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April 30, 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: 03-32AR

NASA CHALLENGES STUDENTS TO DESIGN ROBOTIC HELPERS

NASA is helping make robot design a reality for students with the Robotic Helper Design Challenge and Web cast.

On May 1, 2003 at 11:00 a.m. PDT, NASA Quest at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will bring students and NASA experts together in a live Web cast to review student designs intended to help astronauts living and working on the International Space Station. Students will have the opportunity to talk to the engineers working on a robotic helper for astronauts, the Personal Satellite Assistant (PSA).

"Both formal and informal education programs are very important to NASA. This design challenge will help supplement the formal education students receive in the classroom in math, science and technology," said Donald James, NASA Ames’ education director. “Engaging students and inspiring the next generation of explorers is an important NASA priority."

The Robotic Helper Design Challenge is a two-month educational activity sponsored by NASA's Office of Space Flight and the Office of Aerospace Technology's Engineering for Complex Systems program, designed to engage students with real-life engineering and technology. The students participating in the challenge joined the NASA Quest crew in a virtual tour of the International Space Station (ISS) and learned about microgravity through earlier Web casts. NASA experts also have responded to students' questions about their design plans.

"It is important to do educational outreach to reach the students when they are young," said Keith Nicewarner, chief software architect for PSA. "Students are always interested in the cool space and robotics technology. Participating in the challenge is one exciting way I can help to inspire students."

An estimated 2,500 K-12 students in 100 classrooms will participate in the final design challenge Web cast. The students are from 26 states and seven countries including India, Singapore, South Africa and the West Indies.

"This Web cast culminates an activity in which students tackled real world design problems faced by engineers at NASA Ames," said Linda Conrad of the NASA Quest program. "As students interact with NASA experts, they begin to realize that they too could become engineers or scientists."

The inspiration for the design challenge is NASA's prototype Personal Satellite Assistant. The PSA is an astronaut-support device designed to move and operate autonomously or by remote control in the microgravity environment of the space shuttle, the International Space Station or a future space vehicle. The small, spherical robot can monitor the environment, help maintain vehicle life support systems, help an astronaut perform and record tasks, provide a virtual presence for people on the ground, and serve as a communication device with spacecraft systems, ground control and other astronauts.

NASA Quest connects K-12 classrooms with NASA people, research and science via mission-based challenges and explorations supported by NASA scientists in live, interactive Web casts, chats, forums and online publishing of student work. Quest also provides a resource of numerous NASA career role models via a searchable database of biographies and field journals collected over the last eight years.

NASA's Office of Space Flight (OSF) manages the enabling activates and programs to establish a permanent human presence in Earth orbit. OSF activities include launch and orbital services and management of the space shuttle and the International Space Station programs.

NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology's Engineering for Complex Systems program was created to help NASA achieve ultra-high levels of safety and mission success by fundamentally advancing NASA’s system life-cycle approach through the infusion of advanced information technologies.

For more information about NASA Quest and the Robot Helper Design Challenge, visit:

http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/projects/space/robotdesign/

For more information about NASA's Personal Satellite Assistant, visit:

http://ic.arc.nasa.gov/projects/psa/

For more information about NASA's Office of Space Flight, visit:

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/osf/

For more information about NASA Office of Aerospace Technology's Engineering for Complex Systems program, visit:

http://ecs.arc.nasa.gov/

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