My son started high school this year and joined the robotics club and I became a half-assed mentor to the team. We've been to a couple of regionals now and they are a lot of fun. A surprisingly intense 3 days-
The first day you arrive, unpack the robot (after bag inspection- there's a strictly enforced 6 week build period at the conclusion of which you have to bag the robot and put a security tag on it, though you can keep up to 30 pounds separate to continue work on), setup your pit area in a 10' X 10' square (some teams have very elaborate pits), ready your robot for competition and pass final inspection (extensive- robot weight (minus battery) 120 lbs. or less, size constraints, bumper constraints, thorough electrical and hazard inspection) and do any practice rounds you can get in. All the while folks are coming by to see your robot and talk to you about it and we're scouting everyone else.
The next day and a half are qualification matches for the finals- you're randomly teamed with 2 other teams on either a red or blue alliance for each round and you have at it. About 10 rounds. In the qualification rounds you get 2 qualification points for being on the winning alliance plus there's 2 more qualification points available to both alliances if someone from your alliance and the opposing alliance manage to balance together on the "coopertition bridge". After the qualification matches the top seeded bots get to choose 2 other bots for their alliance to go through the playoffs with. 8 teams are formed and this is where the scouting comes into play, you want to pick team members that complement you bot.
The playoffs are best of 3 matches and are fast and intense- not much time for repairs in between matches. We made it to semi-finals in one regional, only the quarter finals in the other, very exciting. The winning alliance is crowned at the end, but that's not the top prize- top prize is the Chairman's award which involves your total involvement with FIRST and community outreach and involvement. Of course lots of other awards are given, various judging awards and what not, everyone has a blast. I'm looking forward to next year.
-Mentor Team 832 OSCAR