NASA, FIRST challenge high school scientists

NASA and an educational foundation have issued a challenge to high school scientists and engineers: Build the robots and the scholarships and internships will come.

The event was the kickoff to the 17th annual FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST ' which stands for 'For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology' ' is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 with the goal of inspiring young people's interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.

The students' challenge for 2008 is to design the robot that can most quickly and efficiently race around a track, knock 40-inch inflated balls off an overhead rack and move them around the track. Extra points can be earned by robots putting the balls back on the overpass before the end of the 2 minute, 15 second match.

More than 37,500 high school students on more than 1,500 teams from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and every U.S. state are reported to be participating in this year's competition, which is also sponsored by NASA. Participants are eligible to apply for more than $9.5 million in scholarships from universities and companies, in addition to internships. www.usfirst.org

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