Who We Are

We are volunteers dedicated to spreading STEM through the use of robotics and engineering, especially to students in the New River Valley and surrounding area of Virginia.

Our History

Franky Marchand, Henry Bass and their families formed the New River Robotics Association in the Fall of 2012 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) in order to support our local robotics teams, and additional STEM outreach in our area. Franky and Henry have been coaching robotics since 2003 and have seen first-hand how much fun it is to ignite a student's passion for science, technology, engineering and math! We come from an engineering background, both by education and our "day jobs."

Our Current Work

We support the Red Beard Pandas, FIRST Tech Challenge Team 4924, as our local robotics team, and the Tuxedo Pandas, for FIRST Global international robotics competitions. Franky and Henry started Team 4924 in 2011, then in the 2012-2013 competition year were blessed to represent Virginia at the FIRST World Championships in St Louis, Missouri. From there, the team went on to win the Virginia Inspire award (top award in FTC) three years, and compete a total of 6 successive times at the World level. During this run, in 2015, Tuxedo Pandas were one of two teams selected to represent the US at the World Robotics Competition, an exhibition tournament held in Beijing, China. Then in 2018, the team competed at the last East Super Regional tournament, distinguishing the Pandas as having competed in all 5 years of the Super Regional event, discontinued in 2019. New River Robotics helps the FIRST Global competition by mentoring international teams and assisting the tournament execution: 2017 in Washington, DC then 2018 in Mexico City, and in Dubai for 2019. In 2019, Franky stepped down as head coach of 4924, allowing Panda-for-Life Ethan Bass to assume head-coach duties. With this change in coaching roles, Ethan promoted a new name: the Red Beard Pandas, focusing on a younger age bracket of FTC competitors while keeping the fantastic reputation and styling of the orginal Pandas.

Our Future and our Partners

New River Robotics Association is looking for ways to help new teams in this area get started. We are delighted to have brought back the FIRST Lego League regional competition to this area, the Roanoke Blacksburg FLL tournament, then in 2018, a Montgomery County FTC tournament, and assisting with the Blacksburg FRC tournament in the Spring. We seek to strengthen mutually supportive relationships with Montgomery County Public Schools and non-profits in the area, such as Let's Code Blacksburg, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Team 401 FRC Copperhead Robotics , and the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council.