past FIRST competition
Complete with alliances and the thrill of knocking out your opponents, this competition is a little like the "Survivor" reality TV show. And although the location may not be as exotic as the Amazon jungle, for these robot competitors it may as well be Mars.

After only six weeks to build their robots, 59 teams of students, teachers, mentor engineers and their robots are ready to compete in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Southern California Regional robotics competition on April 3 to 5, at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

The robotics competition aims to inspire students, provide hands-on activities and foster teamwork. The program provides students with opportunities to work side-by-side with professional engineers to build a robot. Each year, the teams are assigned a complex task their robots must perform in competition. They receive a kit filled with motors, control computers, raw materials and many other parts they need to get started.

The nationwide competition is conducted by the non-profit FIRST organization in Manchester, N.H. Teams entering the competition are sponsored by NASA and a number of corporations.

This year's game, titled "Stack Attack," requires robots to gather plastic storage containers from a central platform, return them to their side of the playing field and stack them. Teams receive points based on the number of plastic containers their robot can collect and stack in the 2-minute match. Each match will feature two-team alliances playing on opposite ends of the playing field. At the start of the match, the robots will have 15 seconds to function autonomously, without driver control, to collect container stacks or knock down their opponent's containers. The robots will then be under control from their drivers for the remainder of the match.

NASA is supporting 20 of the 59 teams participating in the Southern California Regional competition. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is providing nearly 20 mentor engineers to many of those teams as well as approximately 50 volunteers to staff the event.

The event is open to the public and admission is free. Parking fees may apply. The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena is located at 3939 S. Figueroa St. in Los Angeles.

Media are encouraged to attend Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5. Thursday is an inspection and practice day. Opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. Friday, with competition matches from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, matches are from 9:30 to noon with final matches from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The awards ceremony is from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The robotics competition is partially sponsored by NASA as part of the Robotics Education Project. In collaboration with FIRST, and NASA centers around the country, NASA's Robotics Education Project is sponsoring seven of the 23 regional competitions and nearly 200 of the 800 teams participating in the 2003 competitions.

An animation of this year's game is at http://robotics.nasa.gov/archive/video.htm.

More information about the competition is at http://www.usfirst.org/.

More information on NASA's Robotics Education Project is at http://robotics.nasa.gov/.

Media Contact

JPL/Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
or (818) 653-9340 (day of event)

2003-045