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Aug. 10, 2001

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000




A San Jose ‘continuation’ high school team has won a national robotics competition for the second year in a row, this time in Seattle.

On Wednesday, Foothill High School won the 2001 National Botball Tournament in Seattle at the American Association of Artificial Intelligence conference. Botball is a robotics sport for which students construct and compete autonomous LEGO robots that manipulate objects on a tabletop.

"Here we have the kids that society expects the worst of, and they give us their absolute best," said mentor Alan Federman, an engineer at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "I am very proud of this school. Nobody has ever won two consecutive national robotics contests," he said. Last year, Foothill students were leaders of the championship alliance of the 2000 FIRST Robotics Tournament in Orlando, FL. In the Orlando contest, students constructed a large, remote-control robot entirely different from this year’s botball model.

"After that Foothill win in 2000, a lot of people thought it was a fluke, something that could never happen again in a million years," Federman said.

Foothill’s students, mostly of Hispanic or Asian heritage, sometimes are classified as ‘youth at risk.’ For the robotics work, they must understand basic principals of engineering and computer programming.

Foothill teacher Jeneva Westendorf assisted the student team. NASA Ames engineer Terry Grant mentored team members. In addition, former NASA engineer Jeff Ota, a member of the East Side Union District High School board, was involved in the project.

Forty-seven student teams from across the nation competed in this year’s botball tournament in Seattle. Three other schools from the East Side Union High School District in San Jose also took part and did well in this year’s competition. These schools are Andrew Hill High School, Overfelt High School and Independence High School.

The NASA Robotics Education Project assists students in learning engineering and computer skills by supporting the botball competition and other educational robotics activities.

Additional information is on the Internet at: and at:

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