WPI to Host ROBONAUTICA - FIRST Lego League Tournament

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

Worcester, MA - February 6, 2002 - Put together a few hundred young people and their families, a hundred thousand LEGO pieces, some inspiration and competitive spirit, and what do you get? RoboNautica: "A tech-know-logical voyage." It's a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament and family-day celebration featuring science and technology exhibits, demonstrations and activities for kids of all ages.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will host RoboNautica on Saturday, March 2 at the University's Harrington Auditorium on its Worcester campus beginning at 8 a.m. 30 teams from around the northeast will participate. The Worcester Ecotarium is cosponsoring the event and will feature interactive displays and activities during the tournament. FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology."

FIRST LEGO League is a program for children aged 9 through 14. Using LEGO Mindstorms technology, teams of seven to 10 members build a robot and compete in friendly events designed especially for their age group. They use LEGO "elements" such as bricks, sensors, motors and gears, and gain hands-on experience in engineering and computer programming principles as they construct and program their unique inventions.

"During a 10-week season, each team develops its own strategy to solve that year's 'challenge.' Then they design and build a robot based on that strategy. Tournaments such as RoboNautica give the kids a chance to learn just how successful their creations are, and how many different and clever solutions their can be. Of course, they have a great time too," said FLL Coach Michael Sherman, WPI's art director and organizer of the event. "Many of the kids involved with the FIRST LEGO League go on to become involved in the FIRST Robotics program at the high school [and college] level. They also come back as mentors to FLL teams. It is such a great program for kids to learn not only about science and technology, but about teamwork and problem-solving as well."

While the tournaments decide who built the best robot, their true purpose is to recognize and celebrate those achievements of the team that are far more important than how many points were scored. Awards are given for excellence in teamwork, creative thinking, design skills, overcoming obstacles, communication, research, and leadership among others. The most prestigious award is the Director's Award given to the team that best demonstrates respect, encouragement, and continued gracious professionalism in the heat of competition, both in and out of the arena.

RoboNautica is scheduled for Saturday, March 2, 2002 at the Harrington Auditorium on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute campus in Worcester Massachusetts. To register, visit: www.wpi.edu/News/Events/Robonautica or email robonautica@wpi.edu. Registration is $50 and is limited to the first 30 teams to register.

About WPI

WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education, and is recognized as one of the leading outcomes-oriented undergraduate programs preparing people for success in our technological world. Since its founding in 1865, WPI has broadened and perfected an influential curriculum that balances theory and practice.

This innovative and unique combination of educational methods, learning environment and a worldwide network of project centers is located in Worcester, Massachusetts, WPI supports the academic and research pursuits of over 2,500 students and 200 faculty pursuing opportunities to blend technological research and practice with societal needs, delivering meaningful real-world benefits.

For over a century, WPI has awarded advanced degrees in the sciences and engineering disciplines, as well as the management of technology and business. Our alumni include Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry; Harold Black, inventor of the principle of negative-feedback; Carl Clark, inventor of the first practical airbag safety system; Dean Kamen, inventor of the first wearable drug infusion pump; and many others who contribute to the transformation of our technological world.