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Marny Skora
(Phone: 757/864-6121, 757/344-6111)
RELEASE : 05-013
Robotics Competition to Rock Richmond Siegel Center

Hampton Roads students will join high school student teams nationwide as their original creations compete in "March Madness" of a robotic nature.

FIRST robotics competition in Richmond, Va.

Image to right: A view of the FIRST robotics competition in Richmond, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Jeff Caplan

NASA and Virginia Commonwealth University are again joining forces to sponsor the sixth annual FIRST Robotics Competition at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond March 3-5. Practice rounds begin at 10 a.m. March 3. Governor Mark Warner will kick off opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Friday, March 4.

News media are invited to cover the competition and interview Jeff Seaton on site at the Siegel Center. Seaton can be reached at 757/303-0689. The FIRST event will be broadcast via the Internet both Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, and webcast at:

This sports-like competition isn't just about building robots; it's about building life skills: teamwork, project management, budgeting, strategic planning and tactical implementation. It's also great family entertainment, it's free and it's open to the public.

Each year, FIRST develops the competition by supplying a "problem" and a kit of parts. That's where conformity ends and creativity begins. Each team then has just six weeks to organize, design, build, program and test its robot.

This year's problem is dubbed "Triple Play." Alliances of robot teams vie to claim goals -- red and white three-dimensional geometric shapes. Fast-paced matches include an autonomous mode (no driver), an interactive mode where students stack goals for the robot, and a final challenge featuring robots racing to the end zone for extra points.

Winners of regional events are eligible to participate in the FIRST Championship to be held in Atlanta, Ga., in April. Along with the on-field head-to-head competition, teams receive recognition in a variety of engineering and project related areas, with some student team members receiving full or partial scholarships from participating colleges and universities.

What began in 1992 in a high school gym in New Hampshire with about two dozen teams has grown to a nationwide event with more than 1,000 teams participating. Established by entrepreneur and inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST robotics was designed to promote science and technology among high school students, hence the name FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The event has since become known as the "super bowl of engineering" and "the ultimate mind sport."


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