Media Contact
June 03, 2009

WORCESTER, Mass.– A Java technology implementation developed by a team of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students and researchers from Sun Microsystems Laboratories for use in the international FIRST Robotics competition will be honored this week with a 2009 Duke's Choice Award, which recognizes the best and most innovative projects developed using the Java platform during the past year. The award will be formally presented Friday, June 5, during the JavaOne conference in San Francisco, the world's largest Java technology event.

The Duke's Choice Award, now in its fourth year and named after Java's company mascot, celebrates "extreme innovation” in the world of Java technology. Ten winners were selected by Sun Fellow and Vice President James Gosling and the Java technology leadership team. Judging was based on the innovation and creativity of the Java technology-based applications and services, including web applications and tools, mobile applications and services, games, and card-based applications.

"WPI is all about helping students transfer what they learn about technology to everyday life and society at large,” said Greg Papadopoulos, Sun Microsystems chief technology officer. "Using open-source software such as Java and NetBeans, WPI has worked with the FIRST Robotics competition to do just that, and in the process has helped high school students discover how rewarding the life of an engineer can be.”

The Java technology implementation developed by the WPI-Sun Microsystems team will be made available to all teams participating in the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition. The announcement was made in April at the 2009 FIRST Championship in Atlanta.

The robotics competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts” and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in competitions; for a number of years Java has been the top language requested by FIRST teams for inclusion in the kit. Now for the first time, contestants in the 2010 FIRST competition will be able to use Java, LabView, or C++ to program their robots.

The creation of the Java platform is the culmination of several years of work by WPI students and researchers from the Sun SPOT project at Sun Microsystems Laboratories in Burlington, Mass. It is not the first contribution WPI has made to the FIRST tool kit. Last year, WPI and FIRST launched a software library that is now an integral element of a control system used by all teams participating in FIRST competitions. That system was developed with FIRST and National Instruments, and it expanded the capabilities of the FIRST teams by providing them with the choice of using the language C/C++ or National Instrument's LabVIEW, a graphical programming language.

The C/C++ users base their code on a programming library developed by Brad Miller, associate director of WPI's Robotics Resource Center, and a team of WPI faculty and students. Called WPILib, the library includes a range of modules that enables high school students to easily and quickly develop programs that take full advantage of the enhanced power of the new control system.

In addition to providing software for the control system, WPI also developed the FIRST Robotics Resource Center website (, which the university has hosted since 2006. With a two-year, $189,500 award from the National Science Foundation, two WPI undergraduate project teams went on to build a social networking community for FIRST teams called ThinkTank, which promotes the sharing of information, helps teams support one another, and makes it easier for new teams to get up and running. The site also provides a centralized source of information for teams around the world that participate in FIRST competitions.

About WPI Robotics

WPI launched the nation's first bachelor's degree program in robotics engineering in 2006. This fall it will inaugurate a master's program in the field, thus becoming the only university in the nation with both undergraduate and graduate programs in robotics engineering. WPI's Robotics Engineering Advisory Board consists of representatives of several leading robotics companies including Helen Greiner, co-founder of iRobot Corp. and founder of The Droid Works; David Kelley, president of Bluefin Robotics; Scott Myers of the Technology Solutions Group of QinetiQ North; and Dean Kamen '73, founder of FIRST and DEKA Research and Development Corp. WPI has also sponsored a team in the FIRST high school completion since 1992 and currently sponsors teams at the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI and Burncoat High School in Worcester.