Robotics Glossary

Welcome to The Kinetic Knights' Glossary. Browse through to learn more about our robotics program and FIRST as a whole.


If you are familiar with world of social networking, then you will know about the use of “hash tags” on Twitter. Trends in FIRST robotics are tracked using “#omgrobots” as homage to our mutual excitement for all things robotics. If you want to share your robotics stories (in 140 characters or less), try using this fun hash tag.


Matches are played between two alliances each consisting of three robots. The competing alliances are indicated by either red or blue bumpers on their robots.
Alliance Selection
After the qualification rounds, teams will be divided into 8 3-team alliances to compete in the elimination matches. The #1 ranked team from qualifications will be given first choice in the alliance selection. The team may choose to select any team below them in the rankings. Teams may choose to either accept or decline these offers; however, if they decline they may not accept another offer. For example, if #1 picks #3 and #3 declines, then the #2 alliance will not be able to select #3. After #1 makes their first selection, the next highest ranked team remaining in the draft will become the #2 alliance captain, and so on until there are 8 alliances of two teams. At this point, the #8 alliance will have the first pick of the second round, and it will continue this way, until the #1 alliance makes the final selection of the second round. At the conclusion of the alliance selection there will be 8 alliances with three teams each.
Autonomous Period
See "FRC Match"


Build Season
The six weeks following Kick-Off are known as the build season (January to mid-February). During this time, students work with mentors to design and build functional robots to compete in the year’s game. Sleep is sometimes hard to come by during build season. At the end of the six weeks, teams must “bag and tag” their robots, meaning that they stop construction and seal the robot in a plastic bag. The seal may not be broken until the team arrives at their first regional competition.


Chairman's Award

FIRST is about more than building robots and the Chairman'€™s Award is a representation of FIRST'€™s ideals. FRC teams chronicle the work they've done off-field, including community involvement, helping other teams, and promoting science and technology. Teams then write an essay and give a presentation at a Regional competition of their choosing. The winner, announced at the end of the competition, is automatically qualified for the World Championships where they can compete for the Championship Chairman's Award.

Chief Delphi
Chief Delphi (CD) is the foremost online forum in the FIRST robotics community. Mentors, students, and alumni flock to CD to discuss robot designs, ask for assistance, and talk about everything in the world of FIRST and VEX robotics. Be careful or you may suddenly wonder where all of your time has gone.

Although FRC is a competition, winning should never get in the way of competition'€™s real objective: teaching students about science and technology. With this objective in mind, FIRST developed the concept of Coopertition, in which cooperation between teams is just as important as the competition. In Rebound Rumble (2012), teams earned Coopertition points for balancing on a bridge with a robot from the opposing alliance.

Cotton Eyed Joe
A traditional dance of robotics competitions. Every well prepared FRC team will ensure that its students know the steps to this classic dance. In 2013 it will likely be replaced by Gangnam Style as the most over-played dance number.


Dean Kamen
Dean Kamen founded the FIRST organization is 1989 with the goal of promoting science and technology education in the United States. His vision has grown internationally and FIRST is now active is 56 countries, including Canada. Apart from FIRST, Kamen is best-known as the inventor of the Segway.
Dean's List Award

In 2010, Dean Kamen created the Dean's List Award (an intentional play on words) in recognition of high-achieving students in the FIRST community. Each year team mentors may nominate two outstanding members of their FRC team for the award. Two winners are then chosen at each Regional competition, with the winners then competing for the Championship Dean’s List Awards. In 2012, Team 781 member Janelle Taylor won a Dean'€™s List Award at the Waterloo Regional.

District Events
In response to the ever growing numbers of teams in FRC, some areas have switched from the regional system to a district model. In Michigan and the Mid-Atlantic regions, each team will compete in two district events over the course of the season. From these events, the teams are ranked with the top teams being invited to a district championship in the final week of the competition season. The top teams from the district championship are then invited to the FIRST World Championship.


Einstein Field
The winners of each of four divisions at the FIRST World Championship earn a spot in the semifinals on the Einstein Field. As an entire stadium watches on, teams must pass this ultimate test to become World Champions. The Einstein matches will prove triumphant for some and heartbreaking for others, but it will always be thrilling.
Elimination Matches
After alliance selection, the alliances are given a break to gather and discuss strategy before playing elimination matches. In the quarterfinals, the #1 alliance will play the #8 alliance, 2 plays 7, 3 plays 6, and 4 plays 5. Alliances play best 2-out-of-3 matches to determine who advances to the semifinals. When an alliance wins two matches in the quarters, semis, and finals they will be declared the regional champions.
Engineering Inspiration Award
The Engineering Inspiration Award is one of the highest honours in FRC. It is given at regional competitions in recognition of a team’s outstanding efforts to bring science and technology into their school and community. Each winner of this award receives an invitation to the FIRST World Championships.



FIRST, which stands for 'For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology', is the brainchild of Dean Kamen, an American inventor and philanthropist. After recognizing the need for better science and technology education in the United States, Kamen founded FIRST in 1989, using robotics as a means to promote science and technology to today’s youth. Since then FIRST has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 212 000 students participating.

The FIRST Lego League. This is a FIRST program for students in grade 4-8. Students build small robots out of LEGO Mindstorms and program them to complete an array of challenges on the game field.
The FIRST Robotics Competition. This is a FIRST program for students in grades 9-12. This is also the competition that Team 781 competes in every year.
FRC Match

During competitions, teams will compete in 2:15 long games known as matches. Each match features one red and one blue alliance, each with three robots. The match begins with a 15 second 'autonomous or hybrid mode'€ in which teams must operate using pre-programmed instructions. Following the autonomous mode is a two-minute '€œtele-operated period'€ where student drivers can take control of the robot. In the final seconds of the game there is usually an '€œend game'€ in which robots must complete a specialized task to earn bonus points.

The FIRST Tech Challenge. This is a FIRST program for students in grades 9-12, similar to FRC. The difference is that in FTC, students build smaller robots to compete in a game which is different from FRC.


Gracious Professionalism

Woodie Flowers (one of FIRST'€™s founders) recognized that the FIRST community needed a philosophy that reinforced the qualities needed by science and technology professionals. Gracious Professionalism is the golden rule of FIRST and is akin to treating others as you want to be treated. In 2008 and 2009, Team 781 was presented with the Johnson & Johnson Gracious Professionalism award when the students elected to use their own alliance'€™s timeout so that an opposing team would have time to fix their robot. To our team, Gracious Professionalism is often synonymous with being Canadian.


Hall of Fame

Winners of the Championship Chairman's Award are inducted into the FIRST Hall of Fame, and earn an automatic invitation to the World Championship each year.

Hybrid Mode
See "FRC Match"


At the start of each January, FIRST releases the new FRC game for the season at an event known as Kick-Off. Teams watch a brief animation of the game and are given a copy of the rule book for the year.


Mascot Dance
The Mascot Dance has become a tradition at most FRC competitors. At some point during the competition, team mascots gather on the field and lead the fans in a dance (typically YMCA or another well-known dance).


Offensive Power Rating (OPR)

OPR is an approximation of a team's scoring ability. It is often used in the scouting process to rank teams and help determine which teams should be chosen in alliance selections.



The 'pits'€ are an area of the competition venue reserved for robot repairs and construction. Each team is assigned a space where they can store their equipment and make repairs on their robot between matches. Safety glasses and closed-toe shoes must be worn at all times in the pits.


Qualification Matches
Qualification matches are played in order to rank the teams at every robotics competition. Each team is randomly assigned to different alliances for the 9 to 11 match schedule. The teams will have different alliance partners for each match, as well as different opponents.


Regional Competitions
FRC teams register for regional competitions each year. These tournaments typically span a three-day period from Thursday to Saturday. On Thursday, teams arrive and set up their pits and work on their robot before taking part in practice matches. Teams are then randomly assigned to different alliances to play in qualification matches all day Friday and on Saturday morning. Following a series of about 9 to 11 qualification matches, the teams are all ranked before alliance selection around noon on Saturday. After alliance selection, the newly formed alliances will compete in elimination matches to determine the regional winners. The winning alliance is automatically qualified for the FIRST World Championship.

Attending the FIRST World Championship is a truly amazing experience. Unfortunately for some senior students, the Championship is often at the same time as high school proms. In 2007, Team 399, Eagle Robotics started hosting the RoboProm at the World Championships as a fun way for students to show off their formal wear. Team 781 has attended the RoboProm since 2011, and our taste in fashion has gotten worse each time we attend.



Because teams are given the opportunity to choose their alliance for elimination matches, it is important to decide what teams to invite to your alliance. Similar to the scouting of athletes, our students observe other robots throughout the course of the competition to generate a '€œpick list'€ of the teams we would like to choose or be chosen by for the alliance selection.


Team Names and Numbers

When a team registers for FRC they are assigned a team number by FIRST and choose a team name. Prior to our 2002 rookie season, our team was assigned the number '€œ781'€ and the students chose to name the team 'The Kinetic Knights'. In general the team numbers are assigned in numerical order, so lower numbers often correspond with older teams.

Tele-Operated Period
See "FRC Match"


Woodie Flowers
Dr. Woodie Flowers, professor emeritus in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a co-founder FRC. His philosophies for science and technology education have been an integral part of the development of FIRST. The Woodie Flowers Award, in honour of Dr. Flowers, is presented annually to deserving mentors.
Woodie Flowers Award
Although the focus of FIRST is on students, none of it would be possible without the hard work and dedication of our mentors. Our mentors are individuals who have volunteered their time to help students realize the true potential of the FIRST program. In honour of their support, students may nominate one adult mentor for the Woodie Flowers Award, which is presented at Regional competitions.
R4R thumbnail


Our documents can help you set your potential in motion. Click here for more.


Our donors donate their time and money to support our team and the students. Check them out!