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For Release: January 13, 1997

Nicole Forest
NASA Langley Research Center
(757) 864-5036

Michael Finneran
NASA Langley Research Center
(757) 864-6121

Ann Steven
Hampton School District,
Director, Public Relations
(757) 850-5392

RELEASE NO. 97-002b

NASA Supports Hampton School in National Robotics Competition

Students at Phoebus High School in Hampton are building a robot for a national competition with some help from NASA Langley Research Center.

"We (NASA) view this competition as an on-going project with Phoebus," said Mike Little, NASA Information Technology Officer. "The real win is for the kids to have time working with engineers on this type of problem and for everyone to come away motivated about science and engineering."

NASA has given the group of 32 students from Phil May's Robotics class $30,000 to participate in the Sixth Annual For Inspiration Recognition of Science and Technology high school robotics competition. The competition, founded in 1989, is designed to revitalize American youths' interest in science and technology.

NASA engineers will mentor the students for seven weeks to build a robot tasked to go through a series of obstacle courses. The Phoebus robot will compete against robots built by teams from across the U.S..

More than 150 teams are expected to compete this year, including more than 10 teams fielded by NASA Centers. Last year was the agency's first year participating in the competition. The teams will compete regionally March 20 at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The national competition will be held April 10 at Epcot Center, Orlando, Fla.

Previously, Phil May and his program have been competitively awarded grants related to robotics for kids with disabilities and have received materials from the Langley Robotics Lab. They have also competed in local robotics competitions.

"The student's have decided to dedicate the competition to Mike Fontaine and name themselves, 'Michael's team,' " May said.

Fontaine, a Hampton man who has Lou Gehrig's disease, uses a special communication system, called the Ocular Tracking System, created by the robotics students. The system, using a computer and special sensors, acts as a voice for Fontaine.

Media are invited to attend the Robotics class at 8:30 a.m., January 16, at Phoebus High School, 100 Ireland Street, Hampton. If you would like to attend please make arrangements with Nicole Forest at 864-5036.

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