Robotics Glossary

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Term Definition

If you are familiar with world of social networking, then you will know about the use of “hash tags” on Twitter. Trends in FIRST robotics are tracked using “#omgrobots” as homage to our mutual excitement for all things robotics. If you want to share your robotics stories (in 140 characters or less), try using this fun hash tag.


Matches are played between two alliances each consisting of three robots. The competing alliances are indicated by either red or blue bumpers on their robots.

Alliance Selection

After the qualification rounds, teams will be divided into 8 3-team alliances to compete in the elimination matches. The #1 ranked team from qualifications will be given first choice in the alliance selection. The team may choose to select any team below them in the rankings. Teams may choose to either accept or decline these offers; however, if they decline they may not accept another offer. For example, if #1 picks #3 and #3 declines, then the #2 alliance will not be able to select #3. After #1 makes their first selection, the next highest ranked team remaining in the draft will become the #2 alliance captain, and so on until there are 8 alliances of two teams. At this point, the #8 alliance will have the first pick of the second round, and it will continue this way, until the #1 alliance makes the final selection of the second round. At the conclusion of the alliance selection there will be 8 alliances with three teams each.

Autonomous Period

See "FRC Match"

Build Season

The six weeks following Kick-Off are known as the build season (January to mid-February). During this time, students work with mentors to design and build functional robots to compete in the year’s game. Sleep is sometimes hard to come by during build season. At the end of the six weeks, teams must “bag and tag” their robots, meaning that they stop construction and seal the robot in a plastic bag. The seal may not be broken until the team arrives at their first regional competition.

Chairman’s Award

FIRST is about more than building robots and the Chairman’s Award is a representation of FIRST’s ideals. FRC teams chronicle the work they’ve done off-field, including community involvement, helping other teams, and promoting science and technology. Teams then write an essay and give a presentation at a Regional competition of their choosing. The winner, announced at the end of the competition, is automatically qualified for the World Championships where they can compete for the Championship Chairman’s Award.

Chief Delphi

Chief Delphi (CD) is the foremost online forum in the FIRST robotics community. Mentors, students, and alumni flock to CD to discuss robot designs, ask for assistance, and talk about everything in the world of FIRST and VEX robotics. Be careful or you may suddenly wonder where all of your time has gone.


Although FRC is a competition, winning should never get in the way of competition’s real objective: teaching students about science and technology. With this objective in mind, FIRST developed the concept of Coopertition, in which cooperation between teams is just as important as the competition. In Rebound Rumble (2012), teams earned Coopertition points for balancing on a bridge with a robot from the opposing alliance.

Cotton Eyed Joe

A traditional dance of robotics competitions. Every well prepared FRC team will ensure that its students know the steps to this classic dance. In 2013 it will likely be replaced by Gangnam Style as the most over-played dance number.

Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen founded the FIRST organization is 1989 with the goal of promoting science and technology education in the United States. His vision has grown internationally and FIRST is now active is 56 countries, including Canada. Apart from FIRST, Kamen is best-known as the inventor of the Segway.

Dean’s List Award

In 2010, Dean Kamen created the Dean’s List Award (an intentional play on words) in recognition of high-achieving students in the FIRST community. Each year team mentors may nominate two outstanding members of their FRC team for the award. Two winners are then chosen at each Regional competition, with the winners then competing for the Championship Dean’s List Awards. In 2012, Team 781 member Janelle Taylor won a Dean’s List Award at the Waterloo Regional.

District Events

In response to the ever growing numbers of teams in FRC, some areas have switched from the regional system to a district model. In Michigan and the Mid-Atlantic regions, each team will compete in two district events over the course of the season. From these events, the teams are ranked with the top teams being invited to a district championship in the final week of the competition season. The top teams from the district championship are then invited to the FIRST World Championship.

Einstein Field

The winners of each of four divisions at the FIRST World Championship earn a spot in the semifinals on the Einstein Field. As an entire stadium watches on, teams must pass this ultimate test to become World Champions. The Einstein matches will prove triumphant for some and heartbreaking for others, but it will always be thrilling.

Elimination Matches

After alliance selection, the alliances are given a break to gather and discuss strategy before playing elimination matches. In the quarterfinals, the #1 alliance will play the #8 alliance, 2 plays 7, 3 plays 6, and 4 plays 5. Alliances play best 2-out-of-3 matches to determine who advances to the semifinals. When an alliance wins two matches in the quarters, semis, and finals they will be declared the regional champions.

Engineering Inspiration Award

The Engineering Inspiration Award is one of the highest honours in FRC. It is given at regional competitions in recognition of a team’s outstanding efforts to bring science and technology into their school and community. Each winner of this award receives an invitation to the FIRST World Championships.

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