FIRST Robotics

WPI Software in Play at FIRST Robotics Competitions

FRC teams across the world—including 40 teams competing next week in Worcester –are using tools WPI helped develop 
Media Contact
March 02, 2017

For the last six weeks, nearly 84,000 high school students—representing more than 3,000 teams across the world—have spent countless hours designing, building, and testing robots to compete in the wildly popular FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which starts this month. From March 8 to 10, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will host 40 teams from across New England. As many as 1,000 high school students, their mentors, and their families are expected to attend. The event is free and open to the public.


FIRST Robotics Competition District Tournament


40 high school student teams representing all 6 New England state

WPI students, team mentors, and faculty


Wednesday, March 8 to Friday, March 10

​Teams arrive Wednesday; matches take place Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Final Rounds will be 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, with awards presented 5 to 6:30 p.m.

The schedule and more information can be found here.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Harrington Auditorium

100 Institute Road, Worcester, Mass.

FIRST Robotics is part of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization founded by WPI alumnus Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The FRC engages high school students through an intense robotics competition centered on a common theme, which changes each year.

This year’s challenge is called FIRST Steamworks, and “invites two adventure clubs from an era in which technology relied on steam power to prepare their airships for the ultimate long distance race.” The challenge, along with its software, was released to all teams simultaneously on January 7.  The teams, composed of high school students and their technical mentors, had just six weeks to build a robot to compete in the challenge.

For more than a decade, WPI has helped write and design the FIRST Robotics software library, an integral element of the control system used by all teams in the competition. The software library, called WPILib, includes a wide range of modules that allow teams to easily and quickly develop the programs behind the robot’s control system, such as handle sensors, motors, the driver station, and a number of other components responsible for timing and field management.

As a pioneer in robotics engineering—offering the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in Robotics Engineering, then later adding a master’s and PhD program—WPI is the only university to offer all three levels of robotics engineering education. More than 20 years ago, WPI became one of the first universities to work with FIRST on ushering K-12 students through the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) pipeline by engaging them in robotics. Numerous WPI students who themselves participated in FIRST as high school students are now involved in the group that writes the software for the program’s annual challenge.

In addition to providing software for the control system, WPI serves as the clearinghouse and source for many of the support materials, including documentation, tutorials, and videos, related to the controller and also to mechanical, electrical, and team dynamic subjects.