Real life robot transitioning to digital robot

Game On: WPI Launches Virtual Challenge to Design a FIRST® -Inspired Video Game

Cooperative project aims to introduce new skills to robotics and gaming in a remote environment. 
Media Contact
October 08, 2020

Worcester, MA—October 8, 2020— In a first –of-its-kind initiative, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and FIRST® are taking their robotics education and competition expertise into a new direction: video game design. WPI and FIRST, a robotics community that prepares young people for the future, have created FIRST Game Jam, a free, fun, and interactive competition for teams from both inside and outside the FIRST community to create a video game concept that celebrates FIRST and its vision and mission. 

“Whether in person or online, it is important for students to continue to engage in programs that focus on teamwork and cooperation. The FIRST Game Jam is a great way to learn critical life skills that are at the core of every successful STEM project,” said Dean Kamen, Founder, FIRST. “I am very excited to be part of this initiative and look forward to seeing the creativity that emerges from these teams, which for many may be the first time they are involved with video game design.”

With a large number schools across the country switching to on-line classes this fall, robotics teams aren’t able to meet in person to collectively design and build robots. In addition to engaging students in a fun competition, FIRST Game Jam aims to keep together teams that may be remote and attract new students with diverse skill sets.  

“FIRST Game Jam offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate how technical art and creative design play an integral role in real-world science, technology, and engineering projects,” said Jean King, Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences. Traditional roles on robotics teams, such as builder and driver, will be reimagined, allowing the whole team to engage with each other and their project through a collaborative, virtual platform.” 

“Imagine a video game without music, a story line or vibrant graphics. Now think about a game without advanced technological features such as player feedback, sensors, even vision systems. It becomes clear how these skills are dependent on each other,” said Jennifer deWinter, Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD) department head. “The Game Jam challenge recognizes the strengths of both fields and emphasizes the need for diverse minds in impactful projects.”

FIRST Game Jam kicks off this week with an overview of the project and goals. Over the next several weeks, resources and training materials for beginners will be available on the Game Jam website to help participants build their skills in preparation for the November event. WPI students will also be hosting weekly virtual office hours to aid in training and answer any questions, as well as information sessions with experts in gaming, including programmers, designers, artists and writers. Starting November 7th, teams will participate in a week-long Game Jam where they will make a video game from scratch based on a chosen theme that inspires innovation and fosters self-confidence, teamwork, inclusion, and communication The submitted games will then be judged by a panel of experts and awards announced in early December.

“While WPI has been hosting in-person FIRST events for over 20 years, this collaboration on a virtual platform is the next step in helping showcase many of the common values shared by WPI and FIRST,” said Colleen Shaver, Director of WPI’s Robotics Resource Center. “Participants will be able to showcase their creativity and compete in a whole new arena and we are excited to see what amazing creations they produce.”

Dean O’Donnell, WPI IMGD teaching professor, who is helping facilitate this program and has been involved with Game Jams since 2006 says, “When you only have a few days, only a few tools, and you still have to make something, that’s when people really get creative. We’re always looking for different points of view, and FIRST teams bring a whole new set of skills to the Game Jam table. I can’t wait to see what games come from them, because I think we’ll see an entirely different kind of game.”


  • Now through November 7: Online Training Support
  • November 7: Game Jam Open
  • November 15: Submission Due
  • Early December: Awards Broadcast

Additional details:

  • No experience necessary
  • Participants must be 13+ years of age
  • Registration and training materials will be available on a WPI-hosted website
  • Lots of video content available to prepare for the competition on both WPI and FIRST Twitch channel
  • Participants can be involved in multiple submissions

For more information about the challenge and to access online sessions visit: