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NASA Kicks Off 2011 Nationwide FIRST Robotics Competition

Forty-Five Regional Competitions To Take Place In April

An international robotics competition that develops the next generation of technology leaders kicked off over the weekend. NASA, the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition, and its centers across the nation joined local technology firms to launch the event Saturday.

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 among high school students. The event gives students the opportunity to design, build, test and compete a robot that can perform specific functions. FIRST also gives students a crucial mentoring experience with NASA professionals, who help them explore solutions to robotics problems and understand real-world challenges faced by engineers and researchers.

FIRST founder Dean Kamen and designers of the annual challenge will revealed the competition scenario for 2011. What follows is a six-week design and building frenzy for an estimated 30,000 students and engineering mentors comprising the nearly 2,000 teams in this year's competition.

Each year, FIRST presents 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 individual 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 for 297 teams and sponsors four regional student competitions, including a new FIRST regional competition in Washington, D.C. 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.

This year, 45 regional competitions will take place across the country, along with four additional international competitions in March and April. The FIRST Championship competition will be held in St. Louis in April.

FMI: http://robotics.nasa.gov

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