FIRST in Israel

My name is Yarden Saad I am a mentor on team 3339 BumbleB from Israel, alumni of the team and involved in FIRST for the last 7 years. I am studying Mechanhical Enginnering at The Technion.

How big is FIRST in Israel

FIRST was founded in Israel 11 years ago in partnership with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (Israel’s leading institution in engineering studies) and has a strong base here in Israel with 834 teams in 2015 season;

  • FRC – 55 teams and 3 competitions: Week 0, Regional, Off-Season.
  • FLL –  400 teams and 15 regional competitions, 2 national competitions.
  • Jr.FLL – 379 teams and 20 festivals.
Jr. FLL Expo

Next year Israel is going to have more than 1000 teams and will be launching the FTC program with 20 teams pilot. The Ministry of Education in Israel is very suppurtive and involved in FIRST Israel.

Israel is represented in the Championship with 6 FRC teams and 1-2 FLL teams every year which is about 300 students, mentors and parents going to St. Louis(there are even volunteers from Israel at the Championship).

What are the challenges that a team outside the United States deal with to create a robot?

I can speak only for teams in Israel which is probably different from most teams outside the United States because most teams are in America (Canada, Mexico, Brazil..). You may be surprised but we don’t see a major disadvantage to the teams in Israel. One disadvantage, in my opinion, is that we are geographically distanced from the FIRST world. Our build time during build season usually takes “longer”, it doesn’t mean that our build season is longer but for example, this year as most teams usually complete their drivetrain design by week 1 and build it by week 2 or 3, we are very depend on the supply of FIRST products that were delivered to us in week 4 for the first time even though we ordered in week 1, FIRST products are the products you can’t buy in other suppliers than AndyMark, Vex, Banebots (motors, electronics…). The Israeli teams are used to this and are very strong at parts swap between teams – Coopertition :). Another distadvantage is the cost of the parts , shipping to Israel from the United States is not cheap, the actual cost in Israel is about 40% higher including shipping and taxes.

Israeli teams orders from AndyMark

What does BumbleB do to promote FIRST?

Team BumbleB is based in the only high school in a small city named Kfar Yona (about 20,000 citizens). The team has changed our city by making FIRST the flagship of our community with: 10 Jr.FLL teams, 3 FLL teams, hosting an FLL regional competition, volunteering at community events, volunteering in 2 Autistic hostels, and mentoring an FRC team from our neighbour city.

FLL Regional Competition hosted by team BumbleB

This year when the team went to the FIRST Championship, our mayor decided to come, It was a great honor for the team. When the championship ended the mayor took the team to a talk and told us that this experience at the championship changed his life and he will be more committed to the FIRST programs in our city.

Effi Dery the Mayor of Kfar-Yona (team 3339 home) with Shirly Segal (team 3339 mentor) and Dean Kamen at the Championship

Reflections on the Israel Regional

I couldn’t write only on the regional competition itself so I will write about the whole experience of a competition season in Israel.

As Israel is not big enough (in terms of the number of teams in FRC, and maybe money but I am not sure) to host more than one regional competition, the Israeli community and FIRST Israel found some ways to create more events that will raise the competition level and will try to make the FIRST experience closer to the multiple regional/district season in the United States(Israeli teams usually end their competition season after 1 regional competition – the Israeli one).

This year, FIRST Israel decided to create a week 0 event. It wasn’t a regular week 0 event because it was a few days before week 0, but it was good enough for the first time with more than 40 teams competing and learning.

Week 0 Event

For at least the last 6 years Israeli teams that had a practice bot were invited to team 1690 to compete a full night, at their PreRegional competition. The practice field is usually built by the teams who are coming.

Israel Regional is probably one of the biggest regionals. The regional is held in the biggest venue in Israel. FIRST Israel aim to copy the FIRST Championship experience by having the progression of programs in one venue. This year, 2 FLL National Championships and Jr.FLL expo were held during the FRC Regional Competition.

Israel Regional

The Israeli competition season includes an Off-Season event organized by FIRST Israel. The Off-Season occurs usually at the the start of the school year (September/October) in order to help teams recruit students by inviting them to the competition. It became from a competition “just for fun” to a competition with a competitive level that would not ashame the regional competition with more teams attending every year. The Off-Season has expanded in last years into a 2 day format.

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