Over 186 Maryland high school students from 31 teams with their sights set on competing in the 2006 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition are anxious to hear what their challenge is this year.

They will get the news at the local FIRST Robotics Kick-off event this Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006, beginning at 10 a.m. EST at Capitol College at 11301 Springfield Road in Laurel, Md. The details of the competition — game rules, playing field, scoring and strategy- – will be made by Dean Kamen, inventrepreneur and founder of FIRST.

Media representatives are invited to attend the start of this exciting engineering journey and to follow teams as they progress through construction and competition. Reporters interested in covering the event should contact Michelle Jones at (301) 286-8102.

After the broadcast, the teams will receive their kit of parts–the same kit that teams across the country will receive–from which to start building their robots.  All teams will have six weeks to design, build and practice remotely maneuvering their robots before shipping them off in mid-February to the regional competition site where they will be participating.

Following the distribution of kits, three members per team will have the opportunity to attend one of four workshops.  In an hour, mentors and students can receive a crash course in “Motor Applications,” “Pneumatics,” and “Robot Inspections.”  The final workshop is titled “Roundtable for Mentors,” an hour-long session when mentors can ask or address non-technical questions and concerns about the FIRST process.

The teams will work side-by-side with professional engineers and technicians giving the students a glimpse of what engineering is all about and providing them the opportunity to gain knowledge of and experience in teamwork, time management, task sequencing and computers.

The fourth annual FIRST Chesapeake Regional competition, sponsored by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, United States Naval Academy, local corporations and academic and nonprofit organizations, will take place March 16-18 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.  More than 60 teams will be competing in this exciting event.  More information about the Chesapeake Regional can be found at http://www.mitc.org/first/.

NASA, through its Robotics Alliance Project, provides sponsorships to assist teams in developing self-sustaining FIRST programs in their local areas.  These sponsorships cover the cost of entry to one regional event ($6000) as well as the kit of parts. These sponsorships are targeted at new FIRST teams that need assistance in getting their program started.  Go to http://robots.larc.nasa.gov/sponsorship_description.html for additional information about these NASA scholarships.

The 2006 kickoff event will also be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed live on the NASA website:  http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. For continental North America, NASA TV is carried on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. It’s available in Alaska and Hawaii on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-7, transponder 18C, 137 degrees west longitude, 4060 MHz, vertical polarization. A Digital Video Broadcast compliant Integrated Receiver Decoder is required for reception. For information about NASA TV, including digital down link information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

FIRST is a nonprofit organization founded to inspire students in math, science and technology. FIRST represents a cooperative effort among students, teachers, communities, corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies. For additional information about FIRST, go to http://www.usfirst.org.

For more information on NASA and agency programs on the web, visit: