NASA Funds Nationwide High School Student Robotics Program

WASHINGTON -- NASA is providing up to $20 million over the next five years to support a national program to inspire student interest in science, technology and mathematics with a focus on robotic technology.

The funding is part of a cooperative agreement with the Foundation For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a nonprofit organization in Manchester, N.H. FIRST provides students the opportunity to engage with government, industry and university experts for hands-on, realistic exposure to engineering and technical professions.

"This is the largest NASA-funded student program geared toward
robotics activities," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "For
the next five years, approximately 25,000 students across the country
will not only learn from our nation's best and brightest, but also
compete and have fun at the same time."

The centerpiece of the program is the annual FIRST Robotics
Competition. During more than 45 regional competitions, teams of high
school students have six weeks to build a robot using an identical
kit of parts. There are dimension and weight limitations and other
technical restrictions, but teams can determine the look and function
of the robots. The regional competitions culminate with an
international championship in April.

The competition is structured like an athletic event. Teams compete in
an area the size of a small basketball court. The robots must have
offensive and defensive capabilities. Each team's robot works to
accomplish a task, while preventing its opponent from doing the same.
The robots must be sturdy because of frequent contact between the machines.

"This program has had a direct impact on our ability to mentor U.S.
students and help them consider technical careers," said Ed Weiler,
associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
Washington. "Supporting this program is critical to developing
scientists and engineers for future U.S. space exploration."

NASA's Robotics Alliance Project (RAP) solicited proposals Oct. 4 from
nonprofit and educational institutions to design and administer a
robotics outreach competition. RAP, which is sponsored by NASA's
Science Mission Directorate and managed from NASA's Ames Research
Center in Moffett Field, Calif., competitively selected FIRST from the candidates.

"In addition to financial support, there is considerable time
investment and commitment on the part of the NASA engineers and
scientists who work with the students," said Solar System Program
Executive Dave Lavery of NASA Headquarters.

During the past 16 years, the RAP has issued approximately $40 million
to academic and nonprofit organizations across the nation to
stimulate intellectual capability in fields tied to robotics
engineering. All 10 NASA centers participate in the RAP by
contributing technology expertise, funding and other resources.

NASA is the largest organization involved with FIRST and has
participated since 1995. In 1999, NASA and First signed a memorandum
of agreement to cooperatively expand the availability of technology
development, education and inspiration programs to students
throughout the country. U.S. entrepreneur Dean Kamen founded FIRST in
1989 to encourage youth to become leaders in science and technology.

For more information about NASA's Robotics Alliance Project, visit:


Source: NASA

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