NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
On Saturday, Jan. 8, NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) hosted FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics teams from Mississippi and Louisiana to kick off the 2005 FIRST Robotics competition season. While a kickoff is held at FIRST headquarters in New Hampshire each year, SSC hosted a kickoff for the first time this year to help teams reduce travel costs. Teams watched a live broadcast from FIRST headquarters that revealed this year's competition challenge. The teams of high school students – with the help of their engineer mentors – must build a robot that meets the challenge. Students also had the opportunity to meet with other teams and mentors and picked up a kit containing the basic elements of the robot they will build over the next six weeks.
This year's challenge focuses on the tetrahedron - a three-dimensional, triangular object. During each match, two alliances consisting of three randomly selected teams will battle to move, lift and stack the tetrahedrons around the playing field. The first 15 seconds of each match are an autonomous period, challenging students to program the robot to complete specific tasks without the help of a human controller. After the 15-second autonomous mode, human players may step in and control their robots.
Although FIRST teams build robots and participate in competition, those involved with the program are quick to mention that FIRST is about much more than robot parts and competition standings. "The robot is not the ultimate objective of this competition," NASA SSC Education Officer Dr. Dewey Herring said. "FIRST Robotics is about professionalism, engaging young people and teaching them to be successful."
FIRST founder and inventor Dean Kamen created FIRST to inspire students to pursue careers in science and technology. Through FIRST, students work side by side with engineers to learn skills that will help them throughout their education and after graduation. Students learn practical engineering skills, team work, problem solving and most importantly, something FIRST calls gracious professionalism. David Fava, director of the technology center at Gulfport High School in Gulfport, Miss., and FIRST team adviser and mentor for the school's robotics team, says that FIRST gives students a chance to "work with the Michael Jordans of the engineering world."
Wayne Tillman, an 18-year-old senior at O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans, is a member of the school's rookie robotics team. Tillman, who wants to study computer technology or architectural engineering, said, "I feel like what I learn in FIRST will really help me in college."
Teams from Mississippi participating in this year's competition include Gulfport High School, Provine High School in Jackson, a combined team from Pearl River High School in Carriere and Picayune High School in Picayune, Warren Central High School in Vicksburg and Choctaw Central High School in Choctaw.
Louisiana teams include Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, and New Orleans teams from the New Orleans Center for Science and Mathematics, Marion Abramson High School, O. Perry Walker High School and John F. Kennedy High School.
Teams from Gulfport High School, Picayune Memorial High School and Pearl River Central High School, Warren Central High School, and Scotlandville Magnet School will participate in the FIRST Robotics Lone Star regional competition in Houston, Texas, March 31-April 2; teams from Provine High School, Choctaw Central High School, the New Orleans Center for Math and Science, Marion Abramson High School, O. Perry Walker High School and John F. Kennedy High School will participate in the FIRST Robotics Peachtree regional competition in Duluth, Ga., on March 3-5.
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