30 U.S. high schools receive grant for Robotics Competition

Event Sponsored by VCU’s School of Engineering and NASA Langley Research Center

Thirty high schools from around the nation were recently awarded scholarships to participate in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering and NASA Langley Research Center. More than half of the schools that received grants are from Virginia.

Funding provided by NASA Langley Research Center and the Virginia Business-Education Partnership will allow hundreds of students to participate in the robot building contest scheduled for March 16 - 18 at VCU’s Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Scholarships were awarded to schools in Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. In addition, 16 high school teams in Virginia received scholarships.

NASA Langley Research Center awarded $6,000 scholarships to:

l Blacksburg High School - Blacksburg
l Explorer’s Club - Richmond
l Grundy High School - Grundy
l J.R. Tucker - Richmond
l Norfolk Technical Vocational Center - Norfolk
l St. Michael’s School - Richmond

The Virginia Business-Education Partnership awarded $5,000 scholarships to:

l Appomattox Regional Governor School - Petersburg
l Chesterfield Technical Center - Richmond
l Commonwealth Governor School - Fredericksburg
l Hermitage Technical Center - Richmond
l Herndon High School - Herndon
l John F. Kennedy High School - Richmond
l Orange County High School - Orange
l Phoebus High School - Hampton
l Richmond Community High School - Richmond
l Woodbridge Senior High School - Woodbridge

Six weeks prior to the regional competition, teams from each school will be presented with boxes of parts and contest rules. With guidance from engineers, scientists and corporate leaders, each group must construct a remote-controlled robot capable of competing "gladiator style" against other robots.

Powered by batteries and guided by joysticks, the robots will crawl, claw and compete in athletic-style contests. The dueling nature of the head-to-head competition tests students’ math, science and engineering skills and requires teams to build offensive and defensive capabilities into their designs.

Founded in 1992 by Dean Kamen, a New Hampshire inventor-engineer, the FIRST Robotics Competition seeks to inspire a desire for scientific learning and encourage the pursuit of a profession in engineering.

"We hope this competition will not only ignite a new generation of engineers and scientists, but also motivate high school students to achieve academically," said Robert Mattauch, Ph.D., VCU School of Engineering dean.

The competition in Richmond is one of 10 regional FIRST Robotics events. Following regionals, the FIRST national championship will be held in April at Epcot of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.