3D Systems
is going to the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

For the first time ever, the competition sponsored by America Makes, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Education is providing 3D printers to its contestants.

The 3D printer manufacturer confirmed the order for several hundred Cube 3D printers earlier this week.

"We see a great potential to expand the use of 3D printing in FRC," FRC Director Frank Merrick said. "From the new options in prototyping to on-demand parts, 3D printing opens up a whole new world of possibilities in engineering, and we're very excited to introduce this capability to our young competitors and see what our participating teams come up with."

In return, 3D Systems is donating its entire Cubify software design suite, including Cubify Invent, Cubify Design and Cubify Sculpt, to every team participating in the FRC along with hundreds of cloud printing coupons valued at $100 each.

"We are absolutely passionate about the universal literacy that 3D printing promotes in the classroom, home, lab, and competitive arena and can't wait to see how access to our Cube 3D printers and Cubify design software tools unleashes teams' creativity and enhances their competitiveness," 3D Systems Director of Social Impact Leanne Gluck said.

FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" and is billed as "the varsity sport for the mind."

Approximately 71,250 students in the 9th through 12th grades will compete on 2,850 teams nationally. Regional competitions begin starting Jan. 14th around the country.

Teams of approximately 25 students compete by raising funds, designing a team "brand," and building and programming robots to perform prescribed tasks. To make it more difficult, they do it all under strict rules with limited time and resources. Each team operates under the guidance of professionals, who volunteer their time.