John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, CA

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 650/604-9000




Robots will compete during a demonstration that NASA will broadcast via
satellite Saturday, Jan. 8, 12:20 – 1:30 p.m. EST. The staged robot contest
is part of kick-off ceremony leading to student robotics competitions
across the country. Representatives of 379 high school robotics teams will
attend the ceremony at the Center of New Hampshire, Holiday Inn, 700 Elm
St., Manchester, NH.

The challenge for students from each of the competing schools is to design
a robot to accomplish a series of tasks both quickly and efficiently in the
six weeks following the kickoff ceremony. The robots are then allowed to
compete in arena settings to determine winners during regional contests.

“The idea here is to involve students in hands-on activities to
turn them on to science and math,” said Tom Dyson, Deputy Robotics
Education Manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, CA.
“Some of these students may go on to help NASA engage in bold new missions
of exploration of our Solar System.”

NASA will broadcast the ceremony and robot demonstration from 9:30 a.m. to
2:30 p.m. EST 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 will also “webcast” the event on the Internet

Detailed requirements of the robotic games are carefully guarded
until announced at the kickoff event. Following the ceremony, students and
their advisors will design and construct remote-control robots in six weeks
using identical kits of material.

NASA and the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and
Technology) of Manchester, NH, a non-profit corporation, sponsor the
nationwide annual robot contests. Each year FIRST presents a game
“problem” and identical parts kits to each team. Advisors are often
professional engineers from private industry, government and universities.

Students must ship their robots to a storage company and contestants will
not see them again until the regional contests take place.

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

About 100 NASA-sponsored high school representatives will attend the
kickoff. More than half of these participants will come from disadvantaged
schools as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. NASA provided
$480,000 in grants to 80 high schools. Each winning school received a
$5,000 credit towards registration fees. The grants also provided about
$1,000 to each winning school for lodging as well as travel to the national
robotics games “kickoff” ceremony.

NASA awarded grants to the schools in four of FIRST’s ten regions. The
four NASA regions include the NASA Langley/Virginia Commonwealth University
(VCU) Region, Southeast Region, the Lone Star Region and the NASA Ames

The Ames region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii,
Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In this
region student-made robots will “clash” in competitions to be held March 30
– April 1, 2000, at San Jose State University Event Center, San Jose, CA.

The NASA-sponsored Southeast regional games will take place at Kennedy
Space Center, FL, March 9-11, 2000. The Lone Star games will be at the
Astro Arena, Houston, TX, from March 16-18, 2000, and are sponsored by
NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. NASA’s Langley Research Center,
Hampton, VA, will sponsor the Langley/VCU Regional games Mar 16-18, 2000,
at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Regional winners may also compete in the national championship robotic
games April 6 – 8, 2000, at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, Orlando, FL.
The national games require an additional registration fee. 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.

For more information, contact Tom Dyson, at 650/604-6601, or Joseph Hering
at 650/604-2008.