Robots from Antelope Valley High team 2339 and Lancaster High team 399 balance on the tilting bridge at the conclusion of a match at the San Diego FIRST regional competition. (Contributed) › View Larger Image
Tehachapi High's "Vesuvius" robot (585) scoots across the court at the FIRST Robotics regional competition in Las Vegas April 6. (Contributed) › View Larger Image
Controllers Jackie Patton and John Graham of the Lancaster High Eagle Robotics team's "X-1" robot are a study in concentration as they guide their robot during a match at a prior regional competition in San Diego. (NASA / David Voracek) › View Larger Image
Lancaster High's "X-1" robot scores another dunk at the previous San Diego FIRST regional games. (NASA / David Voracek) › View Larger Image
Former NASA astronaut and current NASA education chief Leland Melvin, flanked by a life-size model of the Buzz LIghtyear figure, enthralls a trio of youngsters at the FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis. (Contributed) › View Larger Image Four area high school robotics teams that are co-sponsored by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center will be competing at the FIRST Robotics championship competition the weekend of April 25-28 in St. Louis. The competition features more than 400 high school robotics teams from around the world.
Teams from Lancaster and Antelope Valley high schools in Lancaster, Calif., and Tehachapi High School in Tehachapi, Calif., will be competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition championships. The Cyber Penguins team 585 from Tehachapi High, the Eagle Robotics team 399 from Lancaster High and Antelope Valley High's Team 2339, the Robolopes, will all be competing in the FTC championships' Galileo division, so named for the famed Italian astronomer and scientist.
The Lancaster and Tehachapi teams have been to the championships several times in recent years, but the trip to St. Louis in 2012 is a first for the Antelope Valley Robolopes. Several present and retired NASA Dryden engineers serve as volunteer mentors for the teams, along with mentors from other area aerospace and technical entities. NASA Dryden engineer David Voracek, mentor for the Lancaster High Eagle Robotics team, will serve as game announcer for the Galileo division matches.
This year's FIRST Robotics Competition "Rebound Rumble" game requires the robots to pick up and shoot basketballs into hoops at either end of the court in both autonomous and remote-controlled mode, as well as attempt to balance one or two robots on a tilting bridge on the sides of the court, the most difficult task of the game.
The PHI Robotics Alpha team 452 of Lancaster, also co-sponsored by NASA Dryden and mentored by NASA Dryden aerospace engineer Joe Pahle, will be competing in a separate FIRST Tech Challenge championship that was scheduled to begin April 26 at the same facility in St. Louis. Team 452 will be competing in the FTC's Franklin Division.
The 2012 FIRST Tech Challenge game, "Bowled Over," requires the smaller robots to gather racquet balls from the playing field and placing them into plastic crates, which they then stack to rack up points. Bonus points are awarded for capturing balls with magnets inside and for pushing a six-pound bowling ball to a designated area in the closing seconds of each match.
The PHI team tested out some modifications to their robot's arms April 21 at a practice scrimmage in Mojave, Calif., and believe the modifications will help them score additional points in the matches at the FTC championships. Likewise, the three area teams in the FRC championships developed and tested upgrades to their robotics in recent weeks after they were tested – and occasionally found wanting – at regional competitions in March and earlier in April.
The championship qualifying and elimination rounds will be telecast on NASA Television's Education Channel on both Friday and Saturday, and the finals will also be telecast on NASA TV's Public Channel on Saturday. NASA Television is available in high definition on Time Warner Cable Ch. 234, Direct TV Ch. 289, and will also be webcast at:
FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - is a long-standing program established in 1989 by Dean Kamen to inspire curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among high school students. Encouraging students to pursue STEM studies and careers is also the major focus of NASA's education programs.
In addition to sponsorship by NASA Dryden, numerous civic and business entities in their respective communities co-sponsor area high school robotics teams in the FIRST Robotics Competition, the FIRST Tech Challenge and other robotics endeavors for middle- and elementary-school students.