The 2004 FIRST Robotics Chesapeake Regional Competition will be held March 18-20 at the U.S. Naval Academy's Halsey Field House in Annapolis, Maryland. The three-day event is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday is a practice day and competition rounds will run all day Friday and Saturday. General parking will be available at the Naval Academy stadium with shuttle bus service available to the venue site.
FIRST, an acronym for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology", is organized to inspire curiosity and create interest in science and mathematics among today's youth. This is the second year that the Chesapeake Regional Steering Committee has hosted a FIRST regional in the state of Maryland. This year, 53 teams will be comprised of more than 1,500 students from throughout the state of Maryland and 11 other states. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the state of Maryland endorse the Chesapeake Regional Competition.
For NASA, participation with FIRST is another opportunity to meet an agency goal to 'Inspire the next generation as only NASA can.' NASA's education objectives include providing unique teaching and learning experiences for students and teachers while providing opportunities to engage NASA personnel. Programs such as FIRST provide NASA another arena for positive mentoring to occur.
The 2004 FIRST season is comprised of 26 regional competitions (held in the U.S. and Canada). There will be a regional each weekend leading up to the championship to be held April 15-17, in The Georgia Dome, in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Murdock, chairperson for the Chesapeake Regional Steering Committee, had the opportunity to see students in action recently at the National Building Museum in the District of Columbia. "It is truly amazing to see the ingenuity of the students who had converted a 300 pound containers of sensors, wheels, pneumatic equipment, wiring, and other pieces of hardware into a robot in such a limited amount of time," said Murdock.
"These kids are representative of all students in the competing high schools, from all economic levels. "It is truly exciting to see the smiles and joy on faces of students that discover that regardless of gender, race, or heritage that they can have fun and earn scholarships that prepare them for the future work force," added Murdock.
On January 10, as part of the kickoff event, Dean Kamen, FIRST Founder; Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST Vice Chairman; and Dave Lavery, NASA Program Executive, unveiled this year's game, "FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar." Participants for the 2004 season have been tasked with designing robots to race around a playing field collecting and passing 13" balls to human players who then shoot the balls into fixed and moveable goals.
Additionally, robots may attempt to hang from a 10' bar. Time has been of the essence as FIRST participants work with their mentors to solve common problems using the "kit of parts" while following a standard set of rules. Teams participate in regional competitions that measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration and partnerships, and the spirit and determination of students. Teams are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and ability to overcome obstacles.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by accomplished inventor Dean Kamen to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people, their schools and their communities. Based in Manchester, N.H., the non-profit organization designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue academic opportunities.
"The FIRST Robotics Competition is not just about the design and building of sophisticated robots. These students also develop maturity, professionalism, teamwork and mentoring skills that enrich their lives," said Kamen. "Many of our students develop an affinity for their science and math courses, go on to study engineering, technology or science in college, and also to pursue employment opportunities with sponsoring companies," added Kamen.
Teams will compete for honors and recognition that reward design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship and high-impact partnerships between schools, businesses and communities. For 2004, FIRST is offering eligible high school participant's more than 180 merit-based scholarship opportunities amounting to more than $3.8 million from leading universities, colleges and companies. Teams are also contending for an opportunity to compete at the championship in Atlanta.
Currently in its thirteenth year, the FIRST Robotics Competition anticipates its largest season ever with 935 teams, including 220 rookie teams, representing Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and nearly every state in the U.S.