our top priority.

Your friends at FIRST HQ


Frequently Asked Questions: 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition Season

Do FIRST Robotics Competition teams need to participate in all of the new challenges?

  • Teams can engage in as many or as few challenges as they choose.

What is the FIRST Robotics Competition registration fee?

  • The 2021 Registration fee is $2000 for veteran teams and $3000 for new rookie teams.

What does the registration fee include?

  • Team registration includes access to INFINITE RECHARGE at Home, Innovation Challenge, Game Design Challenge, judged awards, scholarship opportunities, and the Kit of Parts as described above.

Added September 25, 2020 - Is team registration required for access to FIRST Scholarships?

  • Eligibility requirements (see for FIRST Scholarships have not changed.  High school students who have participated or are participating on high-school-level FIRST Robotics Competition and/or FIRST Tech Challenge teams can apply for FIRST Scholarships. Students who have not participated in a previous season would need to be on a registered team this season to be eligible.

Will FIRST offer team grants this year to help with the registration fee? 

  • When registration opens, new FIRST Robotics Competition teams can apply for the New Team Grant using the link on the FIRST Robotics Competition grants page. The FIRST Robotics Competition Equity and Access grant application will also be available to any registered FIRST Robotics Competition team for the 2021 season who is interested in making a positive impact in their community.

When is kickoff for the 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition season?

  • Kickoff is scheduled for January 9, 2021

Can the 2020 game play voucher be applied to the 2021 registration fee?

  • Teams who received a $1000 voucher due to no game play in 2020 may apply this voucher towards the 2021 registration fee.

Do 2020 rookie teams retain rookie status for 2021?

  • 2020 rookies will pay the lower veteran registration fee of $2000 for the 2021 season, but they will be eligible for rookie-designated awards and district points (if applicable). 2020 rookies will not be eligible for the 2021 Chairman’s Award.

When will teams know if there will be in-person game play this season?

  • If conditions change, we will evaluate the possibility of adding in-person game play events later this season.  FIRST has targeted January for the first re-evaluation.

My team lives in an area where events and gatherings can be held. Can my area have in-person official game play?

  • FIRST has seen a large range of responses to the pandemic in terms of ability to hold events as well as team’s abilities to travel and attend events.  Even in areas where conditions today are favorable, we do not know if this will continue.  There are regions where COVID-19 is already resurging, and areas are actively considering additional measures such as lockdowns.  We will evaluate conditions later in the season on a case by case basis to determine if game play is possible. 

What will be the fee for in-person game play?

  • FIRST will announce game play fees for in-person events if/when they are offered.

Can teams play official in-person events later if they don’t register as a FIRST Robotics Competition team?

  • No, teams must be registered and secured in order to play official in-person events if/when they are offered.

What is the refund policy for team registration fees?

  • Team registration fees are not refundable after teams receive their Kickoff Kit.  Refund policies for in-person events will be made available if/when those events are offered.

When will we know about District Championships?

  • As with other in-person game play, District Championships are uncertain at this time. If the environment changes in 2021 and in-person events can safely take place, more information will be shared at that time.

Without in-person game play, what does advancement mean for FIRST Championship?

  • FIRST Championship scope and scale, including attendance qualifications, will be determined later in the season once we have more visibility to conditions in July and August.

Without in-person game play, what does this mean for judged awards?

  • Some of the awards are being modified to align with INFINITE RECHARGE at Home, the Innovation Challenge, and the Game Design Challenge. We also may add some new awards and adjust awards based on challenge criteria. More details regarding judged awards and award criteria will be made available as we get closer to kickoff. 

Will awards be judged remotely or in-person?

  • All FIRST Robotics Competition awards will be judged remotely.  These Judging activities, and the way in which teams will be grouped for judging, will be determined by Kickoff.

Will only one set of awards be given out for each of the new challenges?

  • Several sets of awards will be given out, one for each group of teams. Teams will be grouped in numbers roughly equal to the number of teams present at traditional FIRST Robotics Competition events

When will we learn more about the Game Design Challenge, Innovation Challenge, and INFINITE RECHARGE at Home?

  • Additional details, including rules, awards, award criteria and timelines are coming. Stay tuned to the FIRST Robotics Competition blog and team email blasts.

When will we learn more about other FIRST @ Home activities?

  • Activities will be available at the FIRST @ Home website.  In addition, teams may receive notifications of specific activities that may be of interest to them throughout the year.

Will this change to in-person FIRST Robotics Competition game play events have an impact on in-person events scheduled for FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge?

  • Our FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge partners are evaluating the best solutions for their communities and a majority are planning to host their events remotely. There may be some communities in which local conditions provide the opportunity to host small in-person game play events. Those opportunities are being evaluated at the local level with guidance from FIRST HQ.
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