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00-022a For Release: April 12, 2000

S. Jenise Veris
Media Relations Office
(216) 433-2888

Sally Harrington
Media Relations Office
(216) 433-2037

Local Robot Makes Final Four of National Competition

At the buzzer of the last two-minute match, three NASA-sponsored teams finished in the final four of the 2000 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) National Robotics Competition, held April 6-8 at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center, Orlando, FL. Among them was the NASA Glenn Research Center/James Ford Rhodes High School team, part of an alliance that competed in the semifinals and earned enough points to engineer a third-place tie.

The competition was the culmination of six weeks of high energy and brainstorming shared by students who worked alongside Glenn engineers and technologists to design, build, and test a remote-controlled robot for participation in this national championship. Two hundred sixty-eight teams formed "alliances" whose robots battled like gladiators—first scooping, then lifting large balls into 6-foot color-coded goals, and finally hanging on the goals to score the most points.

"This experience has been worth all the effort and late nights," said Joy Koporc, head of the Rhodes’ science department and FIRST team manager, "I’m already working on a new robotics curriculum for next year. We’ve just begun!"

This was the first year that Glenn teamed with Cleveland's Rhodes High School. "Not only did we build a great robot, but we also built a close, effective working relationship among the students, engineers and technologists," said Larry Oberle, Glenn’s FIRST project manager. "This camaraderie developed because we treated the students as our peers. They really thrived under those conditions—blooming like flowers."

The Glenn/Rhodes team was one of 108 NASA-sponsored teams registered to compete in FIRST’s regional and/or national competitions. Two teams sponsored by NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, were in the alliance that came in first at the national competition.

John Hairston, Glenn’s External Programs director, said that the Agency is committed to the FIRST program. "We have an opportunity to grow our own scientists and engineers," he explained. "At Glenn, we strive to offer all students, especially the underserved, exposure to ‘hands-on’ educational programs such as FIRST, which help to broaden their career choices."

Glenn sponsored two other teams that participated in the national competition including a new team from Eastmoor Academy of Columbus Public Schools and Cleveland’s East Technical High School, a partner for the past six years. Corporate and institution sponsorship for the three teams included Arthur Andersen LLP, Battelle Memorial Institute, Biomec, Inc., TRW, Inc., Advanced Manufacturing Center at Cleveland State University, Columbus State Community College and Columbus Urban Systemic Initiative.

Jo Ann Charleston, chief of Glenn’s Educational Programs Office said, "Every year our office and the technical personnel who support this project come away energized and inspired by the enthusiasm of students and teachers who benefit from our resources."

More information about the FIRST national and regional competitions along with the teams can be found at

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