Engineering students

Students get hands-on experience through the FIRST Tech Challenge.

FIRST Tech Challenge

FIRST at UVM is a thriving initiative that connects students, faculty, volunteers, and thinkers from diverse sectors. Guided by adult coaches and mentors, FIRST Tech Challenge teams (up to 15 team members, grades 7-12) design, build, program, and operate robots to compete head-to-head. All skill levels are welcomed and needed, technical or non-technical. This marks the 8th year that UVM and local volunteers have produced the region's FIRST Tech Challenge!

This year, the FIRST Tech Challenge event was held on February 15, 2020 at 10 a.m. at Champlain Valley Union High School. The event was free and open to the public. See the schedule.

To make hotel reservations, contact:

Fairfield by Marriott
Burlington Williston
2844 St. George Road
Williston, Vermont  05495
24hr Reservation line: 1-800-228-2800
First Robotics discounted rate. Special rates of $96 per night, plus taxes. Last day to make reservations at discounted rate is January 13, 2020 or until group block is full.

Watch the 2020 FIRST Tech Challenge reveal video below:

The robot kit is reusable from year to year and can be coded using a variety of levels of Java-based programming. Teams design and build robots, raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach to earn specific awards. Participants are eligible to apply for $80M+ in college scholarships.

Each season concludes with regional championship events and an exciting FIRST Championship.


Start a Team




A FIRST mentor is not only a role model for the students but also a guest of the team whose role is to assist the coach and to add an outside perspective for the team members. Frequently this perspective is that of a technology expert who provides engineering support for solving technical problems. The mentor's job is not to build the robots for the teams, but to give advice, support, and encouragement to the teams. The goal of a mentor is to share wisdom with the students and to create knowledge and foster intellectual growth. Mentors may provide guidance for structuring a technical approach, help solve specific problems, assist with computer programming, set up experiments to evaluate designs, and help with problem-solving and troubleshooting. Although it is not required, mentors may also help the team out with other tasks such as giving guidance on their research assignment or helping the team with fundraisers.


FTC events are greatly dependent on volunteers to help things run smoothly, and there is a wide range of positions available for those who want to be involved (see this link to get more information about what is possible: FTC volunteer opportunities. Not only is it a rewarding opportunity to interact with kids but the events are high energy, big entertainment displays of amazing achievement by the teams. There are three basic steps to being a volunteer:

  1. Contact Courtney Giles at
  2. Register to Volunteer
  3. Get ready to have fun


The FIRST championship at UVM is a special outreach event which brings our community together to witness and celebrate the talents, creativity, and energy of students, mentors, and volunteers from all corners of Vermont and beyond.

Donations are greatly appreciated and help ensure the sustainability of this unique and powerful platform. Please mail checks to:

UVM/CEMS Outreach
Attn: Monika Ursiny
Votey Hall, UVM
33 Colchester Avenue
Burlington, VT 05405

If you are interested in sponsoring a team, or establishing or contributing to a FIRST at UVM scholarship, please contact:

Jenny Weatherholtz at


General Inquiries

Mailing Address

The University of Vermont
33 Colchester Avenue
Burlington, VT 05405

FIRST@VT FTC Planning Committee Contacts

Position Name Email
Co-Chair Kristin Winer
Doug Dickey
Planning Committee Advisor John Abele  
State of Vermont Department of Education Doug Webster
FLL Liasion David Feinauer
Team Coordinator Beth Wilbur
Facilities Director Joe Kudrle
Technical Director Open  
Volunteer Coordinator Courtney Giles
State Judge Advisor Alain Brizard
State Referee Jamie Gravelin
State Inspector Scott Turnbull
State Scorekeeper Helen Read
Fundraising Charley Thompson



What is FIRST?

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. Read more at US FIRST.


What is UVM's involvement?

UVM is the FTC affiliated partner for 2018-2019. UVM will organize all aspects of the Vermont Regional Team FTC competition to be held on Saturday, February 23, 2019.


What is FTC?

FTC is the FIRST Tech Challenge. Teams of up to 10 students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. Teams are comprised of 7-12th graders. Learn more about the FTC program at FTC.

To register an FTC team, please go to FTC Registration.


What about FRC & FLL Challenges?

To find out about other FIRST robotics teams and events in this area, please go to What's Going On?


Who can compete?

For the FIRST@UVM event, any group of students in grades 9-12 can form a team for the challenge. Teams consist of up to 10 students and can have any affiliation - common school or homeschoolers, boy scouts, girl scouts, 4-H, etc. Teams require mentors, sponsors, and passionate students. To learn more about forming an FTC team, please go to Team Resources. To learn more about mentoring a team, please go to Coaching FTC. To volunteer to be a mentor for a team for FIRST@UVM, please go to the Volunteering/Mentoring section of this page.


What is the game? What are the rules?

The 2019 First Tech Challenge game is called "Rover Ruckus". For game rules, information about the playing field, scoring instructions and video simulations of the challenge, please go to FTC Game.


How many teams can register for this challenge?

There is a cap of 32 teams, of which 8 spots will be preserved for teams outside Vermont.


What is the cost to participate in the UVM Tournament?

Once you have registered your team with US FIRST you may register for the UVM Tournament. The per team participation fee is $250.


How can I volunteer?

We need many volunteers to make this a success for the students involved. There are many roles to fill. There are many official roles, some are explained here. To help with all aspects of the competition, please go the Volunteering/Mentoring section of this page.


Is there any other information about local involvement in FIRST?

Megan James wrote an excellent article in the October 1, 2012 issue of KidsVT of the Essex High School FTC team.


How can I keep up to date with information about the challenge?

Our Twitter feed is @FTCVermont. For other questions please contact us at

Through the FIRST Tech Challenge, middle and high school students:

  • develop STEM skills
  • practice engineering principles
  • activate team-building capabilities
  • realize the value of hard work and innovation

2020 FIRST Tech Challenge

The 2020 FIRST Tech Challenge will be held on February 15, 2020 at 10 a.m. at Champlain Vally Union High School. The event is FREE and open to the public. Watch the reveal video!