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NASA Helps Kick Off 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition

Contestants Have Six Weeks To Design And Build Its Robot From Standard Parts Kit

An international robotics competition aimed at developing a new generation of technology leaders got underway Saturday. NASA, the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition joined local technology firms to launch the event, which is taking place at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.

FIRST -- or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology -- is a long-standing challenge to inspire curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among high school students. Encouraging students to pursue STEM studies and careers is the focus of NASA's education programs. "NASA's Science Mission Directorate is proud to have sponsored this technology revolution for the past 19 years," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "This program has given tens of thousands of students a crucial mentoring experience if they choose to be a part of future exploration endeavors in space. FIRST Robotics is fun and exciting and will sustain an unprecedented positive educational impact on our nation's youth."

The FIRST Robotics Competition gives students the opportunity to design, build and test a robot that can perform specific functions. The competition also gives students the opportunity to be mentored by NASA professionals, who help them to explore potential solutions to robotics problems and understand the real-world challenges faced by engineers and researchers.

"FIRST Robotics has had a tremendous impact on students' interest in robotics and invention since its inception," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for Education. "In fact, it was a mutual interest in FIRST Robotics that led the agency to a recently announced collaboration with entertainer will.i.am. We are excited to work together to help inspire the next generation to pursue STEM and robotics studies."

At the kickoff, inventor and FIRST founder Dean Kamen and designers of the annual challenge revealed this year's competition scenario. This begins a six-week design and building frenzy for students and their engineering mentors. Each year, participating FIRST teams are presented with a new robotics competition scenario with twists and nuances to challenge both rookie and veteran teams. Each team receives a kit of parts and has six weeks to design and build a robot based on the team's interpretation of the game scenario. Other than dimension and weight restrictions, the look and function of the robots is up to each team.

NASA plays a significant role by providing public access to robotics programs to encourage young people to investigate careers in the sciences and engineering. Through the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, the agency provides grants to teams and sponsors four regional student competitions. NASA engineers and scientists participate with many of these teams as technical participants and mentors to the students. Through these mentoring activities, NASA engineers are able to directly share their expertise and experiences with the nation's next generation of technical leaders.

http://robotics.nasa.gov 

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