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NASA Awaits New FIRST Robotics Season
It's that time of the year again, when students around the world will compete against each other to determine who can build the best robot.

On Jan. 6, 2007, starting at 10:00 a.m. EST, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics will hold its annual kickoff event and announce this year's competition scenario. As in past years, FIRST will add new twists and nuances that will challenge this year's rookies as well as veteran teams.

Atlanta Georgia Dome, FIRST Robotics Championship Image Left: Teams pack Atlanta's Georgia Dome for the 2006 FIRST Championship Tournament. Credit: FIRST Robotics.

After the announcement, teams will be given identical kits and they will have just six weeks to analyze the game scenario and design and build a robot to fit the game. Only minimal instructions and limits on dimensions and weights are given, allowing the teams to be creative in their designs. When the six-week period is over, robots are packed into their crates and shipped to their local regional competition. The best regional teams and those picked by a panel of judges will be invited to the FIRST international championship in April. As a major partner with FIRST, NASA will be ready.

Coordinated by the NASA Robotics Alliance Project at NASA's Ames Research Center in the heart of Silicon Valley, NASA Headquarters and the 10 NASA field centers will sponsor 214 teams, five regional competitions and provide logistical support for the FIRST Robotics season. NASA personnel from across the county also will volunteer countless hours to serve as team mentors.

In line with NASA's educational goals, the NASA Robotics Alliance Project was created to bring together students, engineers, private organizations and other government resources to pursue the goal of increasing robotics expertise in the United States. The project supports programs that inspire students to become involved with technical fields through robotics competitions, facilitation of robotics curriculum enhancements and the development of a national clearinghouse for robotics education and career resources.

Team 254 scores baskets Image Right: NASA sponsored Team 254 scores baskets during the 2006 Pacific Northwest Regional. Credit: FIRST Robotics.

Inventor Dean Kamen started FIRST to motivate students to enter careers in math, science and engineering. The FIRST mission is to design accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. The competition shows students that the technological fields hold many opportunities and that the basic concepts of science, math, engineering and invention are exciting and interesting. FIRST is in its 16th season and has grown from 28 teams to more than 1300 teams today.

Join in the kickoff festivities and learn about this year's game scenario on NASA Television at 10 a.m. EST on Jan. 6, 2007 on your local cable or satellite system or on the Web.

For more information on watching the kickoff event, visit the NASA TV page.

You can find more information and follow your favorite teams at the NASA Robotics Alliance Project and FIRST Robotics websites.

Jonas Dino NASA Ames Research Center