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Jan. 6, 2000

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, CA

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 650/604-9000

e-mail: jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov


RELEASE: 00-01AR

NASA TO BROADCAST ROBOT CONTEST VIA SATELLITE AND THE WEB

Robots will compete during a demonstration that NASA will broadcast via satellite Saturday, Jan. 8, 12:20 – 1:30 p.m. EST. The staged robot contest is part of kick-off ceremony leading to student robotics competitions across the country. Representatives of 379 high school robotics teams will attend the ceremony at the Center of New Hampshire, Holiday Inn, 700 Elm St., Manchester, NH.

The challenge for students from each of the competing schools is to design a robot to accomplish a series of tasks both quickly and efficiently in the six weeks following the kickoff ceremony. The robots are then allowed to compete in arena settings to determine winners during regional contests.

"The idea here is to involve students in hands-on activities to turn them on to science and math," said Tom Dyson, Deputy Robotics Education Manager at NASA's Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, CA. "Some of these students may go on to help NASA engage in bold new missions of exploration of our Solar System."

NASA will broadcast the ceremony and robot demonstration from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST via satellite on GE-2, transponder 9C, at 85 degrees west longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz. NASA will also "webcast" the event on the Internet at http://robotics.nasa.gov

Detailed requirements of the robotic games are carefully guarded until announced at the kickoff event. Following the ceremony, students and their advisors will design and construct remote-control robots in six weeks using identical kits of material.

NASA and the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) of Manchester, NH, a non-profit corporation, sponsor the nationwide annual robot contests. Each year FIRST presents a game "problem" and identical parts kits to each team. Advisors are often professional engineers from private industry, government and universities.

Students must ship their robots to a storage company and contestants will not see them again until the regional contests take place.

Students will also organize marketing, public relations, fund raising and management groups to compete for the award winning solution. Each year the competition is different, so returning teams always have a new challenge. FIRST's website is at: http://www.usfirst.org/

About 100 NASA-sponsored high school representatives will attend the kickoff. More than half of these participants will come from disadvantaged schools as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. NASA provided $480,000 in grants to 80 high schools. Each winning school received a $5,000 credit towards registration fees. The grants also provided about $1,000 to each winning school for lodging as well as travel to the national robotics games "kickoff" ceremony.

NASA awarded grants to the schools in four of FIRST's ten regions. The four NASA regions include the NASA Langley/Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Region, Southeast Region, the Lone Star Region and the NASA Ames Region.

The Ames region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In this region student-made robots will "clash" in competitions to be held March 30 - April 1, 2000, at San Jose State University Event Center, San Jose, CA.

The NASA-sponsored Southeast regional games will take place at Kennedy Space Center, FL, March 9-11, 2000. The Lone Star games will be at the Astro Arena, Houston, TX, from March 16-18, 2000, and are sponsored by NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, will sponsor the Langley/VCU Regional games Mar 16-18, 2000, at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Regional winners may also compete in the national championship robotic games April 6 - 8, 2000, at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center, Orlando, FL. The national games require an additional registration fee. FIRST was started in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to persuade American youth that engineering and technology are exciting fields. The annual robotics competition is patterned after Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Woodie Flowers' engineering design course.

For more information, contact Tom Dyson, at 650/604-6601, or Joseph Hering at 650/604-2008.

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