Ruth Dasso Marlaire
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
March 23, 2009
Student-Built Mini Robots Compete in Botball Regional Tournament
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- Are you ready for some Botball? If so, dozens of fast-paced mini robots built by hundreds of California high school students will compete Saturday, March 28, 2009, starting at 10 a.m. PDT, the Mt. Pleasant High School, San Jose, Calif.

Twenty-five Botball teams from around the northern California region will gather for the competition. Each team consists of approximately 5-20 middle and high school students who design, build, program and document a pair of autonomous (no remote control) robots to play in this year’s open-ended game. The theme of this year’s tournament is “Alternative Energy."

"In this environment they learn how to work together, connecting with the technology and understanding how it is relevant in a way that is impossible to get from lectures or books...and they come away inspired to learn more,” said Terry Grant, an engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., who volunteers to help students and teachers. “My only concern is how to make experiences like these available to all our youth; I see it as critical to our future."

The Northern California Botball Program started with a two-day hands-on professional development workshop for educators held February 7-8, 2009, at Mt. Pleasant High School in San Jose. At the workshop, teams received their kits of reusable robotics equipment. Each kit will be used in the competition and will be kept by the school or team to be integrated into the classroom or for extracurricular activities. This ensures that schools will be able to continue to expand their science, math and technology curricula through robotics after the Botball season concludes. Tournament Seeding Rounds begin at 10 a.m. PDT Saturday, March 28, 2009, and double elimination rounds will begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. PDT.

This year marks the 12th annual northern California Botball Robotics Tournament, which NASA has sponsored more than 10 years. As an additional benefit, many students who have participated in Botball have become NASA interns. NASA uses autonomous robots in space planetary exploration, and uses Botball as an opportunity to reach out to its future workforce and provide relevant hands-on experience and skills.

The Botball program is aimed at increasing student enthusiasm and skills in mathematics, science, physics and design through hands-on education. The project is co-sponsored by NASA’s Robotic Alliance Project at NASA Ames, and the Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS) Institute for Practical Robotics, Norman, Okla.

Participating northern California and San Francisco Bay Area cities include:

Anderson, Fair Oaks, Fremont, Felton, Hillsborough, Oakland, Los Altos, Redding, San Jose, San Lorenzo, and San Mateo. Gig Harbor, Wash. also has entered a team in the competition.

WHO: Hundreds of northern California middle and high school students and their robots.

WHAT: The 12th annual northern California Botball Robotics Tournament. Admission is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Saturday, March 28, 2009
- 8 a.m. to 10 am PDT: Teams arrive and practice before the competition
- 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. PDT: Welcoming comments
- 10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. PDT: Unopposed seeding rounds
- 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. PDT: Lunch
- 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. PDT: Double elimination rounds
- 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. PDT: Awards Ceremony

WHERE: Mt. Pleasant High School, gymnasium, 1750 S White Rd, San Jose, Calif.

For more information about the NASA Robotics Alliance Project and Botball, visit:

For more information about Botball, visit:


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