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An international robotics competition aimed at developing a new generation of technology leaders kicks off at 10:30 A.M. EST Saturday, Jan. 7. NASA, the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition and its centers across the nation, will join local technology firms to launch the event.
The main competition kickoff will take place at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester and will air live on NASA Television. 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. 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.”
During the live broadcast of this year’s competition kickoff, inventor and FIRST founder Dean Kamen and designers of the annual challenge will reveal this year’s competition scenario. This kicks off 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.
This year, there will be regional competitions across the country, as well as four additional international competitions in March and April. The FIRST Championship competition will be held April 25-28 in St. Louis. The program was founded in 1989 by Kamen to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people, their schools, and communities. Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, FIRST is a non-profit organization that designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue academic opportunities.