There are many similarities between these two programs, however there are three significant differences between the programs – team size, costs, and time lines.
Smaller FIRST Tech Challenge teams, 6-8 students, allow most team members to get hands on experience in almost every aspect of designing, building and programming the robot. Returning teams should expect to spend around $1,000 per season with new teams budgeting $2,500 to compete in British Columbia. The FIRST Tech Challenge season starts with Kick-off in September, League matches beginning in November, and goes through to the British Columbia Championship in February. Most teams experience three product development life-cycles in a single season.
Larger FIRST Robotics Competition teams, 10-30 students, encourage students to pick one area to specialize in like robot design, programming, business strategy or team branding. Rookie teams should budget for $15,000 and Veteran teams could spend upwards of $50,000 depending on how many events they advance to. FIRST Robotics Competition Kick-off is in early January which starts a six-week intense robot building season leading to an exciting Championship event in March.
Both programs encourage students to get involved in sponsorship and/or fundraising. All FIRST students have the opportunity to learn about fund raising, public speaking, team building and leadership.