RELEASE: 98- NASA AMES TO HOST WESTERN REGIONAL ROBOT GAMES FOR STUDENTS Student-made robots will "clash" in a western regional competition to be held Feb. 25 to 27, 1999 at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. Organizers project that the "robot games" will attract participants from at least 40 high schools in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. During the competition, robots will "battle" for two-minute rounds in an arena setting. "In the next two decades, NASA will engage in bold new missions of exploration of our star system with robots," said Mark Leon, NASA manager of the competition at Ames. "In order to accomplish these robotic missions, we will need talented people to build the next generation of robots; that fact, plus NASA's dedication to education, is our motivation or helping students to participate in this competition." NASA is working cooperatively with a non-profit group, "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," U.S. FIRST, Manchester, NH, which organizes the contests. Each year, the group develops the competition by supplying "a problem" and a kit of parts to teams of students. To encourage participation by a broad and diverse range of schools and to ensure that no group is excluded for financial reasons, NASA has agreed to cover the registration fee for 20 high schools with the best proposals from the eight-state western region. "The 20 best proposals we receive that follow the correct format and satisfy the selection criteria will be rewarded with registration to the U.S. FIRST regional competition at Ames," said Leon. "In addition, schools with the best proposals will receive airfare and hotel accommodations for one team member to attend the kickoff event in Manchester, NH." The cut-off date for selection is Dec. 4; proposals received after that date will be held only as alternatives. Each year, specific detailed requirements of the robot games are carefully guarded until announced at the kick-off workshop, to be held Jan. 9 at the Holiday Inn, in Manchester, NH. Students and their advisors then design and construct remote-control robots in six weeks using identical kits of material. Advisors are often professional engineers from private industry, government and universities. In all, regional finals will be held at eight locations across the country, including two other NASA centers. Winners may compete at the national finals in April at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center, Orlando, FL. lf of the schools to be awarded the $4,000 for fees will be disadvantaged" as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. By visiting the Ames Learning Technology Project website at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/firstrobots, students and educators can learn how to apply to participate in the robot contests. "Other requirements include a plan for a dedicated teacher and a dedicated mechanical engineer to work with the students. They also have to have transportation arrangements to Ames," Leon added. Each team will have a representative at the kick off event in New Hampshire. This is a critical phase in the competition where the teams receive their robot kits and clarify their understanding of how they should prepare. The U.S. FIRST website at: http://www.usfirst.org lists more information about the other regional contests. They will be held at Space Center Houston, Houston, TX; Kennedy Space Center, FL; William Rainey Harper College, Chicago, IL; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; Meadows Music Theater, Hartford, CT; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; and Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI. Organizers say the overall goal of the robot competition is to allow students to interact with engineers so that the young people can see the connection between classroom lessons and the real world. Hopefully, this will inspire more students to become engineers. "The competition truly is a fine, creative example of what can be done to excite the next generation about science and technology and motivate young Americans to the pursuit of scientific and technological excellence," said President Clinton. U. S. FIRST was started in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to persuade American youth that engineering and technology are exciting fields. The annual robotics competition is patterned after Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Woodie Flowers' engineering design course. "(The contest) is really a celebration of the efforts that came before the actual competition, as well as the gracious professionalism displayed at the competition; and the kids know that we are still accepting them, even if their robots don't work," Flowers said.