On January 5, inventor Dean Kamen launched the 2013 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) season with the kickoff of a new game called Ultimate Ascent before a crowd of 600 people at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., hometown of FIRST Headquarters. Nearly 51,000 high-school students in 81 cities around the world joined the 2013 Kickoff event via live NASA-TV broadcast and webcast.

“FIRST isn’t about competing, it’s about cooperating, and recognizing that if you have the right tools, you’ll be able to make this world a better place for yourself and for the country,” says Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research and Development, and FIRST Founder. “There is no stimulus package that will have as much return as stimulating a bunch of kids to become the workforce of the future, the problem solvers, the creators of the future.”

The 2013 game will be played between two alliances of three teams each. Each alliance competes by trying to score as many flying discs into their goals as possible during the two-minute, 15-second match. Discs scored in higher goals score more points. The match ends with robots attempting to climb up pyramids located near the middle of the field.

Sponsored by NASA and Needham, Mass.-based PTC, the 2013 Kickoff event enabled teams from around the world to come together as a community to share in the excitement of seeing the new game unveiled. Teams from 83 kickoffs in 81 cities across the nation, and in Canada, Israel, and Mexico, among many other locations, watched the proceedings via NASA-TV and were offered workshops and a chance to meet other teams.

John Grunsfeld, Head of Science at NASA, said, “This competition will also be similar in many ways to how we designed, built, and tested the NASA Mars Curiosity Rover now exploring the red planet. NASA looks forward to seeing the innovative solutions you develop and seeing how your creativity might help inspire development of our future spacecraft systems.”

At the kickoff event, FRC teams were shown the playing field and received a parts kit made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC, and a mix of automation components – with no instructions. Working with adult mentors, students will have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season’s engineering challenge. Once these young inventors create a robot, their teams will participate in 77 regional and district competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

Explaining a core value of FIRST called Gracious Professionalism, Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor, said, “Clearly, Gracious Professionalism is contrary to what is promoted by many parts of our culture today. It’s nothing like reality TV, or bullying. It’s not about greed, or ruthless competition. It’s sort of like wise kindness. The gracious part has to do with empathy, helping, sympathy. The professionalism part has to do with knowledge, wisdom, and judgment. The point is that our professional knowledge comes from the brilliance of others. We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, and we owe others a lift. Society simply does not work unless people can trust those who have special knowledge.”

For more information, visit the FIRST website.