FIRST Robotics Competition Selects National Instruments CompactRIO for Next-Generation Robot Control
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed May 20, 2008
More Than 42,000 Students in the FIRST Robotics Competition Will Develop Advanced Robotics Applications Using the NI Robotics Platform Powered by NI LabVIEW

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit organization inspiring young people to be science and technology leaders, has selected the National Instruments (Nasdaq: NATI) CompactRIO embedded control platform as its next-generation FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) robot controller. With this platform, high school students will create advanced robots starting in the 2009 FIRST season. Students can program their robots based on CompactRIO in either NI LabVIEW graphical programming software or the ANSI C language.

The CompactRIO platform gives high school students access to advanced control capabilities and superior performance, including a 400 MHz PowerPC and FPGA-based I/O. The CompactRIO modular I/O system offers connectivity to a wide array of sensor and actuator options and powerful real-time vision processing to build a highly advanced robot. Students will be able to create robots that may be driver-controlled or run in fully autonomous mode using the latest technologies including wireless monitoring and simulation for more in-competition control and more accurate designs.

NI is granting a multimillion dollar in-kind donation over the next five years to FIRST to provide the CompactRIO system to participating teams. Several key technology suppliers have collaborated with NI to provide in-kind donations of components required to build the CompactRIO control system. These industry-leading technology companies include Analog Devices, Boston Engineering, ChipX, Dove Electronics, Freescale, MSI, Texas Instruments, TTI, Westak, Wind River, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Xilinx. Their support is helping NI to supply a leading-edge, highly sophisticated embedded platform equivalent to the most advanced industrial systems.

“Our goal is to have a FIRST team in every high school and to change the culture in our communities to celebrate excellence in science and engineering the same way we celebrate sports,” said Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST and president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation. “It’s the support of partners like NI that is helping FIRST make that goal a reality.”

FIRST engages and encourages students to discover the excitement of science and engineering through a range of robotics competitions including Junior FIRST LEGO League, FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Technical Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition. With the partnership between NI, LEGO and FIRST, 150,000 students in all FIRST competitions will have access to a progressive programming platform starting with LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G and continuing through NI LabVIEW. This robotics software continuum introduces students to age-appropriate technology in an exciting, hands-on learning environment.

“We’ve chosen to partner with FIRST because we believe the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program will have a substantial impact in creating more scientists and engineers,” said Ray Almgren, vice president of Academic Relations at National Instruments. “By adding CompactRIO and LabVIEW to the robotics platform of their competition, FIRST will increase the technical capabilities of the teams’ robots while making the programming more accessible to a much larger and diverse group of students because of the ease of use and productivity in NI LabVIEW graphical programming.”

Readers can visit http://www.usFIRST.org for more information on all FIRST programs or http://www.ni.com/academic/k12 for more information on the National Instruments academic program.

National Instruments in Academia
National Instruments (http://www.ni.com) is committed to enhancing engineering and science education worldwide by providing educators and students with powerful graphical system design software and modular hardware to connect the curriculum with the real world. Professors and students benefit from powerful, professional tools such as NI LabVIEW graphical development software, which helps students visualize and implement engineering concepts. The integration of LabVIEW in the classroom creates an effective, dynamic learning environment – from LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT in primary schools to research laboratories in universities. For more information about NI academic products, curriculum resources and discounts, visit http://www.ni.com/academic.

About FIRST
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Vex Challenge for high-school students, the FIRST LEGO League for children 9- to 14- years-old and the Junior FIRST LEGO League for 6- to 9- year-olds. To learn more about FIRST, go to http://www.usFIRST.org.

CompactRIO, LabVIEW, National Instruments, NI and ni.com are trademarks of National Instruments. Other product and company names listed are trademarks or trade names of their respective companies.

LEGO, MINDSTORMS and their respective logos are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2008 The LEGO Group.

Contacts
Julia Betts
National Instruments, Austin
P:  512-683-8165

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