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NASA to Help Spread Robotics Frenzy

Anticipation is building for the announcement that will unleash a frenzy of excitement for more than 37,000 high school students around the world and NASA will broadcast it live.

Teams race to earn additional points in 2007's 'Rack and Roll.' Teams race the clock to earn additional points in 2007's 'Rack and Roll.'Click image for enlargement. Credit: FIRST Robotics. It's not the announcement of the latest video game, cell phone or MP3 player, but the release of the 2008 competition scenario from the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology or FIRST Robotics Annual Kick-off event in Manchester, New Hampshire.

On Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008, beginning at 10 a.m. EST, NASA TV will broadcast the Manchester event on NASA's public and education channels. Details for receiving NASA TV can be found on the NASA TV Web site at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. The event will also be Web cast at the NASA Robotics Alliance Project (RAP) Web site at http://robotics.nasa.gov.

Teams also have the opportunity to participate in approximately 40 local kick-off events from New York to Hawaii. International teams in Brazil, Canada and Israel also have local kick-off events.

Each year, FIRST develops a new competition scenario with new twists and nuances to challenge rookie and veteran teams alike. With minimal instructions and identical parts kits, the approximately 1,500 teams only have six weeks to analyze the game scenario and engineer a robot that best addresses the scenario's challenges. At the end of the build-period, teams must meet strict deadlines for packing and shipping their robots to their chosen regional competition.

Bayou Regional Competition Sponsored by NASA, teams compete in the inaugural Bayou Region in New Orleans, Louisiana.Click image for enlargement. Credit: NASA. Participation in FIRST robotics has grown significantly in its 16 seasons of competition and NASA has been an integral partner with FIRST in making robotics fun, exciting and accessible. In 2008, NASA through the Robotics Alliance Project is sponsoring six regional competitions, including a new competition in Hawaii. NASA helps establish new regional competition sites with grants and technical and logistics expertise. NASA's goal is to help make the competition sites sustainable within three years. Along with the new regional competitions, NASA headquarters and 10 NASA field centers provide grants to more than 200 teams including 164 rookie and second-year teams building their robotics programs.

Join the excitement and stay tuned for the excitement of the regional competitions starting on Feb. 28, 2008 and running through the month of March. Teams will be competing for coveted spots at the FIRST Championship event on April 17-19, 2008 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

For more information about FIRST Robotics, visit their Web site at http://www.usfirst.org.

Do you find robotics fascinating? Want to learn more? Visit the NASA Robotics Alliance Project Web site. NASA's RAP can serve as your warehouse for robotics lessons, resources and information.

Jonas Dino
NASA Ames Research Center