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Nov. 9, 2001

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000

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Lemar Wooley

Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C.

Phone: 202/708-0685



Residents in federal housing developments will be able to learn about the robotics of today and tomorrow during a NASA Internet "webcast" next week, perhaps sparking the interest of young people in science and engineering.

The webcast, scheduled for 6 p.m. EST Nov. 14, will reach hundreds of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) "Neighborhood Networks" community technology centers across the country. The webcast will be rebroadcast at 9 p.m. EST on Nov. 14.

The one-hour program, "NASA Robotics for Exploration and Discovery," is a general-interest session during which NASA experts will discuss the current and future uses of robots. People tuning in will be able to "learn, discover, hear and interact with their neighbors and their space agency," according to the program's producers.

"It is clear from occupational outlook studies that NASA and American industry eventually will need many more roboticists than are being trained in our schools," said Tom Dyson, an engineer at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "While there clearly is no NASA employment implied by this session, it is possible that this kind of opportunity could launch a student toward thinking about a robotics career," he said. Dyson works on NASA's Learning Technology Project which is producing the robotics webcast.

"This is a great opportunity for residents of HUD housing to be exposed to robotics," said Delores Pruden, director of HUD's Neighborhood Networks Program. "Youth, especially, will be able to see first-hand the importance of math and science. Both HUD and NASA benefit from this partnership, and we look forward to implementing future educational events together."

The community technology centers, located on HUD multifamily properties, include computers hooked to the World Wide Web, and provide computer and job skills training and placement. Webcasts enable people to watch live video, listen to audio and interact in real time on the Internet with experts.

Students who took part in previous robotics competitions will participate in the webcast. Some young people who formed teams to build, program and compete robots, one against the other, have been inspired to go to college and pursue science and engineering, according to the NASA engineers who were mentors.

Although robotics is attracting a cross-section of young people, mentors are particularly encouraged by the enthusiasm of some youths who attend 'continuation' high schools.

"Last year, students from San Jose's Foothill High School were leaders of the championship alliance of the 2000 FIRST Robotics Tournament in Orlando," said Mark Leon, Robotics Education Project manager for NASA. "Most of these students are of Hispanic or Asian heritage from a challenged social or economic status. Foothill's students are classified as 'youth at risk' because Foothill is a continuation high school. This spot is the last stop for students on their way out, or their last chance to get it together. In this case, the students not only got it together, but they have surprised the world."

"Here we have the kids that society expects the worst of, and they give us their absolute best," said NASA Ames engineer and mentor Alan Federman.

More information about the robotics webcast is on the Internet at:

The NASA Robotics Education Project assists students in learning engineering and computer skills by supporting robotics competition and other educational robotics activities. More information is on

Internet at:

Media representatives can find the nearest participating HUD center on the Internet at:



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