In 1999, the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University became the site of the 10th regional for the FIRST Robotics Competition, as a result of a seed grant from NASA. At that time there were only five high schools involved in the program in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, and the closest regional competitions were in Philadelphia and Cape Canaveral.
In 2001, the FIRST LEGO League was introduced to Virginia, followed by the FIRST Tech Challenge in 2005, and the FIRST LEGO League Jr., to complete the FIRST continuum of programs for students in grades K-12.
FIRST’s programs in the region have grown so large that they are administered by four separate organizations, operating as program partners: FIRST Chesapeake (dba as VirginiaFIRST), is responsible for the FIRST Robotics Competition in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as the FIRST Tech Challenge in Virginia. James Madison University operates the VA/DC FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Jr. In Maryland, FIRST LEGO League is operated by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and STEMaction is responsible for FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST LEGO League Jr. in Maryland.
More than 6,700 students in grades 7-12 and 1,400 volunteers are involved in 15+ separate competitions produced by FIRST Chesapeake each year.