This weekend, 48 high school robotics teams from eight states will compete at the March 23-25 FIRST Robotics Smoky Mountains Regional, to be held at Thompson-Boling Arena on The University of Tennessee campus. Winners will earn an invitation to compete against 600 of the best international teams at the FIRST Robotics Championship in Houston in April. The FIRST Robotics Smoky Mountains Regional is a free, family-friendly event that is open to the public.


In FIRST Robotics, 3,400 teams of high school-age students in 24 countries receive game rules, robot guidelines, and a parts kit in early January, then have six weeks to design, build, and program a robot that can accomplish a series of tasks that earn points. In the 2017 STEAMWORKS game, robots must pick up and shoot fuel (waffle balls) into a narrow boiler, hang oversized gears onto pegs which human players must lift and place on rotors that turn, and within the last 30 seconds, robots must climb a rope.


FIRST is more than robots. Students must design, build, and compete with a robot built with guidance from mentors, and learn to plan, market, negotiate, and promote their team. At regionals, teams compete for awards recognizing engineering, industrial design, safety, controls, media, quality, entrepreneurship, and creativity.


FIRST Smoky Mountains Regional

Thursday, March 23 is a practice day in which robots are inspected to ensure they meet specifications, and then teams compete so students and volunteers become familiar with the game and field. Friday, March 24 features opening ceremonies and a full day of qualification matches. Matches will continue through Saturday morning, March 25. The eight highest ranked teams then will select two partners to compete in a series of playoff matches to determine a champion.  A schedule can be found at


The public is welcome to tour Pit Row where teams maintain, prep, and repair robots between matches and talk to students about their teams and robots. And of course, they can watch matches throughout the day. Area residents may want to cheer on regional teams, including:


Knox County Teams

1466 – Webb Robotics, Webb School of Knoxville

2393 – Robotichauns, Knoxville Catholic High School

3144 – The Flagship, Farragut High School

3824 – HVA RoHAWKtics, Hardin Valley Academy

3966 – L&N STEMpunks, L&N STEM Academy

4576 – Red Nation Robotics, Halls High School

5504 – Wolfbots, Career Magnet Academy

5744 – Broken Gear,  Austin-East Magnet Academy

6517 – Team FTW, South-Doyle High School (new “rookie” team)

6654 – Robobcatics, Knoxville Central High School (new “rookie” team)


Neighboring Counties

4264 – Fellowship of the Springs, Rogersville, TN

4265 – Secret City Wildbots, Oak Ridge High School

4462 – Full Metal Jackets, Kingston, TN

4504 – B.C. Robotics, Maryville, TN

4630 – Robodragons, Clinton, TN


In addition to competing this weekend, the HVA team is hosting 12 German exchange students as part of a unique FIRST-based GAPP German Exchange program in which German students visit and learn about FIRST Robotics and the U.S. during a three-week visit. In June, HVA students then travel to Germany and help with the German school’s robotics team. This educational exchange program is being piloted by HVA and is the first program of its kind.