NI and FIRST put real-world engineering tools in student hands

30 April 2013

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NI and FIRST put real-world engineering tools in student hands FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and National Instruments has announced they are extending their technology partnership through 2019 with the shared goal of creating more scientists and engineers. FIRST engages young people in exciting mentor-based robotics programmes that celebrate science and technology, inspire innovation and foster self-confidence and communication skills. NI provides the real-world engineering tools that power these programs.

This phase of the technology partnership centres around the creation of a next-generation embedded robotics control platform code-named “Athena.” Athena is a super-rugged, reconfigurable controller that, when paired with NI LabVIEW system design software, makes it possible for FIRST teams to design real systems faster than ever. Students will use Athena starting in the 2015 season of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

Starting with Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL), which is the entry-level programme in a Progression of Programs at FIRST for youths ages 6–18, students use tools powered by LabVIEW to intuitively learn embedded control and robotics programming concepts. As students advance through these four robotics programmes, access to tools that scale with each skill level is essential to their success. Athena, which is programmable with LabVIEW, gives high school students experience with the same tools they will use throughout college and in their science and engineering careers.

Ray Almgren, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at National Instruments, says: “We’re excited to extend our technology partnership with FIRST to continue pursuing the shared goal of creating more scientists and engineers. We believe the combination of LabVIEW and this next-generation controller will continue making programming more accessible to all students.”

Through a donation from NI, FIRST will provide these next-generation robotics systems to participating teams starting in 2015. This donation provides hardware for all existing and “rookie” FRC teams over a 5-year period. NI also currently provides LabVIEW software to all FRC teams. Students in FIRST will use the same hardware and software platform professional engineers currently use to create applications in virtually every industry, from testing smartphones to launching spaceships.

Steve Chism, Vice President of Programs at FIRST, says: “Support from partners like National Instruments is helping FIRST provide hands-on learning experiences that mirror what students will do in their future careers. We’re creating a generation of scientists and engineers ready to confidently take on the challenges facing our world.”

Visit for more information on all FIRST programmes, and go to to learn about more innovative LabVIEW applications.

National Instruments Corporation (UK) Ltdvisit website
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