WPI Robot to Show Its Stuff in Boston and Worcester Oct. 1 & 4

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/September 30, 1999
Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - Robots have been a main attraction in movies and TV shows from "Star Wars" to "Lost in Space." So it's no wonder Worcester Polytechnic Institute's FIRST Robotics Team is bringing spectators out in droves to see a real working robot battle for the top spot or just strut its stuff.

WPI's award-winning robot, Gompei, is the namesake of the original keeper of the university's mascot, the goat. The robotic Gompei has traveled around the country to compete against others of his kind for the past several months, tallying an overall eighth-place finish in the national tournament in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year. The robotic competition is the brainchild of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Foundation. FIRST sponsors an annual design contest that pits robot against robot in regional and international competitions. The robots, designed, built and tested within an intense six-week deadline, are made by high-school teams partnered with a business or college.

Locally, students from the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science, the public high school located on the WPI campus, created Gompei. While the team gears up for another season, Gompei continues to show his stuff, at home and away.

Ken Stafford, WPI's manager of academic initiatives and adjunct professor of mechanical engineering, said the Mass Academy/WPI team will demonstrate Gompei Friday, Oct. 1, at 4 p.m. at a National School Board meeting in Boston. Gompei will compete against robots from eight other Massachusetts teams. Then Monday, Oct. 4, from 3-4 p.m., Gompei will show its stuff at Worcester's Plumley Village Learning Project.

"Local youths will have the opportunity to see and operate the robot," Stafford said.

Gompei has become not only a competitor, but also an inspiration.

"So far the 130-pound robot has made over a dozen public appearances," Stafford said. "Gompei has performed at libraries, on stage, in auditoriums, at camps and at fairs - all the time promoting the image that science and technology are fun and can lead to rewarding careers."

Stafford is now gearing up, so to speak, for another year of competition.

"For our team, the on-campus Mass Academy provides the high-school students and WPI students are the corporate engineers," he said. "You don't have to be an engineering student to join the team. We have intelligence, documentation, logistics, publicity and 3D animation sub-teams that support the whole effort."

For more information about Gompei and the upcoming demonstrations, contact Stafford at 508-831-6122 or e-mail him at stafford@wpi.edu.

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