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March 26, 2002

Jonas Diño

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5612 or 650/604-9000

jdino@mail.arc.nasa.gov


RELEASE: 02-32AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media are invited to the FIRST Robotics Silicon Valley Regional competition for students. It will be held March 28-30 at the San Jose State University Event Center, 290 South 7th Street, San Jose, Calif. Students and their mentors will be available for interviews following each round of competition. To reach the Event Center, take Interstate 280 to San Jose and exit north on 7th Street. Broadcasters, please see the end of this release for March 28-30 NASA TV satellite feed information.

STUDENTS TO GET INTO ‘THE ZONE’ AT REGIONAL ROBOTICS COMPETITION

When the buzzer sounds, six weeks of research, development and construction will come down to two minutes of intense competition for hundreds of students and their 130-pound robots.

March 28-30 marks the fourth return of the FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition to the San Jose State Event Center for the Silicon Valley regional competition. Forty-nine teams from California, Hawaii and states in the northwest region, many supported by NASA grants and mentors, will compete for points, pride and the opportunity to participate in the national finals in April at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center in Orlando, Fla.

"Education is key to the success of our country, and robotics competitions represent one of the most powerful ways of getting students motivated," said Mark Leon, project manager for NASA’s Robotics Education Project led by NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "Some of these students may go on to help NASA engage in bold new missions of exploration of our solar system."

"Who would have ever thought a program could combine rigorous education in science and technology with all the redeeming aspects of sports -- celebrating accomplishment, teamwork, accountability and responsibility?" said Jason Morella, FIRST Robotics Regional Director. "The result is the best program I have ever come across for kids -- motivating, exciting, challenging, educational and fun -- all while they acquire skills they will use the rest of their lives."

Each year FIRST develops the robotics competition by supplying a ‘problem’ and identical kits of parts to teams of students. The teams are given six weeks to address the design challenge for competition. In this year's challenge, called ‘Zone Zeal,’ four robots, in alliances of two, will battle to place balls into three goals and move those goals into their teams’ scoring zone. Points are awarded for the final position of the goals, robots and the number of balls within the goals. To add complexity to the game, the winning alliance will be awarded only three times the score of the losing alliance.

In collaboration with FIRST, the NASA Robotics Education Project is hosting eight seven regionals and giving technical and logistical support for nine other regional events around the country. The 2002 competitions are expected to be the largest ever, with more than 20,000 students on over 600 teams from as far away as Brazil, Canada and the United Kingdom. This year, NASA is sponsoring 180 193 student teams.

FIRST was established in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to motivate students to enter careers in math, science and engineering. The organization's mission is to design accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. The competition shows students that the technological fields hold many opportunities and that the basic concepts of science, math, engineering and invention are exciting and interesting. FIRST is in its eleventh year of competition.

NASA participation in the FIRST program is supported through the NASA Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C., and is directed by David Lavery. , Program Executive for Solar System Exploration.

The Ames Robotics Education Project website can be found at:

http://robotics.nasa.gov

A complete list of the regional events, corporate sponsors and other details are included on the FIRST website at:

http://www.usfirst.org

There is no charge for admission to the NASA-FIRST robotics events at the San Jose State University Event Center, but street parking is limited. Competition and award ceremonies will occur Friday and Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PST.

NASA TV will carry coverage of the Silicon Valley Regional FIRST competition on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST. NASA TV is carried by many local cable providers, or you may access the feed directly using the following satellite coordinates: GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz. NASA's Robotics Education Project will webcast the Silicon Valley Regional on Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST at:

http://robotics.nasa.gov/events/webcasts/sv.htm

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