Residents in federal housing developments will be able to learn about
the robotics of today and tomorrow during a NASA Internet “webcast”
next week, perhaps sparking the interest of young people in science
and engineering.

The webcast, scheduled for 6 p.m. EST Nov. 14, will reach hundreds of
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “Neighborhood
Networks” community technology centers across the country. The
webcast will be rebroadcast at 9 p.m. EST on Nov. 14.

The one-hour program, “NASA Robotics for Exploration and Discovery,”
is a general-interest session during which NASA experts will discuss
the current and future uses of robots. People tuning in will be able
to “learn, discover, hear and interact with their neighbors and their
space agency,” according to the program’s producers.

“It is clear from occupational outlook studies that NASA and American
industry eventually will need many more roboticists than are being
trained in our schools,” said Tom Dyson, an engineer at NASA Ames
Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “While there clearly
is no NASA employment implied by this session, it is possible that
this kind of opportunity could launch a student toward thinking about
a robotics career,” he said. Dyson works on NASA’s Learning
Technology Project which is producing the robotics webcast.

“This is a great opportunity for residents of HUD housing to be
exposed to robotics,” said Delores Pruden, director of HUD’s
Neighborhood Networks Program. “Youth, especially, will be able to
see first-hand the importance of math and science. Both HUD and NASA
benefit from this partnership, and we look forward to implementing
future educational events together.”

The community technology centers, located on HUD multifamily
properties, include computers hooked to the World Wide Web, and
provide computer and job skills training and placement. Webcasts
enable people to watch live video, listen to audio and interact in
real time on the Internet with experts.

Students who took part in previous robotics competitions will
participate in the webcast. Some young people who formed teams to
build, program and compete robots, one against the other, have been
inspired to go to college and pursue science and engineering,
according to the NASA engineers who were mentors.

Although robotics is attracting a cross-section of young people,
mentors are particularly encouraged by the enthusiasm of some youths
who attend ‘continuation’ high schools.

“Last year, students from San Jose’s Foothill High School were
leaders of the championship alliance of the 2000 FIRST Robotics
Tournament in Orlando,” said Mark Leon, Robotics Education Project
manager for NASA. “Most of these students are of Hispanic or Asian
heritage from a challenged social or economic status. Foothill’s
students are classified as ‘youth at risk’ because Foothill is a
continuation high school. This spot is the last stop for students on
their way out, or their last chance to get it together. In this case,
the students not only got it together, but they have surprised the

“Here we have the kids that society expects the worst of, and they
give us their absolute best,” said NASA Ames engineer and mentor Alan

More information about the robotics webcast is on the Internet at:

The NASA Robotics Education Project assists students in learning
engineering and computer skills by supporting robotics competition
and other educational robotics activities. More information is on
Internet at:

Media representatives can find the nearest participating HUD center
on the Internet at: