Press Release

“Lunacy” Unveiled to 42,000 High-School Students at 2009 FIRST Robotics Competition Game Kickoff

By SpaceRef Editor
January 3, 2009
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“Lunacy” Unveiled to 42,000 High-School Students at 2009 FIRST Robotics Competition Game Kickoff

Life-changing program inspires young people to become individual economic stimulus packages and pursue opportunities in science and technology

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) launched its eighteenth FIRST Robotics Competition season today with a Kickoff of a new robotics game called “Lunacy” at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH, hometown and headquarters of FIRST.

“Forty years ago, NASA fueled a generation`s imagination with the success of Apollo 11. As we celebrate that remarkable feat of technology and engineering with our 2009 game, “Lunacy,” we are sparking more of that kind of inspiration through the FIRST Robotics Competition,” said FIRST founder, Dean Kamen. “Just as NASA scientists landed a man on the moon and returned him safely to earth in 1969, so too will these young people go on to explore new frontiers and develop breakthrough technologies that will change the world.”

The FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual competition that helps students discover the rewards and excitement of science, engineering, and technology. More than 42,000 high-school students on 1,686 teams from the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Turkey, and the U.K. are participating in this year`s competition.

“In today`s social environment, FIRST has a chance to re-define the larger economic and moral playing field,” noted Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST national advisor and Pappalardo professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Our students can be their own economic stimulus packages by leveraging their skills into self-sustaining careers and help with the issues we face in the 21st century.”

In the “Lunacy” game, robots are designed to pick up 9″ game balls and score them in trailers hitched to their opponents` robots for points during a 2 minute and 15 second match. Additional points are awarded for scoring a special game ball, the Super Cell, in the opponents’ trailers during the last 20 seconds of the match. “Lunacy” is played on a low-friction floor, which means teams must contend with the laws of physics.

At today`s Kickoff, teams were shown the game field and received a Kit of Parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, and a mix of automation components – but no instructions. Working with mentors, students have six weeks to design, build, program, and test their robots to meet the season`s engineering challenge. Once these young inventors create a robot, their teams participate in competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

Sponsored by NASA, PTC, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the exciting Kickoff event gave teams the opportunity to see the new game for the first time. Teams across the nation and in Canada, and Israel watched the proceedings via NASA TV broadcast or webcast from 52 local Kickoff sites, many of which also offered workshops and a chance to meet other teams. The agenda included presentations by FIRST founder Dean Kamen; PTC executive vice president and chief product officer James E. Hepplemann; NASA program executive Dave Lavery; FIRST chairman John Abele; FIRST national advisor Dr. Woodie Flowers; and FIRST president Paul R. Gudonis. The program also featured the premiere of the 2009 FIRST Safety Video, presented by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association and Underwriters Laboratories.

In 1992, the FIRST Robotics Competition began with 28 teams and a single 14 x 14 foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym. This season, 1,686 teams – including 322 rookie teams – will participate. Forty regional competitions in the U.S., Canada, and Israel, plus seven district competitions and one state championship in Michigan, will lead up to the 2009 FIRST Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, April 16-18. FIRST programs are operated by over 85,000 dedicated volunteers worldwide, many of them professional engineers and scientists who mentor the next generation of innovators.

To find FIRST Robotics Competition events and teams in your area, visit and click on the map in the top right corner.


Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering.

Since its beginning, FIRST has had a positive impact on students and academic communities. Participating high-school juniors and seniors are eligible to apply for more than $9 million in scholarships from leading universities, colleges, and companies. Research has shown that FIRST has significantly improved students` attitudes about math and science and has fostered a culture of teamwork, leadership, and self-confidence. In fact, FIRST participants are 50% more likely to attend college, twice as likely to go on to major in science or engineering, three times as likely to major specifically in engineering, and four times more likely to expect to pursue a career in engineering than a comparison group of students with similar backgrounds in high school math and science.

FIRST Founding Sponsors include Boston Scientific Corporation, Baxter International Incorporated, The Chrysler Foundation, DEKA Research & Development Corp., Delphi Corporation, General Motors Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Motorola Incorporated, and Xerox Corporation. FIRST Strategic Partners include BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, FedEx Corporation, General Motors Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, NASA, National Instruments, Rockwell Automation, and Rockwell Collins.

With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge for high-school students, the FIRST LEGO(R) League for children 9-14 years old, and the Junior FIRST LEGO League for 6 to 9 year-olds. To learn more about FIRST, go to

SpaceRef staff editor.