Dean Kamen And Rhode Island Create Robotics Program Partnership

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—October 11, 2006— A coalition of Rhode Island education, innovation, and science and technology leaders have partnered with inventor Dean Kamen to bring Kamen's FIRST Vex(TM) Challenge to each of Rhode Island's 67 public high schools, charter schools, and career and technical centers. Rhode Island will be the first state in the nation to offer a FIRST program to all public high schools.

Student teams participating in the program will construct a working robot capable of completing a specific set of tasks and will have the opportunity to demonstrate their robot in a statewide competitive event. To participate, schools must commit a teacher and/or other adult mentor to the project to coordinate and support its student team. Winning teams may elect to participate in a regional or national competition.

The program, launched by the Business Innovation Factory, is supported by Governor Donald L. Carcieri and a coalition of education and science and technology advocates, including the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Governor's PK-16 Council, the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC), and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. Kamen announced the collaboration with STAC and the coalition at the Business Innovation Factory's annual Summit on Collaborative Innovation held in Providence, RI.

Total costs for the program are estimated at $140,000, which includes funding for a statewide competition beginning in 2007. The coalition will seek support from business and community sponsors and mentorship from the local colleges and universities.

"We cannot afford to fail in preparing our students for the jobs of tomorrow--jobs that will require skills in math, science, and engineering," says Governor Donald L. Carcieri, whose administration fully supports the program. "This program will provide Rhode Island's young people with an extraordinary opportunity to get hands-on, real-world science and engineering experience in a way that brings true excitement to learning. I am pleased to make this program an important part of our plan for educating Rhode Island's next generation of science, technology, and engineering leaders."

Central to the project objectives are plans to integrate the Vex Challenge into the state's new standards for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) education. The Vex Challenge emphasizes inquiry learning and teaching, which is consistent with the focus of state and national STEM initiatives. Additionally, students who participate in the Vex Challenge will have opportunities to gain proficiency in the applied learning skills that are required for high school graduation under the Rhode Island Diploma System.

The program's simplicity is core to its success. Participating teams are issued a Vex robotics kit that contains all of the materials required to build a working robot. Teams are challenged to construct a working robot capable of completing a specific set of tasks, such as gathering or placing balls in goals and maneuvering their robots into a designated position. The Vex Challenge requires no special tools and can be implemented by teachers as part of a school's science and math curriculum, and/or be an after school activity. Most importantly, kits can be reused each year, although teams may elect to upgrade kits with additional components.

After completing their robot assignment, teams will join in a statewide competition where finished robots will go head-to-head to score points by completing designated tasks. FIRST Vex Challenge tournaments are designed to be fun, high-energy, sports-like events with judges and awards - a structure that brings the same energy and community enthusiasm to learning as traditionally found at school sporting events.

Throughout the challenge, students must maintain an engineering notebook to track their progress, successes, and challenges throughout the design process. During the build period, teams work as a group to brainstorm solutions to the game, design a robot to do various tasks, and build and test their design, while learning from and interacting with their peers and adult mentors.

"Supporting this program is a natural fit with Rhode Island's Science & Technology Advisory Council's (STAC) mission to strengthen the state's basic research platform, encourage entrepreneurship, and contribute to efforts that prepare Rhode Island's children for the jobs of tomorrow," said Jeff Seemann, STAC co-chair, and Dean of the College and the Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island.

FIRST issues a new robot "challenge" every year, enabling schools to continue the program for multiple years without re-investing in new materials, thus extending the program's reach to more students.

"FIRST is thrilled for the opportunity to partner with Rhode Island's leadership to make Rhode Island the first state in the country where every high school has the opportunity to participate in a FIRST challenge," says FIRST founder Dean Kamen. "The Vex program offers young people the opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of science, technology, and engineering--an important step towards building a society that is encouraging of invention, innovation and engineering. To apply this program statewide is a tremendous opportunity for FIRST and for all of Rhode Island's students."

In bringing the Vex Challenge to Rhode Island, program partners aim to create, measure, and sustain a statewide program that will:

-- Inspire high-school students to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;

-- Create stronger linkages between Rhode Island's educational system, post-secondary institutions, and businesses;

-- Offer unique workforce development opportunities to businesses;

-- Strengthen Rhode Island's positioning as the place to test proof of concept for innovation and education, by putting FIRST into high schools statewide and measuring results, while simultaneously building a stronger workforce pipeline through the program.

STAC and the Business Innovation Factory is also collaborating with FIRST to conduct a detailed evaluation of the project's implementation. FIRST will use their experience in Rhode Island as a model for the program's national expansion.

About the Rhode Island Science and Technology Council

STAC -- a coalition of business, academic, and government leaders -- seeks to assist Rhode Island's leadership in strengthening the state's basic research platform, attracting and retaining serial entrepreneurs, and facilitating collaborative innovation and public / private partnerships. Visit for more information.

About the Business Innovation Factory

The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is a community of innovators collaborating to explore and test better ways to deliver value. BIF's mission is to create the public/private sector partnerships that are critical to making innovation the cornerstone of the nation's 21st century economy. BIF, a non-profit corporation located in Providence, Rhode Island, focuses on collaborative innovation projects with transformational potential in areas such as healthcare, education, security, ubiquitous computing and customer experience innovation. For more information, visit


FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur, Dean Kamen, President of DEKA Research and Development Corporation. FIRST programs have brought together an alliance of business leaders, educators, mentors, volunteers and technology organizations to motivate young people about science and engineering. FIRST's Board of Directors is composed of leaders in business and technology from companies like Boston Scientific Corporation, Xerox, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, and Bausch and Lomb.

In 2006, FIRST programs are reaching over 100,000 students, 30,000 mentors and 32,300 other volunteers in the United States and worldwide. The programs, designed to provide a continuum where young people between the ages of 6 through 18 are continually engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math, are supported by 45 full-time headquarters staff, 17 regional directors, and 20 senior mentors.

About the PK-16 Council

The PK-16 Council was created by Executive Order in spring 2005 and is chaired by the Governor of Rhode Island to promote a seamless, coherent system of education with coordination between PreK-12 schools and colleges/universities and engagement of Rhode Island's business community.

Some of the key functions of the PK-16 Council include:

-- Aligning academic standards for achievement in reading, writing, mathematics, and science so that students exiting Rhode Island high schools are fully prepared for college-level work in these subjects;

-- Linking achievement standards with employer expectations;

-- Supporting quality teachers and educational administrators who lead schools, districts, and school-related initiatives; and

-- Advancing the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Math-Science Achievement and track progress in these areas.

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