Oct 17, 2019

Project Update for STEM Leadership Programs Oct'19

High five line
High five line

“I BELIEVE that these kids are our best hope for a better future.”- a FIRST volunteer

Thank you for being a part of our FIRST community! Like the volunteer quoted above, it’s your belief in the children we serve that enables them to grow and bloom in ways we can’t imagine. When they thrive, we thrive!

Since our last report, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams, composed of over 7,000 7-12th grade students, have been in the process of registering and preparing for the 2019-2020 season which is already underway. FIRST Chesapeake dba VirginiaFIRST has been working to make this season even better than before.

Here are some highlights:

  • Since August FIRST Chesapeake has been holding Town Hall meetings for teams and volunteers in our District to share information, answer any questions that they may have, and hear their thoughts about how we can do better. These have been very fruitful, with increased understanding and a great exchange of ideas.
  • FIRST Chesapeake has been scheduling venues and dates for more than 20 workshops and competitions, and working with teams and allied organizations that provide off-season and pre-season scrimmages, matches, and seminars.
    • The FIRST Tech Challenge season begin in September with the reveal of their game SKYSTONE. FTC Workshops Sponsored by ECPI University took place at two locations in Richmond and Northern Virginia, with remote viewing available to teams not able to attend in person.
    • The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) game is not revealed until January, but FIRST Chesapeake is glad to support many team-hosted off-season events taking place this fall. For the first time we will host the FRC workshops in an online format so teams throughout the district can participate regardless of their physical location.

We are grateful to all the people who volunteered for the 2018-2019 season. THANK YOU to FIRST Chesapeake’s more than 1,250 volunteers who gave more than 35,000 hours!

We are always glad to welcome new volunteers- whether your skills are technical or not, all are needed, and we would love for you to join us for the 2019-2020 season.  A qualifying tournament in the FIRST Robotics Competition or the FIRST Tech Challenge can require up to 100 volunteers each day. The Championships need more than 120 volunteers, both technical and non-technical, per day. For more details go to: https://www.firstchesapeake.org/volunteer

As always, we appreciate the support of individuals and corporations who help us continue to do what we do best - build a strong and engaged community of future technology leaders in DC, Maryland and Virginia. Thank you.

Excited Crowd
Excited Crowd
Robot driver station
Robot driver station


Jul 22, 2019

Project Update for STEM Leadership Programs Jul'19

At this time between seasons we would like to acknowledge and thank our donors, sponsors, and volunteers for their longtime and generous support of FIRST Chesapeake.

This year, 310+ FIRST Chesapeake teams competed in 20+ workshops and competitions. These events gave local teams the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in their own backyards, while promoting the long-lasting benefits associated with participation in FIRST programs. These efforts are paying off. For the first time since transitioning to the District Model, FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams are posting positive gains, and participation in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) program is anticipated to reach an all-time high this Fall.

Please find below a summary report of the 2018-2019 competition season.

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in DC, Maryland, and Virginia

The underdog story of the season was from a team in Richmond, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson High School team 2998, Vikingbots, proved what a difference a strong mentor, dedicated team members, and community support can make. Ten years ago, this team’s high school was featured in Five Miles Away: A World Apart, which highlighted the failure of many urban schools to teach their students critical thinking and basic life skills. This year, with the support of parents, veteran team 522 Mech-Tech Dragons, one dedicated mentor, and the Richmond community, Vikingbots made it all the way to the FIRST World Championship! Support was so strong within the Richmond community that the team raised over $18,000 in less than 10 days after their victory at the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship. Extensive media coverage brought attention to FIRST Chesapeake and helped garner additional support for teams in other under-resourced areas of the Commonwealth, as well.

Additional program data includes:

  • 10,000+: Total attendance over 2 ½ days for FIRST Chesapeake District Championship
  • 42,000+: Attendees at 7 local FRC events in DC, Maryland, and Virginia
  • 3,175+: high school age team members • 39%: minority team members
  • 1120: team mentors
  • 90,000+: Live stream sponsored by Northrop Grumman views of FIRST Chesapeake District and Championship events over 6 weeks
  • 23: FIRST Chesapeake teams competing at the FIRST Championship in Detroit

FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)

Programs in Virginia FTC continues to offer high quality STEM-based activities and competitions in Virginia. This Spring, Amazon initiated a multiyear outreach program to grow teams and promote employee engagement near the Amazon HQ2 Arlington offices. FIRST Chesapeake continues to partner with NextUp RVA to bring FTC into Title 1 middle schools in Richmond and for the first time, two Richmond Public School FTC scrimmages were held at Richmond Community High School. It is anticipated that by January 2020, FTC will be in six of the seven Richmond public middle schools.

For the past two years, FIRST Chesapeake has opened its competition borders to FTC partners from outside of Virginia. This interstate collaboration allows FIRST Chesapeake teams to test their skills against a more diverse group of competitors and it is paying off. FIRST Chesapeake teams are showing consistent growth, both competitively and technically at the FIRST World Championship. FIRST Chesapeake also continues to work closely with its Maryland/DC FTC partner, USRA STEMaction to promote shared resources and promote the progression of FIRST programs.

Additional FTC program data includes:

  • 15,000+: Event attendance at the FTC Qualifiers and Championship
  • 10,000+: Unique live feed views of select qualifiers and Championship
  • 2,500: Number of printed Qualifier and Championship programs recognizing your company
  • 350+: middle and high school team members and mentors attending the second annual tandem FTC Workshops Sponsored by ECPI University in Manassas and Richmond
  • 183 registered FTC teams in Virginia
  • 52: number of FTC teams competing at the FTC State Championship Sponsored by ECPI University
  • 9: FTC Qualifiers and State Championship Sponsored by ECPI University
  • 10: FIRST Chesapeake FTC teams competing at the FIRST Championship in Detroit

FIRST Chesapeake Volunteers

Emphasis upon community and corporate engagement continues to translate into growth in the general and key volunteer database. In 2018-2019, corporations such as Newport News Shipbuilding, Hamilton Beach, Dominion Energy, and PWC took advantage of employee engagement opportunities at local events. 

Increased local involvement from volunteer committees and sponsors has also allowed FIRST Chesapeake to reduce event costs across the board. This season, FIRST Chesapeake recorded the second lowest cost per event for all FIRST District partners, while still being in the top 5 Districts with the highest concentration of FIRST programs.

During the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship, volunteers were asked to complete a simple “I volunteer because” card. Check out what our volunteers have to say at www.firstchesapeake.org/volunteer. Their answers are truly inspiring.

Additional volunteer data includes:

  • 32,000+ donated volunteer hours
  • 1,700+: event volunteers in database
  • 200+: filled judges’ positions at FRC competitions
  • 50%-65%: local volunteers at each event
  • 20%: team mentors who identify as FIRST Alumni

Outreach and Partnerships

In January 2019, Rolls-Royce sponsored the first Reaching for the Stars Women in STEM Breakfast to benefit FIRST Chesapeake. This inspirational event was attended by 100 of the most influential women in technology in the DC Metro area. The Reaching for the Stars Award was presented to Doris Blanchard, one of the first human computers at NASA Langley. Three scholarships, sponsored by LMI, were presented to outstanding young women on FIRST Chesapeake teams. One scholarship recipient summed up her experience by saying, “FIRST is like that favorite food that your mom makes with vegetables in it. You love it and it’s good for you!”

FIRST Chesapeake also continues to work with its local FIRST program partners to promote the K-12 progression of FIRST programs in DC, Maryland and Virginia. FIRST LEGO League Junior Expos were held at many of the FRC District events, and FIRST programs were promoted at both the Maryland Association of Board Educators and the Virginia Association of School Board Executives conferences in the Fall of 2019.

The Future

FIRST Chesapeake is thrilled to partner with Newport News Shipbuilding to offer the largest FRC FIRST Chesapeake District Championship ever at the Hampton Coliseum in 2020. The FIRST Chesapeake District Championship Sponsored by Newport News Shipbuilding will bring 80 of the best and brightest high school robotics teams to Hampton Roads for 2 ½ days of intense competition. 

Looking ahead, FIRST Chesapeake announces the following additions to the 2019-2020 season:

  • More employee engagement opportunities for sponsors
  • More on-line workshops for teams
  • Five Town Hall meetings for teams and volunteers in the Fall of 2019
  • 2nd Annual Women in STEM Breakfast
  • New workshop and competition space – more on this later!

Thank you again - donors, volunteers, mentors, teachers - for partnering with FIRST Chesapeake. Together we are building tomorrow’s technology leaders.


Apr 18, 2019

Project Update for STEM Leadership Programs Apr'19

Our FIRST Chesapeake District Championship Event was held this past weekend, and as the 58 teams,  150+ volunteers, and thousands of spectators can attest, it was a wonderful culmination of a fun-filled and exciting season. 

In total we had 128 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams compete this season at seven District events and the District Championship at George Mason University. Total estimated attendance at these events is 47,000 with approximately 100,000 unique live feed views in March and April 2019.

The FRC space theme DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE allowed the students to dream big, and to even meet in person a real-life "star"- Doris Blanchard, former human computer with NASA. 

Our volunteers were asked recently "why they volunteer," and the response has been overwhelming. 

  • "I get to inspire kids"
  • "FIRST got me into college, and now I can give back"
  • "I get to give back to a program that gave me so much"
  • "A volunteer inspired me and I want to do the same thing"
  • FRC taught me EVERYTHING I need to do my job"

Your thoughtful dedication to FIRST programs and teams is helping to make us a better and stronger organization with a bright future. We thank you for your support, we thank you for your service, we thank you for what you do for our future technology leaders in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Doris Blanchard, former "human computer" with NASA
Doris Blanchard, former "human computer" with NASA


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