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Wanted:  Students to Build Robots

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MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Contact: Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 27, 2000 
WANTED: STUDENTS TO BUILD ROBOTS

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 1517, 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

http://technology.jpl.nasa.gov/education/education_index.html#FIRST

"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 
themselves. 

"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 
imagine."

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.

#####

10/27/2000 CM
#2000-109


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