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News Release 99-10

For Release: February 18, 1999

Kathleen A. Zona
(Bus: 216/433-2920)

Lori J. Rachul
(Bus: 216/433-8806)


What do the students at East Technical High School try out for before sports? The answer is the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition team which has proven to be more popular than football and basketball combined. Likewise, engineers and technicians at NASA Lewis Research Center have had such a rewarding experience that there are nine veteran team members.

For the sixth consecutive year Lewis and East Tech have worked side by side preparing for both a regional and a national competition. Lewis employees started working with the East Tech students in November 1998 to familiarize them with the basic principles of engineering and to develop a good working relationship. The team met several times a week to decide on the design, build the robot from an identical kit of parts distributed to all the teams involved, determine a strategy and test the robot.

The team is now ready to enter their robot in the Great Lakes Regional Tournament in Detroit, MI, March 26-27, and then the National Competition in Orlando, FL, April 23-24.

"This year's competition is a lot more difficult than last year, and the machine we built to compete had to be that much more complicated. I am continually amazed by the hard work and cooperation the team displays," said Larry Oberle, FIRST project manager at Lewis. "When presented with this challenge, the team pitches in and does everything they can to make it all come together. I have no doubt that our robot will be the equal to any at this year's competition."

Nearly 300 teams have registered for this year's competition. The teams must design and build a robot that sits unconstrained within a frame that is 36x30x48, weighing no more than 130 pounds yet capable of withstanding vigorous contact with other robots.

The Lewis/East Tech team has corporate sponsorship from NASA, Battelle and TRW, Inc. New this year are two patrons for the team-the Harley Owners Group (HOG), Cleveland Chapter and Southeast Harley Davidson. Patrons and sponsors provide support and resources that allow the team to travel to the regional tournament and the national competition.

In addition, Battelle is working directly with the students on the team's entry for the Chairman's Award. This award is presented to the team that achieves excellence by working well together based on videos, photos or written chronicles submitted by the teams prior to the National Competition. Last year's FIRST team was one of five finalists for the Chairman's Award and also won the Xerox Creativity Award trophy for Best Design.

Both the HOG chapter director and the owner of Southeast Harley Davidson are East Tech alumni and have involved the team in humanitarian efforts at hospitals and local charity activities. The patrons have also arranged for the team to volunteer time to talk to students at elementary and middle schools to demonstrate how science and math can be fun.

The FIRST Robotics Competition provides for partnership between students and industry or government engineers to provide a hands-on, inside look at the engineering profession. This engineering competition is designed to excite the next generation about math, science and technology, and encourage them to pursue careers in these fields.

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