A group of innovative high school students will tune up their mini-robots, revise designs and demonstrate their machines while new students learn about robotics Nov. 13, 2003, from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. PST at NASA Ames Research, Moffett Field, Calif.

Games between small ‘Botball’ robots will take place on a ‘game board.’ Opposing robot teams will move ping-pong and foam balls during the competitions. The robots will rely on their programming to place the balls into scoring areas.

“Botball is one of the most cost-effective robotics programs available for high schools today,” said Mark Leon, robotics education project manager at NASA Ames. “It teaches the fundamentals of programming and some basic robotics technology at a very, very low price,” Leon explained.

“The students learn a lot more than technology,” said Terry Grant, a NASA engineer and deputy manager of the Robotics Education Project. “They learn teamwork. They learn about the importance of planning, and they learn the pleasure of successfully meeting a goal,” he added.
A hands-on workshop also will take place to introduce novices to robotics concepts. The NASA Robotics Education Project and the Western Region Robotics Forum, Inc., are sponsoring the events for seventh- through twelfth-graders to learn how to form robot teams and prepare for robotic competitions.

Organizers have invited students from Bay Area schools to attend the events and observe the competition.

Botball teams use kits to build their robots. Each identical kit contains hundreds of parts. The robots are made from interconnecting plastic blocks and include motors, sensors and microcontrollers, which are the ‘brains’ of the small robots. Unlike most robotics competitions, the intricate movements the robots make during Botball competitions are programmed into the mini-robots using ‘C’ computer language. No remote controls are allowed.

The Botball concept was developed by the non-profit KISS Institute for Practical Robotics based in Norman, Okla.

More information about Botball is on the KISS Web site:


The NASA Ames Web site also discusses Botball:


Publication-size images are on the World Wide Web at:


NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media representatives are invited to attend a mini-robot ‘Botball’ workshop and symposium from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. PST on Thursday, Nov. 13, in Bldg. 583C at NASA Research Park, Moffett Field, Calif. To reach NASA Research Park, take the Moffett Field exit off Highway 101, and drive east to the main gate to obtain directions to the robot events. Media representatives must have a valid government-issued picture ID to gain entry at the main gate.