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Nov. 10, 1999

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 650/604-9000




NASA is providing $480,000 in grants to 80 high schools across the nation in a unique robotics program to inspire students to follow careers in science and technology.

The challenge for students from each of the approximately 300 competing schools is to design a robot to accomplish a series of tasks both quickly and efficiently. The robots are then allowed to compete in an arena setting to determine a winner.

"During the next few decades NASA will be launching a fleet of automated robots to explore the Solar System. We want to empower the next generation of students to be the designers of these intelligent machines," said Mark Leon of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.

NASA engineers will evaluate the applications, and the winners will be notified by e-mail no later than Dec. 3, according to organizers. Half of the schools to be awarded $6,000 will be "disadvantaged" as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. Each winning school will receive a $5,000 credit towards registration fees. The grant will also provide about $1,000 to each winning school for lodging as well as travel to the national robotics games "kickoff" ceremony to be held Jan. 8, 2000, in Manchester, NH.

The grant money will be paid to a non-profit organization, "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," (FIRST) of Manchester, NH. It will provide a basic robot parts kit, a remote control and other necessary items to each grantee. FIRST will also arrange travel to the kickoff ceremony for one representative from each of the 80 grant-winning schools. In all, more than 300 schools will participate in the games. FIRST's website is at:

Detailed requirements of the robotic games will be carefully guarded until announced at the kick-off ceremony. Following the ceremony, students and their advisors will design and construct remote-control robots in six weeks using identical kits of material. Advisors are often professional engineers from private industry, government and universities.

NASA is awarding a total of 80 grants to the schools, 20 grants in four of FIRST's ten regions. The four NASA regions include the NASA Langley/Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Region, Southeast Region, the Lone Star Region and the NASA Ames Region.

In the NASA Ames Region, student-made robots will "clash" in competitions to be held March 30 - April 1, 2000, at the San Jose State University Event Center, San Jose, CA. This region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The NASA-sponsored Southeast regional games will take place at Kennedy Space Center, FL, March 9-11, 2000. The Lone Star games will be at the Astro Arena, Houston, TX, from March 16-18, 2000, and are sponsored by NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, will sponsor the Langley/VCU Regional games Mar 16-18, 2000, at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

The deadline for high schools to apply for the grants is Nov. 30, 1999, NASA will accept all applications via the Internet at:

Regional winners are eligible to compete in the national championship robotic games April 6 - 8, 2000, at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center, Orlando, FL. The national games require an additional registration fee.

FIRST was started in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to persuade American youth that engineering and technology are exciting fields. The annual robotics competition is patterned after Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Woodie Flowers' engineering design course.

Tom Dyson, telephone (650/604-6601), and Joseph Hering (650/604-2008), both of Ames, have additional information about the NASA-FIRST regional robotics games.



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