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2011 FIRST Championship Celebrates Science, Technology and Teamwork
FIRST robotics team Click image for full resolution.
Team 254 students and mentors pose after winning the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Saint Louis, Mo.
Image credit: Cory McBride

FIRST robot in action Click image for full resolution.
Team 254 scores by hanging an inflatable shape on the top row of the rack.
Image credit: Cory McBride

2011 FIRST robot Click image for full resolution.
Team 254, a team from Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, Calif., mentored by NASA Ames Research Center engineers, built the 2011 FIRST Championship robot, named "Slipstream."
Image credit: Cory McBride

More than 11,000 students and their robots recently competed and earned honors for design excellence, competitive play, teamwork and partnerships in the Annual International FIRST Robotics Competition Championship Winning Alliance at Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo.

Although more than 600 teams from 29 countries competed in this year’s robotics challenge, Team 254, a NASA Ames-mentored team for the past 14 years, won the championship. Team 254 students were mentored by Ames engineers for more than a dozen years as part of NASA’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) effort. Launched by NASA’s Program Executive Dave Lavery through the Science Mission Directorate in the nineties, the purpose of STEM was to improve America’s technical capabilities.

"These students are the best and the brightest, and will one day make tremendous contributions to our country’s future," said Mark Leon, program manager for NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

To support these inventive students, more than 25,000 fans, families, educators and industry leaders attended the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, cheering home their favorite teams during the competition. The alliance that won the final show down included Team 254, "The Cheesy Poofs" from San Jose, Calif.; Team 111, "Wild Stang" from Schaumburg, Ill.; and Team 973, "Greybots" from Atascadero, Calif., earning them the coveted championship title of the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship.

There were three levels of competition:
  1. The FIRST LEGO League introduced younger students, 9 -14 years old from the United States and Canada and 9 – 16 years old from outside the U.S and Canada, to the world of robotic competition. This year’s challenge, called "Body Forward," engaged students to research a body part, function, or system; and creates an innovative solution to protect, repair, heal, or improve it; and shares their solution(s).

  2. The FIRST Tech Challenge included 14 to 18 year old students, who designed, built, and programmed robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. This year’s challenge, called "Get Over It," used a combination of sensors, including infrared tracking, magnet seeking, ultrasonic, touch, etc. Students programmed their robots to operate in both autonomous and tele-operated modes over a raised center goal.

  3. The FIRST Robotics Competition also included students from 14-18 years old. This year’s challenge, called "Logo Motion," featured two alliances of three teams that competed on a field with poles, attempting to earn points by hanging as many triangle, circle and square logo pieces as possible. Bonus points were awarded for each robot that hung and assembled logo pieces to form the FIRST logo.
This year, the White House sent its Chief Technology Officer’s Assistant Aneesh Chopra to the event to show the President’s support for the student robotics program. Will.i.am, a member of the hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas, matched robotic wits with Morgan Freeman, an actor, film director, and narrator, who served as a referee during the competition.

Major awards were presented by senior officials from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, Washington, D.C., as well as corporate executives from Autodesk, San Rafael, Calif., Boeing Corp., Chicago, Ill., General Motors Co., Detroit, Mich., Parametric Technology Corp., Needham, Mass., Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, Wis., Underwriter Laboratories, Camas, Wash., and many more.

FIRST is a not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen and developed to inspire young people to participate in science and technology.

For more information about NASA’s Robotic Alliance Project, visit:


For more information about NASA’s Ames, visit:


Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.