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January 10, 2011

Rebecca Strecker, NASA News Chief
NASA Public Affairs Office
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
(228) 688-3249

Stennis Kicks Off 2011 FIRST Robotics Season

Thirty teams from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi high schools traveled to NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center on Jan. 8 for the kickoff of the 2011 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics season.

During the event, team members, mentors, coaches, sponsors and parents watched a live broadcast from FIRST headquarters in Manchester, N.H., featuring FIRST founder Dean Kamen and will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas to learn their 2011 competition challenge. Team members also received parts kits they will use in the next six weeks to build robots to meet the challenge.

This year marks the 20th FIRST Robotics Competition season. The FIRST Robotics Competition is designed to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Each year, teams across the nation are given identical parts kits and six weeks to build robots. The teams then use the robots to compete in regional events and a season-ending national tournament.

"It's not just about robots," Kamen said. "It's about building self-confidence, respect and important relationships with people who invent new technologies to make a better future."

"I'm inspired by FIRST," will.i.am said during the kickoff event. "I've traveled all over the world, and this is the most exciting thing. You are cool, and I'm going to turn it up so everyone knows it."

For this year's "Logo Motion" theme, a pair of three-team alliances will compete on a 27-by-57-foot playing field with poles, attempting to earn points by hanging as many triangle, circle and square logo pieces as possible. Bonus points will be earned for each robot that can hang and assemble logo pieces to form the FIRST logo. Robots also can deploy Mini-Bots to climb vertical poles for a chance to earn additional points. A description of the "Logo-Motion" game and video simulation of a match can be viewed online at: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=18762.

NASA and Stennis support FIRST Robotics Competition through mentors, volunteers and financial contributions. Interested mentors should call Katie Wallace at 228-688-7744 or e-mail katie.v.wallace@nasa.gov.

The 2011 Bayou Regional FIRST Robotics Competition is scheduled at the Alario Center in Westwego, La., on March 17-19.

For information about the FIRST Robotics program, visit: http://www.usfirst.org/.

For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/.

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