There are four different FIRST programs for varying grade levels.
The FIRST LEGO League Jr. for grades K-4. It is the youngest level. Teams are given a real-world scientific problem to learn about. They then create a model and a poster to show what they've learned.
The teams build their model out of LEGO WeDo 2.0 sets and other LEGO pieces. Teams then show off their findings at expos with other teams. The cost is about $300* for registration, parts, and event participation. Registration opens, and the challenge is released on August 1st. Events take place from October to June.
The next step up is the FIRST LEGO League for grades 4-8. Teams design, build and program a LEGO Mindstorm-based robot to compete in a game on a table top. Teams also research and develop a solution to a problem related to the game theme. Teams show their findings and compete at tournaments. The first-year cost is about $900* for registration, robot, and challenge set. In following years, the Mindstorm can be reused--lowering the cost. The season starts on August 1st, and tournament season is from November to March. Registration opens in early May and closes in late September.
Next is the FIRST Tech Challenge for grades 7 to 12. Teams design, build, and program a robot to compete in a floor game. Teams are organized in alliances of two in games at tournaments. The average first-year cost is $2,500*, but the robot kit of parts is reusable, which reduces the cost for following years. The season starts in September, and qualifiers start in October.
Lastly is the FIRST Robotics Competition for grades 9 to 12. Teams design, build and program a robot to compete in a field game. Teams are then organized in alliances of three in games at regionals. The average cost is $5,000 - $6,000*. The season starts in January and regionals start in March.
*Costs vary depending on travel, shirts, food, and other optional items
**Costs can be reduced by community sponsors that help fund your efforts or fundraising