Press Release

NASA Funds Nationwide High School Student Robotics Program

By SpaceRef Editor
December 1, 2010
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HAMPTON, Va. — NASA is providing up to $20 million over the next five years to support a national program to inspire student interest in science, technology and mathematics with a focus on robotic technology. In Hampton Roads, there are more than a dozen robotics programs that will benefit from the continued funding.

The funding is part of a cooperative agreement with the Foundation For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a nonprofit organization in Manchester, N.H. FIRST provides students the opportunity to engage with government, industry and university experts for hands-on, realistic exposure to engineering and technical professions.

The centerpiece of the program is the annual FIRST Robotics Competition. During more than 45 regional competitions, teams of high school students have six weeks to build a robot using an identical kit of parts. The regional competitions culminate with an international championship in April.

NASA Langley Research Center sponsors the NASA Knights, a team at New Horizons Regional Education Center in Hampton.

“The recent cooperative agreement announcement is exciting because it will allow us to continue to partner with students, educators and technical professionals through challenging and inspiring robotics competitions,” said Langley employee and FIRST supporter Jeff Seaton. “Langley first got involved in building competitive robots with students nearly 14 years ago and Langley employees have been instrumental in establishing regional and state-wide competitive events for all age levels.”

The competition is structured like an athletic event. Teams compete in an area the size of a small basketball court. The robots must have offensive and defensive capabilities. Each team’s robot works to accomplish a task, while preventing its opponent from doing the same. The robots must be sturdy because of frequent contact between the machines.

“This is the largest NASA-funded student program geared toward robotics activities,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “For the next five years, approximately 25,000 students across the country will not only learn from our nation’s best and brightest, but also compete and have fun at the same time.”

NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project (RAP) solicited proposals Oct. 4 from nonprofit and educational institutions to design and administer a robotics outreach competition. RAP, which is sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and managed from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., competitively selected FIRST from the candidates.

NASA is the largest organization involved with FIRST and has participated since 1995. In 1999, NASA and First signed a memorandum of agreement to cooperatively expand the availability of technology development, education and inspiration programs to students throughout the country. U.S. entrepreneur Dean Kamen founded FIRST in 1989 to encourage youth to become leaders in science and technology.

For more information about NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.