FIRST wins $20m NASA grant

NASA has awarded up to $20 million over the next five years to FIRST, the Manchester-based organization known for its national and international robotics competition. FIRST, the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is a Manchester-based nonprofit founded by New Hampshire inventor Dean Kamen in 1989. Its goal is to foster an appreciation of science and technology among young people. The grant will help to fund the robotics competition as well as the FIRST Tech Challenge – both of which give high-school age participants hands-on robotics experience. It also will give students exposure to NASA scientists and engineers to ensure they receive meaningful training during the experience. “This is the largest NASA-funded student program geared toward robotics activities,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “For the next five years, approximately 25,000 students across the country will not only learn from our nation’s best and brightest, but also compete and have fun at the same time.” NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project solicited proposals from nonprofit and educational institutions in October to design and administer a robotics outreach competition, selecting FIRST to receive the funds. “This program has had a direct impact on our ability to mentor U.S. students and help them consider technical careers,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Supporting this program is critical to developing scientists and engineers for future U.S. space exploration.” NASA, the largest organization involved with FIRST, has participated since 1995. In 1999, NASA and FIRST signed a memorandum of agreement to cooperatively expand the availability of technology development, education and inspiration programs to students throughout the country. — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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