[FRC Blog] Skill Building Update: Intro to Programming Module

Posted on the FRC Blog, 10/28/2021: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2021-skill-building-update-intro-to-programming-module

Skill Building Update: Intro to Programming Module

2021 OCT 28 | Written by Libby Simpson, FIRST Director of Education

In my last guest entry for the FIRST ® Robotics Competition blog, I explored the need for building transferable and portable skills for life after high school. FIRST ® alumni have a host of marketable skills and the first step is building the skill. The FIRST Education team has been collaborating with FIRST Robotics Competition program staff, FIRST mentors, industry partners, WPI, and educators to create a learning module to learn the basics of Java programming. This fun module uses the Romi robot platform by Pololu in combination with a Raspberry Pi to teach programming fundamentals using WPILib. With this module students can immediately apply what they’ve learned to running code on the Romi. Because it uses WPILib, these skills can be directly transferred directly to programming the team’s competition robot. Learning in this authentic environment will allow FIRST Robotics Competition teams to learn, apply, and practice before the full-scale team robot is finished. Now the team programming tasks can happen right alongside the robot build!

This module is designed for individual participants to learn about programming at their own pace. The modules contain videos, knowledge checks, and end of lesson projects that make the learning come to life by using the Romi to practice what was learned.

Course Summary

In this self-paced 5 to 9-week course, students will learn a fundamental understanding of Java programming within WPILib and obtain applicable object-oriented programming skills. Students will learn and apply programming concepts in Java while programming a robot to complete challenges presented in each module. Students can collaborate and share knowledge and information with other team members, alumni, and even other teams to help transfer the programming skills learned to their FIRST Robotics Competition team.

Photo credit: Pololu

The modules are designed around project scenarios that connect learning with real-world examples. The overall course project scenario is that students work as software engineering interns in a transportation and logistics company. They are charged with programming a robot that can deliver objects in the warehouse. You can control the robot in some locations, but you do not have the visibility to control it in others. The robot must deliver with precision while providing feedback along the way on the robot’s location, speed, and status.

Needed Materials

  • A computer with wireless access (WPILib is not compatible with Chromebooks)
  • A FIRST Romi robot from Pololu
  • A Raspberry Pi (Model 3B+ or 4)
  • An SD card reader/writer
  • A supply of AA batteries (preferably rechargeable ones as they will save time and money)

Scope and Sequence

The second series of lessons in module 2 will be released in November 2021.

This FIRST Robotics Competition course that includes the Intro to Programing learning module is accessible to Lead Mentors 1 and 2 through Thinkscape on the FIRST Dashboard. Mentors will be able to add students to the course using these instructions. We are very excited to be able to provide this amazing resource to teams throughout the FIRST community!


This is great! I’ll be sure to check the modules out and share with our students. Teaching programming is super difficult, so between the Romi kits and this, it should be much easier.

This is awesome. Really. Thank you FIRST. I feel listened to.

Hmmm - I’m looking on the FIRST Dashboard and can’t seem to find Thinkscape. Anyone else?


My one thought is that it’s because we haven’t paid for this season yet because we are waiting for grant funds to be selected.

Sure would be nice if there were a free, open-source, community-maintained place where FIRST-related curriculum could be hosted…


agreed. I think as a course, something like EdX would be a good place to start.

The dashboard access is only to the two lead mentors, if that is an issue.

I am having trouble getting access via the email invitation from a lead account. I just haven’t received an email from thinkscape, even in spam folder.

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Is this only accessible for FRC lead mentors? I am lead mentor 1 for my FTC team and it is not showing up on my dashboard. I have FTC students that could definitely use this coursework.

Really glad to see FIRST getting these resources to teams!

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Yeah, my programming lead is pretty much jumping up and down saying “yes! Yes! YES!”… But I can’t see the tab. That said, I just set up an account :wink: I need to get our lead mentor to put me as #2

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Ok, so I consulted with our #1 lead mentor and we looked; no button for “Access Thinkscape”. Probably related to someone at FI deleting our tax form :frowning: and our team not being paid up yet. Ugh.

Teams, if you jump in with the Romi course, consider entering our MiniBot Challenge! Last year, we created a New England-based challenge using the Romi chassis and a series of challenges of our design. We ended the season with an Alliance-based tournament in June. We have one more tournament in December, and it’s open to teams from outside New England. Find all of the details at Alliance Antics the Recharge — WPILib
NE FIRST & BAE Systems Mini Bot Challenge- Alliance Antics: The Recharge - YouTube


I’m also a lead mentor and don’t have an access button on my dashboard.

Our funds have not gone through yet either. It would be great to access this module because we’re switching to java for the first time this year and we’re struggling a bit because we just lost our programing mentor. I’ll have to try and see if we can rush the funding a bit so we can get started.

(Hope that’s all it is. I would hate to have to wait for funding only to find out I still can’t access it. Does anyone out there have their funding in and still not able to access it?)

Has anyone been able to successfully get into the module yet? Any thoughts on the contents?

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Same here I am a lead and its not showing up on the Dashboard

I deleted my first invitation and re-applied. This time I did get an email, but followed the link to a 403 error. Then I reset the password using my email, and received a reset email. Logging in after that, I was taken to a thinkscape page that had a lone course for FRC LabVIEW from 2018 with NI branding. I don’t recall it, but I’d completed most of the module. It may be worth adding with a different email to see where I get to, so I’ll update if I find anything interesting.

TL;DR. I haven’t.


I did quickly skim through it. Seemed reasonable. Most of the early stuff pulls directly from frc-docs, which I think is a good thing. I think it was fine as an entry to Romi programming, but as mentioned elsewhere I would really like to see more similar content with simulation in mind as a “next step”.

I don’t understand why this isn’t public and is behind the lead mentor 1/2 login and all of the hassle that accompanies it.


Exactly. How are students supposed to access it?


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