NASA and its corporate partners will support robotics education for
about 200 high schools next year by sponsoring teams that will
participate in a national robotics competition.

The NASA-sponsored teams will join hundreds of others in constructing
robots that will compete in regional contests and a final, national
competition in April 2002 at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, Orlando,
FL. Students at the competing schools will be challenged to design a
robot that will complete a specified set of tasks within rules to be
outlined next week.

“Education is key to the success of our country, and this approach
represents one of the most powerful ways to get students motivated,”
said Mark Leon, project manager of the Robotics Education Project at
NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. “Some of these students
may go on to help NASA engage in bold new missions of exploration of
our solar system. The idea here is to involve students in hands-on
activities to turn them on to science and math.”

The robotics project will kick off Jan. 5, 2002 at the Verizon Center
in Manchester, NH, with a demonstration of the task for this year’s
regional and national competitions. Rules, goals and other details,
such as the layout of the playing field, will be revealed during NASA
TV’s broadcast of the ceremony. Detailed requirements of the robotic
games are carefully guarded until announced at the kickoff event.

Following the ceremony, students and their advisors will have six weeks
to design and construct remote-control robots, using identical kits of

The annual nationwide robotics competition is conducted by the non-
profit FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and
Technology) organization in Manchester and sponsored by NASA and a
number of corporations. Each year FIRST presents a game problem and
identical parts kits to each team. The teams, composed of high school
students and professional engineers and scientists, work together to
construct their robots for the competition. The engineers come from
NASA, private industry, other government agencies and universities.

Students also will organize marketing, public relations, fund-raising
and management groups to compete for the award-winning solution. Each
year’s competition is different, so returning teams always have a new

NASA-sponsored teams will receive a total of about $1.5 million. Each
school received a $5,000 credit toward registration fees, and about
$1,000 for travel to the kickoff ceremony. The group of NASA-sponsored
teams includes many from disadvantaged schools. For a complete list of
the awards issued by NASA, see:

A complete list of the regional events, corporate sponsors and other
details are included on the FIRST website at:

FIRST was started in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to persuade American
youth that engineering and technology are exciting fields. The annual
robotics competition is patterned after Massachusetts Institute of
Technology professor Woodie Flowers’ engineering design course. NASA
participation in the FIRST program is provided through the NASA Office
of Space Science and is directed by Dave Lavery.

– end –

Note to editors: The NASA TV broadcast on January 5 will begin at 9
a.m. and end at 1 p.m. EST. It will be available via satellite on GE-2,
transponder 9C, at 85 degrees west longitude. The frequency is 3880.0
MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz. NASA
also will webcast the event on the Internet at: