HOW ROBOTS HELP CORPORATE TYPES TO DREAM
By Justin Martin

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Science isn't only for people who tape their glasses. That's the message of U.S. First, a nonprofit organization that holds an annual competition in which professional engineers and high school students team up to design and build robots. Their creations face off in what resembles a futuristic cybersport that blends soccer and basketball. Says Dean Kamen, 43, president of DEKA Research & Development, an engineering firm in Manchester, New Hampshire, who founded the group: ''Our contest is to your typical boring science fair what the Super Bowl is to cardiovascular exercise.'' Alliant Techsystems, Boeing, Ford, Honeywell, and Nynex were among the 41 companies that sponsored high schools from 15 states plus Jamaica for this year's contest, held in February at the gym at Nashua High School in New Hampshire. The event drew 44 competing teams, twice as many as last year, and 3,000 spectators. The final battle of the robots pitted the Procter & Gamble/Walnut Hills High School team of Cincinnati against Texas Instruments/Denison High School of the Lone Star State. P&G's robot, dubbed BALD Eagle for ''Ball-Amassing Launching Device,'' won at the buzzer. ''You wouldn't think science could be so much fun. People were yelling and screaming,'' says 16-year-old Chrissy Niehaus of the winning team. Before the contest she wanted to be a doctor. Now she's considering engineering. Xerox, which worked with inner-city students from Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester, New York, won a special citation for great team spirit. Says Phil Billings, an 18-year veteran of Xerox: ''Being around young people is exciting. They still know how to dream dreams and see visions, something those of us who've been in the corporate structure awhile sometimes have trouble doing.'' -- J.M.