NASA is seeking future engineers with creative imaginations,
drive, energy or just plain curiosity to build their own robot.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is
putting out the call to Southern California area high schools to
involve them in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of
Science and Technology) program. The FIRST program is a robotics
competition aimed at inspiring students, providing hands-on
activities, fostering teamwork and giving students access to work
with engineers to help students build their own robot. Each
year, students get “a problem” or task that their robot must
perform and a kit with “nuts and bolts” to get them started.

The FIRST regional competition event, sponsored by JPL and
hosted by the University of Southern California, will be held
March 15ñ17, 2001, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASA
will award 100 sponsorships and locally, JPL will award 20 teams
with sponsorships to help them compete in the Southern California
Regional. Each sponsorship will pay the $5,000 entry fee and
travel for one person to attend the January 2001 kickoff meeting
in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The deadline for submitting sponsorship applications is
November 3, 2000. However, schools can still register for the
2001 competition through December 8, 2000.

Schools interested in participating should call Kimberly
Lievense in JPL’s Public Services Office at (818) 354-0112.
Information on team building, sponsorship requirements and
application is available at

“We want to get students excited about this competition,
which is a lot of fun,” said Rob Steele, one of the JPL program
coordinators. “There is no monetary prize, but year after year,
schools participate and students do it for the sheer spirit of
competition. It’s a sporting event about science; a science
teacher’s dream.”

As one of the two original Southern California teams to
enter the FIRST robotics competition, Chatsworth High School is
entering the competition for its fifth year with a team of nearly
70 students.

“This robotics program is, without a doubt, the most
exciting and motivating educational opportunity I have ever
seen,” said Wendy Wooten, teacher and sponsor of the Chatsworth
High School Robotics Team. “Not only are the students applying
math and science knowledge in a problem-solving setting, but they
are, most importantly, becoming self learners.”

Wooten, who has taught science for more than 22 years,
admits that she does not have the technical background to teach
engineering design, electronics, control systems or computer
animation. She thought her lack of knowledge and expertise would
be a drawback in starting a FIRST robotics team, but she soon
realized that it was a bonus within this program. Her students
have researched engineering design, learned computer animation
software applications, taken summer electronics courses, and
initiated independent projects in related application areas for

“The enthusiasm and eagerness with which my students
approach these endeavors is truly amazing,” she said. “When one
considers the current academic challenges educators face today,
the FIRST robotics program is as close to a ‘cure all’ as I can

FIRST is a non-profit organization whose mission is to
generate an interest in science and technology. The FIRST
robotics competition is a national contest that immerses high
school students in the exciting world of robotics.

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.