The state's first lady is asking school children to raise money for a statue in Washington, D.C., honoring Utah's best-known inventor, Philo T. Farnsworth.

Colleen Bangerter said Thursday she is starting a contest to see which school can raise the most money for the project. She asked a group of elementary school students gathered for the announcement to donate their nickels and pennies and urged students statewide to find ways to raise money.Each state is allowed two statues of prominent citizens in Washington's Statuary Hall. Utah has only one - a likeness of Brigham Young. Fifth grade students at Ridgecrest Elementary School discovered the discrepancy in 1985 and persuaded state lawmakers to support constructing a statue of Farnsworth.

The statue will cost $185,000, but students are asked to raise only $80,000. The rest will be raised by a commission appointed by Gov. Norm Bangerter. The bronze statue will be sculpted by James Avanti and will be placed in the hall May 2, 1990. A replica will be placed in the Utah State Capitol.

The governor, who was also in attendance, praised the accomplishments of Farnsworth, whose invention of the cathode ray tube made television possible. But he cautioned the children against being overly appreciative of Farnsworth's work.

"Although we think television's a wonderful thing, we hope you don't watch it too much," he said.