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April 4, 2003

Jonas Diño
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5612 or 650/604-9000
E-mail: jonas.dino@nasa.gov


RELEASE: 03-21AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media representatives are invited to observe the northern California botball tournament. The competition will be held Saturday, April 5, at the Leavey Center on the campus of Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, Calif. Team practice rounds start at 8:00 a.m. PST, with competition rounds beginning at 10:00 a.m. PST. Student programmers and their mentors will be available for interviews following each round of competition. To reach Santa Clara University, exit interstate 880 north from interstate 280, exit on The Alameda northbound. The Alameda becomes El Camino Real. Admission is free.

MINIATURE ROBOTS TO SHOWCASE SKILLS OF FUTURE PROGRAMMERS

No remote controls will be allowed as hundreds of students and their autonomous robots compete at Santa Clara University on Saturday, April 5, 2003.

The sixth annual KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (KIPR) northern California botball tournament will highlight the programming and engineering skills of 29 high school and middle school robotics teams from northern California. The botball robotics program was developed to give students an opportunity to apply science, math, engineering and technology concepts in a stimulating and hands-on environment. The botball tournament is the culminating event of six weeks of design, engineering and programming of the robots by the students.

“A major focus in the NASA mission is to inspire the next generation of explorers,” said Terry Grant, deputy director of the Robotics Education Project at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California’s Silicon Valley. “So we are making educational programs integral to every major NASA activity. We think the hands-on experience with building and testing autonomous robots, as is required for the botball competitions, is key to learning the technology and inspiring the creative thinking we will need in future scientists and engineers. Botball has proven appeal to students and teachers across the country and in a wide range of educational settings.”

Each year, teams are introduced to a new robotics competition and given identical kits of mechanical parts to build their robots. With the help of mentors from NASA, industry and academia, student teams are free to explore the infinite possibilities in design and strategy to build their robots. Working side-by-side with professional engineers and technicians, the students have a chance to see what real-world engineering is all about while developing other valuable skills such as teamwork, time- and project-management and leadership.

To make their robots ‘come alive,’ students program their robots using interactive C, a software language that originally was developed for a Massachusetts Institute of Technology autonomous robot design contest. The software’s interactivity and ease of use made it the preferred means of programming botball robots.

NASA is a KISS Institute for Practical Robotics National Partner in Education, providing tournament logistics and educational support, mentors and team scholarships. NASA’s Robotics Education Project is supported through the NASA Office of Space Science, Washington, and is directed by David Lavery, program executive for Solar System Exploration. The Robotics Education Project supports a variety of educational initiatives, including FIRST Robotics, which uses robotics to motivate students to continue their education, especially in the areas of math, science and technology.

Founded in 1993, the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics is a private, non-profit community-based organization located in Norman, Okla., that provides improved learning and skills development through the application of technology, particularly robotics for students.

The NASA Robotics Education Project Web site can be found at:

http://robotics.nasa.gov

More information about the tournament, regional competitions and KIPR can be found at:

http://www.kipr.org/

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