ONR-Sponsored Students Prep for FIRST Robotics Competition

Corporate Communications
Office of Naval Research
875 N. Randolph Street
Arlington, Va. 22203
Phone: 703-696-5031
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2010
By: Rob Anastasio, ONR Corporate Communications

ARLINGTON, Va. – (March 4) – Aimed at boosting young people’s interest in science and technology careers, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is sponsoring a team of local high school students as they participate in a robotics competition March 5-6 in Washington, D.C.  Image - Logo

“We are concerned about educating and inspiring the youth in the area of science and technology (S&T),” said Dr. Kam Ng, deputy director of Research for ONR. His responsibilities include managing and setting goals for the Navy’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program, which has a budget of $20 million this year. “This robotics program is an opportunity for students to get hands-on technology experience, which will act as inspiration for them to continue in the science and technology field.”

The McKinley Technology High School team, coached by Naval Reserve Program’s Cmdr. Jim Grove, will participate in For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology’s (FIRST) regional Washington, D.C. competition. The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.  The Department of Defense (DoD), through the National Defense Education Program (NDEP) is a sponsor of Technology Row at this years’ regional Washington, D.C., competition.

As part of the FRC, more than 30 teams of approximately 25 high school students work with volunteer mentors as they attempt to design and build a robot – weighing no more than 120 pounds –  in six weeks using a kit of commonly used robot parts. The students will use the robots in a gaming competition called “Breakaway” – similar to soccer – in which robots operating on a 27 foot by 54 foot field try to gather soccer balls in their own goal to accumulate points. These competitive robots can operate autonomously or by guided wireless controls to complete this task.

Termed as “coopertition,” students must build cooperative alliances with other teams while simultaneously working in a competitive nature for the game. As a testament to this philosophy, the winning teams will receive awards based on their leadership, commitment, and innovation rather than their team’s final score. Several students will also receive scholarships from colleges and universities in the S&T professions. This aligns well with ONR’s longstanding agenda to attract and nurture the next generation of innovators. With statistics showing a steady decrease in U.S. scientists, a focus on STEM careers is clearly a priority for ONR as the Navy and Marine Corps’ S&T provider.

ONR has donated more than $10,000 worth of top-of-the-line parts to be included in the robot kit of parts for the McKinley Technology High School team. Items include bearings, tubing, slides, switches, tools, controls, software and robot frames. In sponsoring this team, ONR expounds upon its goal of bringing the S&T world to future scientists and hopefully finding the “next big thing.” “ONR’s interest here is to catch the interest of the students by providing unique opportunities,” Ng said.

The DoD National Defense Education Program supports DoD participation in FIRST robotics activities. This year, NDEP has provided close to $200 thousand to support the establishment of middle school and high school teams under the sponsorship of the DoD. Under this effort, NDEP has supported the formation of 34 new FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and 13 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams that are competing in local, regional and national annual robotics competitions throughout the nation. Defense organizations, such as ONR and the Naval Research Laboratory, from all services are supporting FLL and FRC teams and provide team coaching and student mentorship through the involvement of DoD STEM professionals.

Founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST is a public charity based in Manchester, N.H., and was organized to inspire young people’s interest and participation in S&T. It designs accessible, innovative programs that build not only S&T skills and interests, but also self-confidence, leadership and life skills.

For more information on the event, visit www.dc-first.org.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning, and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

Corporate Communications
Office of Naval Research
875 N. Randolph Street
Arlington, Va. 22203
Phone: 703-696-5031
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil

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