FIRST® Tech Challenge
Team Blast May 9, 2024

Hi ,

Here's some updates and news from FIRST® Tech Challenge.

In this week's blast: 

💻 Tech Tip of the Week

✈️ The FIRST® & U.S. Air Force/U.S. Space Force Leadership Experience

🔧 FIRST Dashboard Maintenance May 6-14

🖋️ FIRST Signing Day – May 20

🎓 FIRST Scholarship Program Spotlight

Tech Tip of the Week

Welcome back to the Tech Tip of the Week, this is Part 2 of a 3-part series talking about Wi-Fi bands and why you might be shooting yourself in the foot by not selecting (and designing your robots for) the right Wi-Fi band. In Part 1 we discussed the physical characteristics and properties of frequencies in each of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. In this part we will talk about sources of interference.


You might have realized this, but wireless devices are all the rage. The FCC (in the USA) does not just let any device broadcast on any frequency they want. Instead, there are licensed and unlicensed radio frequency bands. Some frequencies are uniquely licensed to private operators, for example radio stations pay a lot of money to the FCC for the exclusive rights to broadcast on specific frequencies. HAM radio operators undergo special training to be allowed to broadcast on a range of licensed frequencies (some reserved only for HAM radio, some not). The FCC also sets aside frequencies that are unlicensed, meaning the operators themselves (like you, your neighbor, or the kid down the street) do not need training or licensing to operate devices that broadcast on those frequencies. The devices themselves must adhere to specific regulations, but those requirements are generally easy to meet.


Wi-Fi uses portions of the radio frequency spectrum designated as unlicensed - remember that these frequencies are available to the general public to use - so anyone can broadcast signals over it. And boy howdy do they. The 2.4GHz frequency band was opened to the public in 1985, and devices began using that frequency for use. Wi-Fi emerged in the late 1990’s. The 2.4GHz frequency band became extremely crowded, and by devices using different protocols - think about trying to have a conversation with a friend in a crowded room, but some people are talking “normally”, some are using air horns, and others are mimicking nails on a chalkboard. The resource was very narrow, but at least interference was just a matter of distance - though not everyone lives in the deserts of Arizona where they can carry out their conversations in relative peace.


By the turn of the 20th century, the 5GHz space was opened up for unlicensed use. This required different hardware, as the 2.4GHz devices could not simply just start using 5GHz. The 5GHz band was much larger, and it took longer for it to become crowded as more devices came onto the market that could use it. 5GHz already had a bunch of legacy systems that used portions of it, and so the FCC grandfathered those systems and made special regulations for using those frequencies (most manufacturers designed their devices to only use the portions of the 5GHz band with the least rules and regulations). Some uses of 2.4GHz could not move to 5GHz because of the frequency wave propagation behaviors (that we talked about previously, e.g., reflections and wave bending), but many systems like Wi-Fi found the greatest use in 5GHz. The number of channels and the frequency space was much larger in 5GHz, and 5GHz Wi-Fi technologies learned to use the 5GHz space more efficiently and robustly.


When you consider which frequency you should use, you must consider many factors. How obstructed is the path from the radio to the receiver? How crowded might the frequency space be that you are trying to use? Has the event organizer worked with the venue to clear specific channels for robots to use? What advanced technologies might the device you are using be capable of utilizing on specific frequency bands?


In Part 3 of this series, we will talk about how robot design can influence the Wi-Fi frequency you should be using, how to design for the best possible outcome, and how to characterize your optimal band. 


The FIRST® & U.S. Air Force/U.S. Space Force Leadership Experience  


The FIRST & U.S. Air Force/U.S. Space Force Leadership Experience is back for the 12th year.


NEW this year, there will be two Leadership Experiences:

🚀 June 23 - 27, 2024 at the Patrick Space Force Base, Florida

✈️ July 21 - 25, 2024 at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio


This summer, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force will be hosting 24 lucky FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST® Robotics Competition Mentors & Coaches per Leadership Experience (must be a K-12 teacher within the continental USA) for a 3-day, 4-night all-expenses paid trip filled with leadership training, guest speakers, and amazing tours.  


If you’re interested please submit an application at by Friday, May 17, 2024 for consideration. Good luck! 


FIRST Dashboard Maintenance May 6-14


From May 6 through May 14, the FIRST Dashboard will be undergoing scheduled maintenance and Thinkscape access through the FIRST Dashboard will be unavailable. Your team roster will also be unavailable. 


FIRST Signing Day – May 20


Be sure to join the celebration of the 2024 graduating class on May 20. Join FIRST on Instagram by posting and sharing celebration and recognition of the Class of 2024 with the hashtag #firstsigningday.  


FIRST Scholarship Program Spotlight: High School Student Opportunity: TKS - Innovation Program For Teens


FIRST Scholarship Provider TKS, is a top innovation program for students ages 13-17 is recruiting students to join their Fall 2024 Program and is offering a scholarship to FIRST students. Forward this to students to use the scholarship code TKSFIRST when applying to receive one month of tuition if accepted!


In 10 months, students gain real-world work experience with organizations like Google, Meta, Microsoft, the World Economic Forum and Mastercard and understand emerging technologies like AI, Quantum Computing, Synthetic Biology, Regenerative Medicine, Nanotech, and Blockchain. They will be mentored by industry professionals and build projects that can be used to stand out in university and career applications and internships.

Applications are due May 31. 
Send students here to apply! 

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