An excerpt from this Spokesman Review article ...
NASA devotes about $4 million annually to the creation of robotics teams to groom and train future engineers for work with the space agency, other government agencies or industry. In the past 10 years, NASA’s investment in robotics has resulted in 100 direct hires by the space agency and a similar number of hires by other government agencies, including the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, said Mark León, manager of the NASA Robotics Alliance Project at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
The emphasis began about 10 years ago, León said, when NASA struggled to find a sufficient number of engineers to build robots needed for space missions. Every year, NASA sponsors about 300 robotics teams nationwide, with about 25 students per team. Several Inland Northwest teams have benefited from NASA’s $6,000 startup grants.
“We give them the inspiration and motivation to pursue robotics,” León said. “The numbers continue to go forward. We haven’t reduced our robotics educational budget. We continue to increase it.”