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Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753)

June 15, 1998

Sally Harrington Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH (Phone: 216/433-2037)



Student-built robots will take over Capitol Hill on Thursday, June 18, giving members of Congress and the media an opportunity to see the exciting results of a competition that combines an improved understanding of math, technology and science with teamwork and a thirst for achievement.

The "Capitol Hill Robotics Invitational" is a mini- competition among rubber ball-shooting robots designed and built by teams of high school students and their mentors in government, industry, and academia. It will feature 12 of the 199 teams that competed in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) national finals at EPCOT Center in Florida earlier this year.

The event, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, has been organized by U.S. Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and is sponsored by the House Science Committee.

FIRST has been running its national contest for seven years. Engineers from government, businesses and universities team up with high school students, starting with identical packages of materials supplied by FIRST, and work together to design, fabricate and test their robots in six intense weeks. Their goal is a championship robot that will compete in a tournament complete with referees, spectators, and cheerleaders.

"In the process, the students get a hands-on, inside look at the engineering profession," said David Lavery, robotics program manager in NASA's Office of Space Science, who has been active in FIRST for the past four years. "Meanwhile, we definitely get a charge from their enthusiasm and innovation, which reminds many of

us why we got into engineering in the first place."

The NASA Lewis Research Center/East Technical High School team from Cleveland, OH, will represent the 18 teams sponsored by various parts of the agency, including NASA Headquarters; Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA; Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD; Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; Kennedy Space Center, FL; and the Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA. The NASA Lewis/East Tech team has competed in the FIRST competition for five consecutive years. East Tech is a thematic engineering high school in the Cleveland City School District located within the inner city.

At the national competition in Orlando, FL, in April 1998, the team was a finalist for the Chairman's Award. This most prestigious award of the entire program is presented to the team judged to have created and documented the best partnership effort between team partners including outreach activities with children, universities, and corporate sponsors in their community as they prepare for the competition.

Prior to the national competition, the Lewis/East Tech team competed at the FIRST Great Lakes Regional Competition, where they won the Xerox Creativity Award. This award is given to the team that displays the most creative design, use of a component or the most creative or unique strategy of play. The judges noted that the NASA/East Tech robot used design ingenuity by applying aluminum powder coatings on its rollers to give them traction in gripping the balls. They also cited the team's use of a retractable tongue as a means of pulling the balls into the ladder rails to prevent them from being knocked loose by opponents.

For further information on FIRST and the NASA Lewis/East Tech team, see the following Internet pages:

For further details on the June 18 event, contact Julie Carr in Rep. Delahunt's office at 202/225-3111.