Inspiring the next generation of science and technology leaders in Texas.

aka FIRST in Texas   |   San Antonio, TX   |


The FIRST in Texas mission is to build STEM and 21st Century skills in young Texans, to strengthen the school-to-STEM career pipeline and inspire the next generation of innovators. We use robots to teach students to complete relevant, challenging projects with budget limitation and firm deadlines, in a team environment. Our hands-on, mentor-based program provides a safe environment for students to explore engineering, coding, and real-world business challenges.

Ruling year info


Executive Director/President

Mr Jason Arms

Main address

2186 Jackson Keller Rd Suite 2132

San Antonio, TX 78213 USA

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Formerly known as

FIRST in Texas



NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

STEM workers are in fierce demand. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM professions will expand 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations between 2010 and 2020. (“STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future,” A Report by the Joint Economic Committee Chairman’s Staff Senator Bob Casey, Chairman, April 2012, Today, the fields of science, engineering, technology and math are integrated and critical to everyday living. These fields lead the way in health, innovation, business ingenuity, global competitiveness, national security and technological advances. Per a 2017 WalletHub study, “… STEM careers today comprise some of the most lucrative employment, paying higher salaries and boasting far fewer threats of unemployment compared with non-STEM jobs.” In fact, the annual average wage for all STEM positions collectively is

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

FIRST® Lego League Jr.

It’s never too early to discover STEM. FIRST LEGO League Jr.* is designed to introduce STEM concepts to kids ages 6 to 10 while exciting them through a brand they know and love − LEGO®.

Guided by adult coaches and FIRST® Core Values, students build models using LEGO® Education WeDo 2.0 and create Show Me posters to present what they learned. The program focuses on building interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through a real-world challenge – to be solved by research, critical thinking, and imagination.

* An alliance between FIRST and the LEGO Group

Interested in FIRST LEGO League Jr. outside the United States and Canada? Learn more at

FIRST LEGO League Jr. Discovery Edition (grades PreK-1)
FIRST LEGO League Jr. Discovery Edition is a playful introductory STEM program for teams of children (grades PreK-1), that ignites their natural curiosity and builds their habits of learning. This pilot edition of the FIRST LEGO League Jr. program is offered in the classroom setting.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

When students are engaged in hands-on STEM experiences, they build confidence, grow their knowledge and develop habits of learning. When adults coach these students, they encourage them to try, fail, and try again, while connecting STEM concepts to real-world examples.

FIRST® LEGO® League is the most accessible, guided, global robotics competition, helping students and teachers to build a better future together. The program is built around theme-based Challenges to engage children ages 9 to 16* in research, problem solving, coding, and engineering. The foundation of the program is the FIRST® Core Values, which emphasize teamwork, discovery, and innovation. Students emerge more confident, excited, and equipped with the skills they need in a changing workforce.

FIRST LEGO League is an alliance between FIRST and the LEGO® Group
*Ages 9-14 in the U.S. and Canada. Ages vary by country.

Interested in FIRST LEGO League outside United States and Canada? Learn more at

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

It’s way more than building robots. FIRST Tech Challenge teams (up to 15 team members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.

Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team.

The robot kit is reusable from year to year and can be coded using a variety of levels of Java-based programming. Teams design and build robots, raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach to earn specific awards. Participants are eligible to apply for $80M+ in college scholarships.

Each season concludes with regional championship events and an exciting FIRST Championship.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Combining the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. We call FIRST Robotics Competition the ultimate Sport for the Mind. High-school student participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”

Under strict rules, limited time and resources, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of students showing interest in topics related to STEM

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Number of students who are more interested in STEM jobs after participating in FIRST robotics programs

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Working closely with national affiliate FIRST® (, FIRST® in Texas supports FIRST®Robotics teams and events across Texas in six (6) regions, inspiring young people, especially underrepresented young people, to be science and technology leaders.

FIRST® is the only evidence-based robotics STEM education program in America ( Ten (10) years of rigorous, scientifically-based evaluation research demonstrate students who participate in FIRST® are:
• 2X more likely to major in science or engineering in college,
• 88-91% are more interested in going to college, and
• 33% of girl end up majoring in engineering.

Students/teams typically meet afterschool with “coaches" and mentors who guide them in fun TEKS-aligned curriculum ( STEM and robotics educational programs:
• FIRST® Lego League Jr. for grades K-4 - captures young curiosity by exploring real-world scientific challenges, learning teamwork, and working with motorized LEGO® elements.
• FIRST® Lego League for grades 4-8 - youth research real-world engineering challenges, develop a solution and compete with LEGO®-based robots of their own design.
• FIRST® Tech Challenge for grades 7-12 - Teams of middle and high school-aged students are challenged to design, build and program a robot to play a floor game against other teams' creations.
• FIRST® Robotics Competition for grades 9-12 - teams compete head to head on a special playing field with robots they have designed, built and programmed.
• In 2015 FIRST® in Texas joined the UIL robotics pilot program.

FIRST® in Texas has 288 FIRST®LEGO League Junior teams, 1,243 FIRST®LEGO League teams, 460 FIRST®Tech Challenge teams, and 156 FIRST®Robotics Competition teams (3,900 total youth).

The FIRST® in Texas goal is to substantially strengthen the school-to-career pipeline through which young students are inspired to explore opportunities in science and technology to provide economic stability and sustainability for their future, and to foster the next generation of science, innovation and technology leaders for Texas.

FIRST® in Texas substantially strengthens the school-to-career pipeline by inspiring young students to explore opportunities in science and technology, as a pathway to economic stability and sustainability for their future - fostering the next generation of science, innovation and technology leaders for Texas. To achieve this, FIRST® in Texas:
• Promotes the spirit of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship,
• Helps today's youth acquire the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the technologically-driven global economy,
• Fosters well-rounded life capabilities: respect, communication, leadership, integrity, sportsmanship, team-work, responsibility, self-confidence and self-esteem,
• Encourages students (ages 6-18) to pursue advanced studies in engineering and technology at the college, graduate and post-graduate levels leading to careers in related technical fields, and
• Nurtures Gracious Professionalism™ and Coopertition™ - FIRST®'s core values encouraging participants to do their best work while working together to achieve a common goal (

The FIRST® program and competition structure are uniquely suited to fill these objectives by:
• Engaging youth in exciting team-based, mentor-based programs that build STEM skills both during the academic school year as well as during the off season,
• Providing students with outside volunteer professional and industry mentors, coaches and role models,
• Generating the excitement, recognition, and structure that goes with youth sport activities,
• Providing recognition for teams achievement with an awards program, of which the most prestigious is for achievement far beyond winning the annual team games,
• Designing games that encourage Gracious Professionalism™ via Coopertition™ - among FIRST® teams,
• Embracing a broad diversity in FIRST® participants by encouraging students who are minorities, females, and/or the underserved to become involved, and
• Including community, school and family in the recognition and celebration of FIRST® Region students'/youths' STEM achievements.

According to FIRST founder Dean Kamen, "FIRST is the only sport where every kid can turn pro."

Being a part of FIRST® is about more than just building a robot. It is a hands-on, mentor-based program by design that allows for a safe environment to explore engineering, design, fabrication, programming (technical), as well as the business side of developing a start-up (business models/plans, marketing plans, presentations, communication, outreach) - the soft skills. It is solving a real-world problem with too little time, too little money and too little resources – just like real life!

FIRST® in Texas has been at the apex of robotics education and competitions since its creation, and we have successfully planned and executed programming and competitions for the past ten years. Furthermore, FIRST® in Texas is an evidence-based program that is highly recognized and highly regarded in the industry of STEM and robotics education. FIRST in Texas is recognized by the University Interscholastic League (UIL) as an education program and students can letter in FIRST robotics. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, FIRST® in Texas competitions serve as official qualifiers for UIL competitions. Robotics team's performance in those qualifiers determine advancement to the UIL State Championships.

There are other robotics programs, but none have the infrastructure and recognition of FIRST®, and none but FIRST® are evidence-based. The science behind FIRST is worth noting. FIRST contracted with the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management in 2011 to conduct a multi-year longitudinal study of FIRST’s middle and high school programs. The goal of the study, building on more than a decade of short-term evaluation studies by Brandeis University and others, was to document the longer-term impacts of FIRST’s programs on participating youth and to do so through a design that met the standards for rigorous, scientifically-based evaluation research. Key findings were related to increased interest in STEM-related study – especially for girls, minorities and low-SES; increased gains with more than one-year engagement with FIRST; and greater interest in majoring in STEM topics in college.

The updated study results at 60 months demonstrate significant gains in STEM and 21st Century skills by students when compared with non-participating peers, may be viewed here,

Another unique aspect of FIRST in Texas is its alumni program. Students involved with FIRST in Texas tend to stay involved because of the many benefits offered, like access to scholarships and the professional and social connections.

FIRST® (national affiliate) was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen.  FIRST® in Texas' was founded in 2010. As a grant recipient of TWC since our founding in 2010, and with the addition of corporate grants over the years, FIRST in Texas has supported underfunded new and existing FIRST teams with more than $7 million. Over the past 9 years, FIRST in Texas has collaborated with Texas high schools and organizers to help develop and support 850 new FIRST teams and support 1,472 existing FIRST teams in Texas with Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) funds, directly supporting over 45,000 students.

In 2019-2020, TWC funds supported 20 new FIRST Robotics Competition teams ($100,000 total in awarded funds), 150 new FIRST Tech Challenge teams ($198,250 total in awarded funds), 100 existing FIRST Robotics Competition teams ($100,000 total in awarded funds), and 200 existing FIRST Tech Challenge teams ($105,000 total in awarded funds). The awarded funds were used to cover teams’ national and local registration fees and to purchase approved equipment and materials from approved vendors,In total, 6,332 students participating in FIRST in Texas were supported through funding from the TWC. Of students supported through TWC funds:
• 44 were homeschool participants,
• Over 33% were girls, and
• 163 students attended school on a military base.
• Over 55% of those students attend Title 1 schools,
• 55% qualified for free or reduced lunch,
• 74% were students of color (51% Hispanic, 6% Black, 16% Asian, <1% Native American), and
• 6% were students with one more disabilities.

In 2019-2020, FIRST in Texas also supported an additional 254 teams with over $100,000 in funds from Dell, Qualcomm, ARM, and others.

During the 2019-2020 season, FIRST in Texas has served over 36,174 students and 22,000 mentors, coaches and volunteers participating in 3,297 teams in nearly 250 Texas school districts/charter schools and hundreds of community organizations and groups, private schools, and home school groups in in seven (7) FIRST in Texas Areas:

Alamo Area: 581 teams, 6292 students
Central Area: 361 teams, 3858 students
East Area: 787 teams, 8420 students
North Area: 913 teams, 9829 students
Panhandle Area: 153 teams, 2027 students
South Area: 411 teams, 4701 students
West Area: 98 teams, 1133 students

FIRST® in Texas is proud to have the support of leading technology and governmental organizations in Texas (NASA, Dell, Phillips 66, Flowserve, National Instruments, Bechtel, Applied Materials, Toyota, Lockheed Martin, Texas Workforce Commission & more). Our partners have a vested interest in making inspirational STEM programming more accessible to Texas students because they know how influential hands-on learning experiences are when it comes time for students to make college and career decisions.



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 10/12/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr Eric VanGemeren


Term: 2021 - 2024

Steve Schaffer

Advisor, Investor, Entrepreneur, STEM Advocate

Len Rucinski


Cindy Stong

Retired, Boeing

Rich Wells

Dow Chemical

Jeff Fleece

Baker Hughes

Eric vanGemeren


Stephanie Breyer


Shawn Preston


Kazique Prince


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/19/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


No data

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/19/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.