FIRST Robotics launches ‘Destination Deep Space’ for 2019 competitive season

Local and regional teams gather on Jan. 5 for annual kickoff event to detail new competition challenge

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A. Sue Weisler

Last year’s FIRST Robotics competition theme was Stronghold, and teams ‘stormed the castle’ for points at the event. This year, teams learn of the new game at the annual FIRST Robotics Kick Off on Saturday, Jan. 5. Students will then have six weeks to build robots for the regional competition being held in March at RIT.

All systems will be “GO” as FIRST Robotics opens its 2019 season with the FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional Kick Off taking place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at Spencerport High School Auditorium. Thirty-six local teams and more than 600 students, teachers and mentors will gather to participate in morning workshops and then view the kickoff telecast revealing the details of this year’s game. 

This year’s theme is FIRST Launch “Destination: Deep Space” —to commemorate the 50 years since the first moon landing. When the newest competition game is detailed, it will be an opportunity for today’s teenagers to be as inspired by technology’s capabilities as the teenagers from the 1960s, said Glen Pearson, Finger Lakes Regional director.

“The competition themes and technology challenges continue to be both interesting and real tests of students’ abilities to work well together and build robots,” said Pearson. “We can relate to the space race and the impression it made on generations of people; what kind of impression will technology make on this generation of young people? FIRST Robotics encourages them to build the skills they’ll need to answer that question.”

FIRST—For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—also referred to as a “sport for the mind,” began in 1989 to spark interest in science through solving engineering problems in a friendly, yet intense competition. Both FIRST and NASA mark significant milestones in 2019 with the moon landing in 1968 and FIRST celebrating 30 years of competitions.  

The Finger Lakes Regional competition takes place March 13-16, 2019, at the Gordon Field House at Rochester Institute of Technology. Of the 50 teams registered, the majority are from New York with several others from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Also registered are five international teams from Canada, Brazil, Mexico and China.

Winners from regional competitions across the globe participate in the 2019 FIRST Championships April 17-20, 2019, in Houston and April 24-27, 2019, in Detroit. FIRST holds two championships in order to give more teams a chance to qualify and participate, Pearson explained. Each championship will be open to 400 teams that qualify in local competitions. Winners from the Finger Lakes Regional will compete in Detroit.

Both the kickoff on Jan. 5 and the regional event in March are free and open to the public. More information about the Finger Lakes Region FIRST Robotics Competition can be found at and FIRST Robotics will host several space-themed competitions in the next few months: Mission Moon (ages 6-10) Into Orbit (ages 9-14), Rover Ruckus (ages 12-18) and Destination: Deep Space (ages 14-18). Each year more than 500,000 students from 60,000 teams around the world participate in FIRST Robotics programs.