Posted on the 1st September 2020
Written by Patrice

Next season’s tech just got better

Let’s face it, we’re entering the 2020-21 season in a very different world, and recognise this presents new challenges for teams to connect and collaborate. This season, we’re switching up how to support teams with an enhanced digital experience. Rather than introducing ‘tech for tech’s sake’, we’re using ‘tech as a tool to resolve problems’ and evolving the programme to accelerate our STEM enrichment vision.

. . .

Over the last few months at remote HQ, we’ve plugged away whilst taking on board your vital feedback and reflecting on our experiences. We’re determined to give teams the chance to build and program awesome bots, connect with our talented FIRST community, and engage with our partners ready to inspire STEM superstars – that’s a given!

Now we’re announcing massive upgrades that will help you step up to the podium.


Extreme Makeover: Makerspace edition!

Our digital educational platform ‘Makerspace’ launched in Alpha last season for teams to completely own their progress with KS3+4 curriculum-mapped education content to guide their learning and hit those all important Gatsby Benchmarks. We’ve now responded to community feedback and simplified the platform experience for all teams, leads and mentors.

The biggest change will ease how you browse and access relevant content. Last season, we released educational content weekly as we thought it would make Makerspace really easy to follow; this season you can search by category like you would at a library and digest content at your own pace – freedom! We’ve also made the login process easier too so each team and Team Lead has a single login.

Speaking of Makerspace content, a super team of UK-based interns have earned their stripes with HQ this summer by creating content that caters to teams at all stages. Whether you’re a newcomer finding your feet, or a returner eager to push yourself, there’s guidance for everyone.

Bye binder, hello digital collaboration

Since we began many (OK, two) years ago, we sent every team a physical engineering notebook to document their FIRST robotics journey. These notebooks showcased technical highs, lows and everything in-between as teams became robot ready. They’re also a crucial part of award deliberations as judges need to see the team’s work before dishing out any awards. To help your team keep on top of their documentation this year while looking after the environment, notebooks are going digital.

So that’s adios to plastic engineering notebooks and hellooo Engineering Documentation. Your team will use Mahara – an online portfolio management system – to show how they’re tackling hurdles and growing into the boss bot builders we know they can be.

They’ll have lots of creative freedom to collaborate and edit in real-time, as well as include pictures, videos and drawings to illustrate your work. Best of all, team leads and mentors can follow team progress and point them in the right direction. We’re currently developing and reskinning the platform, so it’ll have a fresh look by the time you jump in.

And now, for the biggest and most game-changing addition to the FIRST community…


New Virtual Simulator!

We’ve worked insanely hard with friends at Bloomberg to deliver a fantastic virtual simulator so teams can grow put their robotics skills to the test!

Our virtual simulator is an open source program (fun and free for all to use) that lets you test out Blockly code with a virtual robot. You can explore how your robot reacts to different commands, as you gradually tackle learning how to code your robot! If you’re a FIRST timer or budding coder itching to jump start, the simulator will be a great way to get to grips with the programme!

The simulator features eight lessons produced by Outwood Grange Academy Trust that your teachers and mentors can provide within the curriculum, reinforcing key concepts found within Key Stage 3 Computer Science. As a bonus, your team can walk through a similar set of challenges if you want to take your training further!

We’re very pleased with what we’ve created with Bloomberg! We can’t thank them enough for rising to the challenge, and we really hope it will give you all a vital leg up in your journey through the FIRST Tech Challenge UK program!


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