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WPI to Host NASA Robotics Competition

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


NASA and WPI are teaming up to bring robotics competition to campus. This is a win, win situation for the nation’s first university to have an undergraduate degree in Robotic Engineering, according to Kenneth Stafford and Colleen Shaver of WPI’s Robotics Resource Center, .

The competition is NASA’s Centennial Challenge – the Sample Return Robot (SRR) Challenge – a national competition with a total prize purse of $1.5 million, tscheduled for June 16th. For competing teams who pay $15-20,000 building their robots, the prizes will be well received.

“It’s an opportunity for the school, the city, and for New England,” Stafford said, Head of the Robotics Resource Center. “From my point of view, there are a couple really key issues that went into that decision for NASA.”

Stafford and Shaver both played key roles in securing this opportunity to team with NASA.

“WPI is recognized by NASA as a center of excellence for robotics,” Stafford said. “In their move from manned to unmanned – WPI has a strong national image for a place to go for high quality robotics.”

The competition will be a part of TouchTomorrow: An Interactive Festival of Science, Technology and Robots at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“TouchTomorrow is our way of sharing our excitement about NASA’s recognition of WPI as a world leader in the development of robotics science and engineering,” said Dennis D. Berkey, president and CEO of WPI. “At WPI, we feel passionately about the mission to promote and advance science and technology education to students at the K-12 levels. TouchTomorrow, which we hope will become an annual event, is designed to inspire young people, their families and their teachers, through exposure to and interaction with advanced

aerospace and robotics technology.”

The event will feature games, contests, and educational events inducing Be The Robot – a virtual-reality adventure that lets you see what a roving robot sees as it explores the landscape on another planet. Lunar Quest will teach about physics through solving puzzles and creative challenges. There will also be demonstrations including an actual rocket launch.

Good Experience

Part of what makes WPI a prime candidate for hosting and managing NASA’s competition is their past experience.

“NASA gets the ball rolling, asking would like to run it, but the allies and supporting organizations have to set up the operation for it,” Stafford said. “WPI was postured very well to do that. We’ve hosted twenty tournaments larger than this since my tenure here that have gotten national recognition.”

Battle Cry

This weekend, WPI will be hosting another, more local robotics competition, Battle Cry. On Friday and Saturday, the university will host its 13th annual production for high school teens poised in their first robotic competition.

“Not only do teams get incredible experience, but it also brings thousands of people to campus,” Stafford said. “It combined the ambiance of a concert with the intensity of a basketball game.”

The event runs from 4pm-11pm on Friday and all day Saturday and will include three Worcester teams, one from Shrewsbery, one from Northborough, and one from Westborough, plus representative teams from all other New England states and New York.

“This is an exciting event and it is the single largest in terms of lights and sound, according to our technicians,” Stafford said. “It’s successes like that that made WPI a place that can run something like (the NASA competition).”  


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