High school students from Southern California can cash in
on an opportunity to get NASA money to build their own robot.

Last year, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena
awarded sponsorships to more than 20 teams to build their robots
and compete in a regional robotics competition. Forty-seven
schools and nearly 2,000 high school students engaged in the
thrills of competition. So far, 59 schools have indicated
interest in the Southern California regional. With increased
interest, the competition for NASA sponsorships will be very tight.

"We want to expose new schools to this activity because
it’s a cool way to interest kids in science and engineering,"
said Alice Wessen, manager of solar system and technology outreach
at JPL. "The trick is to also find ways to recruit new sponsors."

NASA sponsorships are only awarded to first- and second-year
teams. Wessen says there is no limit to how many students can
participate on a team, and there is something for every student.
Tasks range from pneumatics and mechanical engineering to publicity
and web design. There are needs for space, materials and resources
to support all of their involvement. One sponsor is not nearly
enough; schools need multiple sponsors. "We encourage businesses
large and small to help inspire these kids in robotics. The community
at large will ultimately benefit from the investment," she said.

The regional competition will take place in March and is one
of 13 competitions around the country. More than 500 teams will
compete in the national robotics competition held at Walt Disney
World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., in April.

Registration for the regional competition is open through
Dec. 7. The deadline for submitting a sponsorship application is
Nov. 2. Those interested in participating should contact JPL’s
Public Services Office at (818) 354-0112 or fill out a NASA sponsorship
application at: http://robots.larc.nasa.gov/ .

The competition is organized by First (For Inspiration and
Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit organization
whose mission is to generate an interest in science and technology.
Information on First is available at: http://www.usfirst.org/ .
Managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
JPL is the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system.