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04-019
For Release: March 22, 2004

Sally V. Harrington
Media Relations Office
216/433-2037
Sally.V.Harrington@nasa.gov


STUDENTS AND ROBOTS READY TO DO BATTLE

Robots have been built. Strategies have been determined. Over 1500 high school students representing 60 teams from Greater Cleveland, elsewhere in Ohio and from Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York are ready to rock and roll in Cleveland at the third annual Buckeye Regional FIRST(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

This action-packed event takes place March 25-27 at the Cleveland State University Convocation Center and is sponsored by NASA Glenn Research Center in cooperation with corporations, educational institutions and organizations throughout the Greater Cleveland area.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, March 25, the action starts as the teams begin checking out the robots they designed, built and tested over a six-week period. All the teams began with an identical kit of parts to build their robots, yet in the end no two end up alike. Practice rounds and tweaking the robots into championship machines continues until 6 p.m.

An opening ceremony on Friday at 9 a.m. is followed by seeding matches throughout the day. At 5:15 p.m. the first round of awards will be presented, which recognize and reward team spirit, creativity, engineering excellence, imagery and more. The students will be enjoying some free time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the evening where there will be entertainment and time to see the exhibits.

After Saturday's 9 a.m. opening ceremony, the seeding matches continue until noon, and at 1 p.m. the top three seeded teams compete in the finals. Awards recognizing achievement in Website design, sportsmanship and entrepreneurship as well as the Regional finalist, Regional winner and Regional Chairman's award will be presented at 3 p.m.

"We hope that this experience involving engineering, science and technology will encourage these students to pursue careers in these fields," said Glenn Director of External Programs John Hairston, "and that someday they may be involved in designing robots used in the vision for space exploration--robots that would travel to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond."

The teams will compete in a game called "FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar." Remote controlled robots will race around the playing field collecting balls and passing them to human players, who will shoot them into fixed and moveable goals. Teams can earn extra points by successfully maneuvering their robot to hang from a 10-foot high bar at mid-field. This annual nationwide robotics competition is conducted by FIRST, a nonprofit organization in Manchester, N.H. The winners of the Buckeye Regional competition, and the 25 other regionals being held around the country, will compete in the 2004 Championship Event at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta April 15-17.

This competition teams professionals from sponsoring corporations, colleges, and government agencies with young people to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. The students discover that the technological fields hold many opportunities and the basic concepts of science, math, engineering, and invention are exciting and interesting. There are no losers in the FIRST robotics competition. As a result of the relationships formed between the students and mentors, the students who participate in this competition are creating their futures.

Through NASA's Robotics Education Project, 20 of the teams in the Buckeye Regional were awarded sponsorships to enable them to participate in this year's competition. One team was awarded a grant and eleven teams were awarded team registration scholarships from Glenn's Office of Educational Programs. Six Greater Cleveland and 5 teams from throughout Ohio benefited from a donation made by the Jennings Foundation. Each team also receives monetary support from corporate sponsors in their local areas.

Further information including a list of the teams competing in the Buckeye Regional, a list of the sponsors of the event and a gallery of photographs from the 2003 Buckeye Regional can be found at http://www.firstbuckeye.org

For additional information about FIRST, go to http://www.usfirst.org

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