Dozens of sophisticated, remotely-operated, human-sized robots will compete
on a field the size of a basketball court as NASA’s Langley Research Center
and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering host a regional
robotics competition March 8-10 at the Siegel Center in Richmond, VA.

Winners will be determined by which team designed and built the best robotic
“basketball player” in an environment that will look and sound more like a
college or professional basketball tournament than a high school science

The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST)
competition is the largest of 13 regional robotics competitions held
nationwide, with approximately 70 teams of students, engineers, technicians,
and teachers scheduled to attend. Langley is providing sponsorship to 20
teams and is again working closely with a team from the New Horizons
Regional Education Center in Hampton, Va.

NASA’s Jeff Seaton, from Langley’s Aerospace Systems, Concepts & Analysis
Competency, is lead again playing a role in this year’s competition. Seaton
has worked with the New Horizons team for the past four years.

In addition to sponsorship, “the New Horizons team gets the benefit of
working with current and retired NASA engineers and researchers. They get to
invent new things with NASA,” says Seaton. “They also learn that math and
science can be fun.”

Each year, FIRST develops the robotics competition by supplying a “problem”
and a kit of parts to teams of students. Each team has just six weeks to
organize, design, build, program and test its robot for competition. This
year’s competition involves matches of four teams that will take the floor
simultaneously, and work together to score the most points. These “partners”
change each match, so teams do not play the same group in any match.

A special guest at this year’s competition will be Dr. Joseph Allen, the
former NASA astronaut who served as a mission specialist on two Space
Shuttle flights as well as a mission controller for Apollo 15 and 17.

FIRST is a non-profit organization established in 1989 by Dean Kamen, an
entrepreneur and inventor with over 100 patents. FIRST’s mission is to
stimulate student interest in math and science. In 1992, FIRST began
organizing a national robotics competition. The goal of the program is to
join high school students with professional engineers and technicians from
industry and academia to design, construct and operate the robots. The event
has become known as the “super-bowl” of engineering and the “the ultimate
mind sport.”

Media Opportunity: Members of the news media are invited to attend the
competition. The competition will be broadcast via the Internet on Friday,
March 9 and Saturday, March 10 at Interviews
and b-roll of the competition will also be available.
Interested media should call Kimberly W. Land, 757-864-9885 or
757-344-7711/cell phone.