800 Students Compete in New York FIRST LEGO Robotics Tournament Saturday at Riverbank State Park

NEW YORK -Some 800 middle-school students from around the city and state will apply their knowledge and imagination to create robots made of LEGO bricks tomorrow in the New York City FIRST LEGO Robotics Tournament, presented by FIRST LEGO League International.

Students will compete in this year's virtual challenge "City Sights" - offering solutions to challenges urban planners face every day, including housing, clean water, a safe environment, educational and medical services, sustainable energy, mass transportation and communications.

The New York City tournament, sponsored by a $45,000 grant from Verizon Foundation, will be held at Riverbank State Park (main building) and 145th Street from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Using the LEGO® MINDSTORMSTM Robotics Invention System, students will compete for awards in programming, mechanical design, strategy, problem solving, sportsmanship and teamwork. The New York City FIRST LEGO League Tournament is an activity of New York City FIRST, which creates science, technology and engineering programs for young people and is based at the David Packard Center of Polytechnic University.

In addition to Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, other members of this citywide partnership include: International Robotics, LEGO Direct, Netherlands American Community Trust, New York City College of Technology, New York District Council of Carpenters, New York City Department of Education, Polytechnic University, Scharff-Weisberg, and Vision Education.

Dean Kamen, founder of New York City FIRST (First Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and inventor of the revolutionary Segway, the personal transportation device designed to operate in any pedestrian environment, is the brain child behind the competition which he calls a "friendly, high-tech sporting event" that shows kids science and technology can be as much fun as competitive sports.

Developed by New York City FIRST through a partnership with the LEGO Company, FIRST LEGO League presents an interactive program that captivates student interest in science and technology as they learn the dynamics of teamwork and problem solving. Teams are generated through schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops, YMCAs and other youth-based organizations.

"The science competition will help students work as teams while learning how to manage projects, simulating a group product design," said Anna Maenhout, director of FIRST LEGO League. "This year's 115 local teams will break down the projects so there are designers, builders, programmers, researchers, marketers and team captains."

The technology used in the FIRST LEGO League program is a result of a ten-year collaboration between LEGO Company and the MIT Media Lab. The heart of each robot is the RCX brick, an autonomous microcomputer that can be programmed using a PC. The RCX serves as the brain of the robotic inventions by using light and touch sensors to take input from its environment, process data and signal output motors to turn on and off.

Users first build their robot using LEGO bricks and then create a program for their invention using RCX Code, a simple, powerful programming language. Next, they download their program to the RCX using a special infrared transmitter. Their creation can then interact with its environment, fully independent from the computer. To learn more about LEGO® MINDSTORMSTM visit: http://mindstorms.lego.com.

For more information visit: www.usfirst.org or www.firstlegoleague.org or call 800-871-8326.


For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology

FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. FIRST sanctions two science competitions, the FIRST Robotics competition for high school students and the FIRST LEGOTM League for middle school students. Ten years ago the FIRST Robotics Competition began with 28 teams and a single 14 x 14 foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym. Today, more than 800 teams participate in North America, in 23 Regional events and a Championship event.

The FIRST LEGOTM League has grown from 2,000 to 26,000 children across the United States and over 5,000 children from other countries around the world.