RICHMOND, Va. - Teamwork. That's the word of the weekend for the more than 1,000 high school students who spent weeks working together and have traveled to Richmond, Va., to prove that their robot is the one to beat this year.

This annual robotics competition - called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) - will be rolling March 2 and 3 at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center and is open to the public free of charge. + View Images + View Video + Captioned Video The 66 teams spent today making final adjustments to their robots and sending their creations through the course on practice runs, preparing for the real competition tomorrow and Saturday.

FIRST Robotics challenges teams of high school students and their mentors to design, assemble and test a robot capable of performing a specified task. The teams have only six weeks, a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules. teams must use their robots to either pick up inner tubes and hang them "tic-tac-toe-style" on a metal rack or they can use their ramps and strength to lift opposing robots off the ground.

According to an independent survey conducted by Brandeis University's Center for Youth and Communities, FIRST Robotics Competition participants are more than three times as likely to major in engineering than non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences. Also according to this survey, the FIRST participants are roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship or co-op job in their freshman year of college and significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post-graduate degree.

"I definitely plan to use what I've learned here in the future," said Mike Stevens, from Grafton High School, in Yorktown, Va. "I'm going to pursue a robotics career at Virginia Tech. It's like a rolling ball - I've got the momentum going right now and engineering is one of my passions, so I'm continuing to roll with it."

FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the inventor of Segway Human Transporter. According to Kamen, the vision for FIRST is "to create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."

This seventh annual Virginia FIRST Competition is sponsored by NASA Langley and Virginia Commonwealth University. It is one of 37 regional competitions in the U.S., Brazil, Canada and Israel. The national competition will be held April 12-14 in Atlanta, Ga.

FIRST Schedule Highlights

Friday, March 2: 9 a.m. -- Opening Ceremonies 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. -- Seeding Matches 4:30 p.m. -- Awards Ceremony

Saturday, March 3: 9 a.m. -- Opening Ceremonies 9:20 a.m. - 11:45 p.m. -- Seeding Matches 1 - 3 p.m. -- Final Matches 3 p.m. -- Awards Ceremony

Video available on request.

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