Powering Student Robotics Competitions

Student robotics competitions strive to make engineering as cool for kids as sports are today. These competitions teach core engineering concepts, problem-solving skills, and leadership principles, and are linked directly to growing the number of students who pursue careers in engineering and science. NI plays a critical role in these programs from leadership and volunteering, to providing the technology platform that powers the competitions. NI serves as a long-term, strategic partner for the global organizations that run these competitions. Two of the most significant partnerships are with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) and the World Robot Olympiad (WRO).


NI is a long-term partner to FIRST, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for technology and engineering through robotics competitions. Because NI believes the program has a tremendous impact on the lives of students who participate, the company has made a multimillion-dollar, multiyear commitment to provide technology and support across FIRST programs, from FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) to FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

This year, the roboRIO controller, developed by NI and designed specifically for student robotics competitions, will be used by all FRC teams in competition. NI has also renewed its commitment to provide LabVIEW system design software to all FRC and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams.

Additional FIRST resources


The WRO brings together students from all over the world to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills through challenging and educational robot competitions. Nearly 20,000 students from more than 50 countries participate in this robotics competition. Teams design and build robots that behave like human athletes and compete in regional competitions held in 36 participating countries to qualify for the annual international championship.

In addition to being a global and regional sponsor of WRO, NI has worked with the organization to create an advanced competition, the University Regular Category, based on LabVIEW system design software for students ages 17 and up. Additionally, LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS® software is used as an advanced programming option in the high school category. Over the last couple of years, NI has supported regional teams and events in Costa Rica, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Singapore. More than 100 employees have served as WRO team mentors and judges.

Additional WRO resources

Case Study: Taiwan Wins the College-Level WRO Challenge

Nineteen teams from 16 countries advanced to the WRO championship in the new college-level competition pilot in Jakarta. In this year’s challenge, Mars Colony, students were required to build and program an autonomous robot to perform a series of challenges, and were judged on time, accuracy, and technique. Team STC from Taiwan won the overall competition and Team BYUS won the Innovation Award from NI for exceptional LabVIEW programming and innovative navigation techniques.

Chris Rake

Senior R&D Group Manager, NI

For the last several years, Chris has managed the NI R&D teams responsible for developing hardware used in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Not only does he put his 15+ years of engineering experience into this job, but also his extensive experience working directly with FIRST teams. Chris is an avid FIRST volunteer, having served as a referee, robot inspector, and judge across all levels of the FIRST competition. When he set out to develop a next-generation controller for these teams – the roboRIO - he was intimately familiar with the challenges they faced and was dedicated to providing a controller that would limit barriers to innovation and allow the students to quickly develop real-world engineering skills.

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