NASA helps launch 2012 FIRST robotics competition

9 Jan 2012

US space agency NASA has helped lift off an international robotics competition aimed at developing a new generation of technology leaders.

The FIRST Robotics Competition kicked off at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire, over the weekend, with NASA centres across the US joining technology terms in the launch of the event.

FIRST – or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – is a challenge to spark curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among high school students.

“This program has given tens of thousands of students a crucial mentoring experience if they choose to be a part of future exploration endeavours in space,” said said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “FIRST Robotics is fun and exciting and will sustain an unprecedented positive educational impact on our nation’s youth.”

In the FIRST Robotics Competition, students can design, build and test a robot that can perform specific functions. The competition also gives students the opportunity to receive mentoring from NASA professionals, who help the students 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.

The competition’s launch also marked the kick off of 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 new 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.

This year, there will be regional competitions across the US, as well as four additional international competitions in March and April.