FIRST LEGO League participants listen to Aerospace Education Specialist Chris Copelan explain the playing field for 'Nano Quest' during a recent FLL kickoff event at StenniSphere, the visitor center at NASA Stennis Space Center. The kickoff began the 2006 FLL competition season. Eighty-five teachers, mentors, parents and 9- to 14-year-old students from southern and central Mississippi came to SSC to hear the rules for Nano Quest. The challenge requires teams to spend eight weeks building and programming robots from LEGO Mindstorms kits. They'll battle their creations in local and regional competitions. The Dec. 2 competition at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will involve about 200 students. FIRST LEGO League, considered the 'little league' of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, partners FIRST and the LEGO Group. Competitions aim to inspire and celebrate science and technology using real-world context and hands-on experimentation, and to promote the principles of team play and gracious professionalism. Because NASA advocates robotics and science-technology education, the agency and SSC support FIRST by providing team coaches, mentors and training, as well as competition event judges, referees, audio-visual and other volunteer staff personnel. Two of Mississippi's NASA Explorer Schools, Bay-Waveland Middle and Hattiesburg's Lillie Burney Elementary, were in attendance. The following schools were also represented: Ocean Springs Middle, Pearl Upper Elementary, Long Beach Middle, Jackson Preparatory Academy, North Woolmarket Middle, D'Iberville Middle, West Wortham Middle, Picayune's Roseland Park Baptist Academy and Nicholson Elementary, as well as two home-school groups from McComb and Brandon. Gulfport and Picayune Memorial-Pearl River high schools' FIRST Robotics teams conducted robotics demonstrations for the FLL crowd.