Prestigious Award, a First for WPI, Presented by WPI Alumnus Dean Kamen;
Team Goes on to Win GM Industrial Design Award at Orlando Regional

For Immediate Release/ March 29, 2006
Contact: Michael Dorsey

WORCESTER, Mass., March 29, 2006 — The FIRST robotics team from the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science in Worcester, sponsored by Worcester Polytechnic Institute, won the coveted Chairman's Award at the FIRST BAE/Granite State Regional in Manchester, N.H. on March 4. It was the team's first Chairman's Award. The following week, the team moved on to win the General Motors Industrial Design Award, which "celebrates form and function in an efficiently designed machine that effectively achieves the game challenge," during a regional competition in Orlando, Fla., Currently, the team is preparing to compete in the FIRST Championship in Atlanta in late April.

The Chairman's Award was presented to the WPI/Mass. Academy team for its outstanding year-round performance in inspiring young people to pursue careers and education in technological, scientific, and engineering fields. The WPI team is one of only five teams that have remained continuously involved in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) since the robotics competition began in 1992. Upon the award's announcement, the team received a standing ovation from the 52 other teams from across the United States and Canada competing in the New Hampshire regional event.

In presenting the award, FIRST founder Dean Kamen (WPI Class of 1973) said, "the Regional Chairman's Award was created to keep the central focus of the FIRST Robotics Competition on the ultimate goal of transforming our culture to one where youth aspire to careers in science and technology. The award honors the team that, in the judges' estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate, and which embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST.

"Among the factors judges evaluate," Kamen noted, "are concrete examples of mentorship between students and engineers; demonstrations of how a team inspires others in its school, community, and beyond to share in the excitement and fun of engineering; and compelling stories about how the partnership has impacted the lives of those involved. This is FIRST's most prestigious award."

The judges in New Hampshire noted that the WPI team members have mentored several FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams and each year conduct some 50 demonstrations throughout New England. WPI runs a state FLL tournament, two FLL summer camps, and an off-season FRC tournament. In addition, WPI has helped develop the new VEX intermediate-level robotics system (a high school robotics competition that uses a more affordable robotics kit) and arranged several VEX scrimmages. (A WPI student-mentored/Mass. Academy team won the FIRST Vex Challenge tournament in Hartford, Conn., on March 10, which qualifies that team to join their colleagues in Atlanta.)

The WPI team's robot, nicknamed "The Plastic Fantastic," is a 130-pound, six-wheeled wonder largely built of transparent polycarbonate plastic. According to team advisor Ken Stafford, it uses a sophisticated suite of 12 sensors, nine motors, and one pneumatic actuator to automatically shoot sponge basketballs into high goals from up to 25 feet away. During remote-controlled operation, it instantly picks up and loads loose balls from the floor and scores them in either high or low goals. It has also proven to be a formidable defensive machine that can prevent opponents from scoring.

As a Chairman's Award winner, the WPI/Mass. Academy team will compete in Atlanta against the winners from the other 32 regional competitions for the International Chairman's Award. A total of 28 students and chaperones will travel as a team to the championship between April 27 and 29 to compete against 320 other FIRST robot teams.

About WPI

Founded in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is one of the nation's first and leading scientific, engineering and technological universities. Its 18 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. WPI's world-class faculty work with students in a number of cutting-edge research areas, leading to breakthroughs and innovations in such fields as biotechnology, fuel cells, information security, and nanotechnology.