John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

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


John Tavella

Assistant Principal, Broadway Continuation High School, San Jose, CA

Phone: 408/535-6215 or 408/535-6285

RELEASE: 99-72
NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: You are invited to attend a robot
demonstration and trophy presentation, Thurs., Nov. 18, at 1 p.m. PST at
Broadway Continuation High School, San José, CA. To travel to the school
from the north, go east on Highway 280 to San José. Exit on Bird Ave., and
turn right. At the second stoplight, turn right onto Coe Ave. At Ramona
St., turn left. Go about one block. The school parking lot is straight


Eight local high school students changed their lives for the better by
designing and directing a robot that won a contest last academic year; as a
result, NASA selected their school to receive the Founders’ Award.

The ceremony will take place Thurs., Nov. 18, at Broadway Continuation High
School, San José, CA, an educational institution designed to help at-risk
youth. Principal Susan Votaw will accept the award.

“These were kids who did not necessarily attend school or go to classes on
a regular basis. Working on this project turned their school lives around
200 percent,” Votaw said. “It shows in attendance, grades, attitudes and
the smiles on their faces. It was a remarkable process they went through.”

The award this year was originally presented to NASA by the non-profit
organization, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,”
(FIRST) of Manchester, NH. The trophy will later be passed to another
deserving institution by FIRST following robotics games in 2000.

“NASA is extremely delighted to acknowledge Broadway Continuation
High School for its superlative achievement in robotics education,” said
Mark Leon of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. “Eight
students and an English teacher, against incredible odds, won the 1999
NASA/FIRST Western Regional Robotics Competition,” he added.

“The students and teacher Jason Morrella built a robot in a classroom by
hand,” Votaw said. “Even though this happened last year, it’s still alive
for the students. It’s got them.”

High school student Sarah Thornhill will demonstrate how one of the winning
robots works. The seven other students from the 1998-99 Robotics Team are:
Steven Lugo, Marisol Urias, Isaac Fimbrez, Rosamaria Ramirez, Teddy
Herrera, Jaime Robles and Eddie Corona. Several of the students in the
team are now employed at NASA Ames.

“If NASA is able to support 1,000 high school students per year through
programs that increase their interest in science and technology, and just
five percent of them continue all the way through graduate school in a
robotics-related discipline, 50 new robotics experts each year will become
available to help the space program,” said Dave Lavery, program executive
for solar and planetary exploration, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
Lavery will present the award. Also scheduled to attend the ceremony are:
Superintendent of the San José Unified School District (SJUSD), Dr. Linda
Murray; and SJUSD President of the Board Carol Myers.

NASA involvement with the school began in April 1997 when Leon approached
school officials, volunteering his lunch hours to teach Tae Kwon Do, a
martial art. His goals were to offer students disciplined coping skills
and to identify the best students for summer jobs at Ames.

This year NASA is awarding grants for robotics education totaling $480,000
to 80 high schools across the nation. The application deadline for the
grants is Nov. 30, 1999. NASA will accept all applications via the Internet

In the NASA Ames Region, student-made robots will “clash” in competitions
to be held March 30 – April 1, 2000, at the San Jose State University Event
Center, San Jose, CA. This region includes Alaska, Arizona, California,
Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and
Wyoming. In all, more than 300 schools will participate in the games
nationwide. FIRST was started in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to persuade
American youth that engineering and technology are exciting fields.
FIRST’s website is at:

For more information, call Tom Dyson, (650/604-6601), and Joseph Hering