Student Robotic Creations to be Showcased in RoboLab Mania

4/30/2003 - More than 200 Central Texas students in grades kindergarten through 12th from more than 20 Austin-area schools, along with their teachers and family members, will gather to showcase their LEGO robots at the third annual ROBOLAB Mania event on Saturday, May 3, at the National Instruments world headquarters in Austin, Texas. The students' achievements are the result of months of work with teachers and NI engineering volunteers using LabVIEW-based software and LEGO building blocks to create original robotic inventions.

"ROBOLAB has taught me how to build cars and to work together," said Juan Asencio, a fifth-grade student at Jack C. Murchison Elementary School in Pflugerville. "Our NI volunteer is the best because he helps us on things that we need help on, and not just that, but he also is nice and understands us." Juan's class is studying the environment, and the project his classroom will show off at the event focuses on using robots to reduce pollution.

One third-grade class that will exhibit at ROBOLAB Mania built several robots to help solve problems encountered by characters in the children's novel Poppy. Inventions include an automatic cable car that helps the main character, a mouse named Poppy, cross a river without getting swept away in the current, and an automatic mousetrap for Mr. Ocax, the owl, so that he can simultaneously catch prey in various parts of the forest.

Taking advantage of computers already available in schools, students, teachers and volunteers creatively incorporate ROBOLAB into many aspects of the classroom curriculum. Under the guidance of their teachers and NI volunteers, students have created a tracking vehicle led by a light sensor, a bumper car that drives to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and a traffic alarm that warns animals of oncoming cars. These projects and others will be on display at the event.

ROBOLAB, a joint initiative of National Instruments, LEGO Educational Division and Tufts University, is designed to help kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers interactively demonstrate engineering concepts in a fun environment. The program combines familiar LEGO building blocks and state-of-the-art NI LabVIEW engineering software that is similar to what engineers and scientists use to solve real-world problems from testing cell phones to controlling next-generation automotive cruise control. Using ROBOLAB software, students learn to build robots and program their movements.

Since 1998, five Central Texas school districts have adopted the use of ROBOLAB in 85 classrooms, and more than 200 NI engineers have volunteered their time in these classes. ROBOLAB Mania is one of many academic initiatives from National Instruments designed to generate excitement about engineering, science and technology.

"With its company roots in education, NI has always been committed to enhancing the science and technology curriculum through programs such as ROBOLAB," said Ray Almgren, vice president of product marketing and academic relations. "We hope that this hands-on learning tool will spark an interest in engineering and science for future generations."

About RoboLab
RoboLab is a joint initiative of National Instruments, LEGO Educational Division and Tufts University designed to help teachers interactively demonstrate engineering concepts in a fun environment to students of all ages. As many as 500,000 students worldwide and at least 3,000 in the Central Texas area have benefited from this technology. The software is based on National Instruments LabVIEW graphical development environment, which engineers and scientists worldwide use to control manufacturing processes and perform scientific measurements. For product information, visit

About National Instruments
National Instruments ( is a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation -- a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists approach measurement and automation. Leveraging the PC and its related technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs for customers worldwide through easy-to-integrate software, such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, and modular hardware, such as PXI modules for data acquisition, instrument control and machine vision. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,000 employees and direct operations in 40 countries. In 2002, the company sold products to more than 25,000 different companies in more than 80 countries around the world. For the past four consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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