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Teaching BattleBots in High School 174

Some Guy writes: "We all know that everyone's favourite TV show is BattleBots on Comedy Central, Right? Well, a new program has started at my old high school that teaches BattleBots to kids. It's a truly engaging engineering program/curriculum that kids and school systems can use for credit. The program is called BattleBots IQ. Kids out there can get their teachers to go to battlebots training camps during the summer, and then have them teach battlebots to them as a class. I wish it was around when I was a kid."
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Teaching BattleBots in High School

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  • Remember the pre-battle bots competitions at MIT? I wanted to go to MIT just to be able to do that!
  • And when the apocalypse comes, this will become even more practical!
  • by Real World Stuff ( 561780 ) <> on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:06PM (#3882276) Journal
    More focus on the fundamentals. This only furthers the chasm for equality of quality education. There are public schools where kids are trying to learn the fundamentals of math ans scicene in an environment with leaky roofs and inadequate heating. Sure, schools that can afford to offer a battle bot curriculum usually do not face this type of challenge. But what is the percedntage. Rather invest in this type of project, wht not buy some kids some CURRENT TEXTBOOKS! For those that own any property and pay taxes, you should understand what I am saying.
    • I think someone is about 10 years late [] on this subject... The FIRST robotics competition has been stressing math and science for that long.
      • FIRST has been having issues lately with getting too big. and if you go look at battlbots IQ there is a full engineering curriculum there for science and engineering that isn't compressed into the "six weeks of hell" competition. battlebots IQ is designed to be a sports team, and a safe one at that. the point is not the robot. It's about teaching kids to build with education. they learn why they are building what they are building, not just building what a bunchof engineers tell them (if the engineers even let them do that)
    • Current textbooks are the problem. I'd rather give them text books from the 1950s. Have you ever looked @ them? Friggin' good stuff in there, and they don't cost 1/2 as much. (of course the glue you'll need to buy with them might raise the price a bit...)
    • Just fundamentals are "boring", and kids tend to forget them right after the next test - unless they have some kind of interesting project where they can _apply_ those fundamentals.
    • by MsGeek ( 162936 )
      Listen, if this had existed 30 years ago when I was in elementary school I wouldn't have the problems with mathematics that currently bedevil me.

      Fundamentals are fine but they don't hold kids' attention spans. If you can get kids doing something FUN then show them how it relates to math and science, they'll soak it up big time.
      • Offtopic, but I think that this is the first sig I've seen on Slashdot that is promoting a politician. No, I'm not complaining, but I will surf the site and check his voting records. Clever idea... if everyone does their homework. Gets my vote for "most potentially useful sig".
    • If you have this or any program locally, then you should ask your school how it is funded. Most schools have continual fund raisers for this type of thing. Corporations usually provide donations in the form of software, food for spagetti suppers and such, and sometimes even airfare. National competitions mean a lot of traveling for a lot of students. Parents usually invest a pretty penny. Which is actually more of a concern to me, because it means that a lot of poorer kids will never get involved.
    • ....they have required keyboarding classes now adays.
    • As a high school student in South Florida(where Battlebots IQ originated), and a participant in the FIRST Robotics Competition (Battlebots IQ is run by the same person who used to run an unofficial FIRST competition called Mayhem in Miami), I feel obligated to respond. The school you describe is only found in the poorest or the poor districts. That kind of school system definitly is not worried about a battlebot curriculum. They are few and far between. As far as current textbooks, all the new textbooks I've seen and used have been vastly inferior to the ones it replaced. My brand new calculus book is completely useless as anything other then a source for problems for home work. Trust me on this, new textbook != better textbook. Furthermore, this program is no more expensive then any athletic team, and is, in my opinion, a much better use of our funds.
    • (* More focus on the fundamentals. This only furthers the chasm for equality of quality education. There are public schools where kids are trying to learn the fundamentals of math and scicene in an environment with leaky roofs and inadequate heating. *)

      Hmmmmm. That is the exact conditions where all those Vietnamese national honor students grew up in.

      Based on that sample, perhaps leaky roofs and no A/C/heat will make for *better* students.

      Besides, studying leaky roofs helps students learn about practical engineering and fluid dynamics.
    • I don't know about some schools, but most will probaly not take funding for the battlebots program straight out of school funds. My school ran a robotics team that participated in BattleBots IQ as well as the FIRST robotics competition, and we had to get ALL of our funding from sponsors, fundraising, and our own pockets.

      If you ask me, the schools should start taking some of the funds that go to athletic programs (our engineering team that ran robotics as well as JETS got 75 dollars from the school annually) and putting them into science, math, or at least academic outside programs. Schools often claim that students aren't interested in these activites, but with a little publicity around the school, we found a lot of interest, and had our membership triple every year since our first year.
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:08PM (#3882282) Journal
    This sort of thing is a great whay to get kids into engineering.

    If I recall right, there has been a decline in engineers in school in the USA. So this would be a good way to promote that sort of thing.

    Unless the workforce gets shipped out overseas.

    • I go to high school right now and I have always wanted to be an engineer. It disturbs me how many students today have no clue or interest in getting a clue about how everday objects work. For me simply knowing that you put gas in the car then when you push some peddles it move is not enough, but for a disturbing percentage it's plenty.
      • true, although maybe it's a good thing for all of us current college (or high-school) future engineers. Less supply available to industry == more $$$ for us ;-)

        • true, although maybe it's a good thing for all of us current college (or high-school) future engineers. Less supply available to industry == more $$$ for us ;-)

          Then you should find this story interesting, from Silicon India []:

          • India's computer industry is booming despite a slowdown in IT sales worldwide, and its technology capital Bangalore is leading the charge. Karnataka, whose capital is Bangalore, aims to boost exports of software and allied services by 60 percent this fiscal year, twice the expected Indian growth rate of 30 percent.

            [...] (much detail ommitted)

            Building on India's proven software skills, foreign firms are also flocking to set up centres to process financial claims, payroll data and build customer support desks. Commerce and English language graduates are in great demand. - While the technology sector has been hit worldwide, accompanying cost-cuttting measures are a boon for Bangalore. - "The majority of the companies in U.S. are under cost pressure and that's why we expect them to continue to move into India, which offers them a ready-made talent pool," Kulkarni said. - "Cost obviously is the driving force but that doesn't mean that quality is being compromised," he said.

            In Bangalore, software engineers can be hired for about $200 per month, nearly one-tenth of what it costs in the United States. The city of about 5.5 million people is home to over 120,000 IT workers.

  • You remember the announcements at the end of each battlebots episode saying don't try this at home kids?
    I can imagine little children cooking up bots with chainsaws and flame throwers and atomic death ray guns shoddily duct taped to shoeboxes with R/C cars underneath.
    Actually, this would be SO much more fun to see!
  • Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:10PM (#3882291) Journal
    Teaching violence and destruction to our nation's youth in order to increase the corporate revenues of Comedy Central. Thank God vouchers were deemed constitutional.
    • It's not violence if nobody gets hurt... well I might be biased, the company I work for actually Sponsors a BattleBot (Go Ronin Go Ronin!!!!)

      Shot 1 []
      Shot 2 []
      • Tell that to the loser... I bet his feelings are hurt. And what about the robot? Prove to me that robots can't feel pain and then maybe I'll agree with you.
        • "And what about the robot? Prove to me that robots can't feel pain and then maybe I'll agree with you."

          Are you SERIOUS?

          Good Lord, man. Your over-anthropomorphizing leads me to believe you've obviously read too many Isaac Asimov short stories and watched "Toy Story" too many times.

          And vouchers are the death of public education. It pains me to see you care more about inanimate objects than the growing disenfranchisement of the low-income working class.

          Go ask countries like, oh, Brazil, how well a wide class-chasm supports a robust economy.
          • And vouchers are the death of public education. It pains me to see you care more about inanimate objects than the growing disenfranchisement of the low-income working class.

            Huh? How does a voucher system contribute to the disenfranchisement of the low-income working class? Are you SERIOUS?

          • Now, a proposal to fix that gap would seem to be in order. Personally, I give old computers to people. And that's not charity, that making room in the closet. The difference is that those are people that want to learn. You're talking about fixing a culture, which is harder.
    • It isn't going on Comedy Central - BBIQ is a seperate program that hasn't gone on TV, and is being done at a loss at the moment.
  • So, instead of the media, internet, and those shady looking guys on the corner of the street teaching kids to make deadly weapons, our teachers will save them the trouble. Huzzah!
  • FIRST (Score:5, Informative)

    by NASAKnight ( 588155 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:13PM (#3882300) Homepage Journal
    I am involved in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) program. The main difference between FIRST and battle bots is that battle bots focusses on money and ratings, while FIRST focuses on educating our nations youth. You can go to FIRST's website [] to find out more--it's a huge program, the stadium for nationls (which is rebuilt each year) is bigger than the Orlando Magic stadium (we even have teams from England, Canada, and Brazil). Also to note, the founder of FIRST (Dean Kamen) is the guy who invented the segway. Basically, I would much rather see more schools enter into FIRST than battle bots, because FIRST focuses on LEARNING and GRACIOUS PROFESIONLISM, while battle bots focusses on MONEY.
    • The main difference between FIRST and battle bots is that battle bots focusses on money and ratings, while FIRST focuses on educating our nations youth.
      Hmmm, I know which one I'd turn up to class for : )
    • Re:FIRST (Score:3, Interesting)

      by guttentag ( 313541 )
      The unfortunate reality is that in most jobs (unless you work for the government), "gracious professionalism" is seen as a liability, while "ruthless marketing" is considered a virtue.

      Corporations -- and even some public universities that behave like corporations -- worship the god of profit because at the end of the day, that's what pays everyone's salaries (actually that's a corporate myth, but it may as well be true because if you're not contributing to profitability you're likely to get "laid off"). They'd rather hire the kid who won $1,000 building a robotic monster that desroyed the competition than a FIRST national finalist, and many parents/educators are going to favor Battlebots over FIRST for that reason.

    • You are sorely mistaken if you think that FIRST isn't about money. FIRST does very little to teach kids, the real goal of FIRST is to have a big engineering firm build a robot for a high school and have the high schoolers watch with amazement, think "gee, this is cool" and become engineers in high school. If FIRST was really about learning it wouldn't cost so much to enter, and there would be more restrictions about the amount of work that adults were allowed to put in on the robot.

      In FIRST, there are teams who's robots are completely built by students, and there are teams who's robots are completely built by engineers from big companies, and guess who always wins. (they even win the community awards, since the team usually has more time to do work in their community because their sponsoring company is building their robot).

      • That is exactly how it is. I was involved with FIRST for two years and while a member the students did absolutely nothing. The only thing we did was raise money to pay for the really expensive trip. Last year the animation team got ticked off because no one at the company would help them, so in the credits they went off on the company big time. The things they said in the credits would be taken off this message board.
      • Re:FIRST (Score:2, Informative)

        by bok-choi ( 579725 )
        That's not always true. I joined a first-year team this year in high school, and we were lacking in funds. In fact, we didn't have any sponsors donating money until the competition was over, and then we only had 1 sponsor. We had 3 advisors, but the students did all the work. At the Pacific Northwest regional competition, we managed to place 5th out of about 40 teams, and also got the "Team spirit award." And I think the Microsoft-sponsored team didn't even make it to the top 8.
    • If you read the story more carefully, you'd know that BattleBots isn't the same thing as Battlebots IQ []. BattleBots(a competition which existed before it was ever on tv, and is currently being filmed and aired on comedy central) is a totally separate competition from BBIQ, which is only for highschool and middleschool students and is held in Universal Studios in Orlando and has never been televised. Thus, there are no ratings for them to be focused on, and as for your suggestion that "LEARNING and GRACIOUS PROFESIONLISM" is absent from this program, what the hell do you know about it other than your ignorant assumptions based on comedy central's depiction of Battlebots, a different competition altogether? You might want to look at a two-page article [] in the new york times comparing BBIQ and FIRST. There's also a BBIQ curriculum [] you might want to take a look at.
    • i did FIRST for 6 years, now i do battlebots. there is a big difference between the programs, and there is a big difference between BattleBots on TV and BattleBots IQ, which is a class.

      FIRST /is/ about money. Joing costs $5000, each competition costs at lest $4000 more, plus rooms for the kids. Alot of teams don't let the kids build the robot. I've seen this! BBIQ REQUIRES that the kids do the work. The curriculum comes fully loaded with tests, diagrams, and vocabulary for everything from programming, circuits, material science, CAD, Machining, Gearbox design, Simple machines, mechanics, physics, power/weight considerations, and more.

      FIRST doesn't even guarntee that you get to go to nationals anymore. you have to qualify of be on an even numbered team (odd alternate years)

      FIRST is a good program. I am an engineer because of it. All i ask is that you guys read the website, check out the free lesson, then judge whether it's all about money.

      You can't teach kids engineering AND build a good robot in 6 stressful weeks. I know people in first who are divorced because of the program. There are right ways to run it, but i don't think they've been decovered yet.

      Give BBIQ a chance before writing it off as money-hungry. Comedy Central doesn't even televize BBIQ.
    • Viva FIRST! (Score:2, Informative)

      by MacMasta ( 515853 )
      Dean Kamen & Woodie Flowers have their heads attached correctly - FIRST is the only way to go.
      People tend to ask me "So that's like battlebots, right?" when I tell them I'm a robotics nerd. I explain "No, battlebots has a serious flaw - it's easy to armor a robot, and very hard to build effective weapons within the rules. With FIRST, you have a goal - much a) harder and b) more useful in real life - problem solving and all that jazz.

      So, Viva FIRST - we'll have a team in every High School in the US (and in several other countries - Brazil & Canada, for example) for many years after battlebots is off the air and forgotten.

    • Posting as a BBIQ competitior (Technical Supervisor)

      The parent post was a bit of a troll, I'm trying to figure out how it got modded so high (probably the conspiracy theory/corporate greed factor). Don't mean to shout too loud, but this needs emphasized - Battlebots IQ _HAS NEVER SHOWN ON TELEVISION_, so how can it be about ratings?!? Same with making money - BBIQ was done at a MAJOR loss, just to try to get the program started in a few schools.

      Oh, and gracious professionalism? I never hearf of a case of a team being non-cooperative at BBIQ (not the case with FIRST, from what I hear). Everybody was loaning knowledge, manpower, tools, and parts, even if it was for the team they were about to fight against!

      What relevance is it that FIRST is headed by the guy who made the Segway? One of the reasons many FIRST people hate Battlebots is that he is VERY opinionated, and he preaches his opinions at every FIRST competition. It was nice of him to start the whole thing, but he is part of the problem in this case, not the solution.
  • Learning isn't fun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:13PM (#3882301) Journal
    I have mixed feelings about stories like this. Why does learning have to be fun? Parents and schools try to get kids interested in math, reading, and, in this case, engineering, by turning it into some kind of game. There are educational computer games, board games, flash cards, and "fun" courses like this.

    However, in the real world, learning, and science, are quite often not fun. They are often tedious and frustrating, and it's important for kids to learn that lesson. There are other rewards for learning besides "fun" and kids need to learn that, or when they get beyond the educational computer games and battle bots high school classes, and encounter the tedious and frustrating world of real science/mathematics/engineering and discover it's not "fun" they may just give it up entirely.
    • You have a good point. However, I think that you get some people into it with fun stuff, and they discover the other benefits. Without the initial reason to go ahead and start looking into it, they may not have. A related example: when I was in 10th grade, a professor at Penn State got a large grant from the NSF, and used portions of it as prizes for competitions we had at math club. Initially, I went for the free $$$, but after the first couple meetings, I started going just because I enjoyed it. Now, this isn't exactly what we're doing here, but it shows how one reason for doing something turns into another.
    • Re:Learning IS fun (Score:5, Insightful)

      by helarno ( 34086 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:43PM (#3882407) Homepage
      I have to respectfully disagree with your hypothesis that learning isn't fun. Granted, some parts are tedious, some parts are repetitive and frustration is no stranger during the learning process. However, the joy of discovery, the eureka moment when it all clicks into place, the self-confidence when you realize you have mastered a subject - I say all these more than counterbalance the tedious aspects of learning. Learning is its own reward. Mastering a matter makes it a joy all of its own.

      Especially in this crowd, claiming that learning is no fun won't fly. What geek hasn't encountered frustration configuring something in linux? What geek hasn't repetitively typed man (subject)? Yet I will lay odds that few geeks will claims computers are no fun, that linux is boring.

      Pardon me for preaching off a soapbox, but the attitude that 'learning isn't fun' bugs the hell out of me. It is that attitude that keeps people watching TV rather than reading a good book, or play video games till 5am while neglecting homework. The rewards aren't as immediate as other activities but learning IS fun, rewarding and enjoyable as long as we stick to it.

      So make battlebot classes fun. I'll guarantee you that if those kids are actually building those bots, they'll encounter the tedium and frustration of engineering. But will that stop them from having fun in the end? Probably not. But it may encourage some of them to try something they never would have, and learn something in the process.
      • You're absolutely right. Learning IS rewarding. Learning is often its own reward, and it's not the only reward. But it isn't always fun.

        Like most /.'ers, I do enjoy learning about computers and technology. I'm also an electrical engineer. However, I have almost no interest in learning about, say, biology. It's boring and uninteresting. So why, then, do I read books on health matters, or watch the surgery shows on the Discovery channel? Because these things are important to know for my own health, and the health of my loved ones.

        Learning about politics? Again, not fun. CSPAN is uber-boring. Why do I do it? Because I need to stay informed, so I can figure out which politician is going to screw me the least and vote for him.

        There are many reasons to learn, probably the least of which is because "learning is fun." Learning makes us healthier, more productive, wealthier, better citizens, and better human beings. Teach kids THOSE reasons to learn, and they'll learn anything. Teach them "learning is fun!" and they'll be most disappointed when they find out you lied to them.
    • "Why does learning have to be fun?"

      Learning is *naturally* fun to most of the human species. We are by nature insatiably curious.

      It is our school systems and our society that make learning into boring make-work. It our attempt to mass-educate our children with one curriculum for all that destroys the joy of discovery.

      Learning *is* fun. If you have forgotten that I feel sorry for you.

    • by Froobly ( 206960 )
      Your post seems to legitimize the fact that many schools across America are teaching as preparation for factory work; i.e. it's not about enjoying what you're doing, or making effort to excel, but about showing up and putting in your time. Really, who makes extra effort to excel when they don't enjoy it? Well, besides those abusive ultra-competitive households...

      Do we really need more busywork in our schools? I've known students from schools that have fun and interesting programs like this, and from my unscientific experience, the ones who had classes like this generally have a much stronger long-term interest in math and science than those who didn't. It usually takes terrible University professors to beat it out of them...
      • I'm not advocating busy work. My point is that learning has many, many rewards that are significantly more important than "fun." That is, learning is work for the sake of self-improvement, and the improvement of society as a whole. Busy work is for the sake of work, and has no reward. Teach children to learn to improve themselves and the world in which they live, not so they can have fun. To bring learning down the level of fun is to put it on the same shelf as watching wrestling and playing video games.
    • Learning can be fun, and still be effective. When you get in to a project, you generally have fun doing so. I like my job because its challenging, and makes me think. Its pretty good for a 17 year old high school kid to be doing CAD work.

      There's a difference between "learning games" and programs like this. This teaches real world problem solving, construction techniques, electronics, and a host of other things. I learned about.ohh lets see here. Electronics, machining, construction, hydraulics, pneumatics, cars, acting, improvisation, teamwork, leadership, writing, high level physics, animatronics/robotics, all through "fun" learning activities. Check out Things like this are good in schools. Id seriously bet that you'd see higher interest among some kids with things like this in place. I mean comeon, kids like violence. hehe. Plus its something to get involved in and not the standard "sit down and learn from ME because i am GOD now" educational model.

    • I agree with your main point that sometimes learning is just tedious hard work.

      However, it's a big plus if the student is motivated by an interesting ("fun") task so that the student will be willing to plow through the hard work of doing the actual learning.

      In addition, it's often easier to learn science/math if you have actually mentally wrestled with a problem where the science/math you're learning would actually help with the solution.

    • Building a robot for this or any other competition isn't pure fun, its a good slice of what engineering tends to be. Often there is a lot of tedious work, you run into problems halfway through, and learn the virtue of planning in advance. You find yourself improvising, recreating and being frustrated as your idea falls flat just as often as it works. But in the end, nothing beats the feeling after months or weeks of work to see your robot begin driving and chasing classmates around. From personal experience, these competitions aren't necessarly pure "fun", but they are interesting, and relate material you learn to hands-on activities. You learn teamwork, the design process, often you work with professional engineers and get a little taste of the real world as you call it. If we had more activites like this in schools, we'd have more people interested in engineering, not just battlebots, but in engineering as a whole.
  • ..looks more and more like a good idea.

    Like as if schools have enough money already, now kids will expect expensive robotics materials given to them.

    And yeah, its not like knowing how to figure out percentages or long division is going to help prepare kids for life more than knowing how to smash amateur contraptions together. Yeah right.
  • Why is battlebots on comedy central? While it is a good show and I do watch it, it's never made sense to me why it is on there? It's not funny. Fun. Yes, but hardly funny imho...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just watching geeks nervously make fools of themselves when interviewed by bimbos is reason enough to watch. Seeing multi-thousand dollar machines get smashed all to hell is just a bonus, IMO.

  • Teaching violence and destruction to our nation's youth in order to increase the corporate revenues of Comedy Central. Thank God vouchers were deemed constitutional.
  • Liability? (Score:3, Funny)

    by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Sunday July 14, 2002 @03:17PM (#3882321) Homepage Journal
    "No, Your Honor, the children were just making Killer Robots. We had no idea it wouldn't be safe."

    I'm amazed that the school's legal department allows this kind of thing. Battlebots are probably safer than rocketry (which my elementary school wouldn't let us do for legal reasons) but still, the potential is there for serious injury. It's probably easier to get this sort of thing allowed in High School. I wonder how heavily they emphasise safety? Based on my quick review of the two rules documents, they've at least had the good sense not to allow guns, bombs or cattleprods. Also, the Robot has to be safe to handle while off; but that may not be enough protection - I realize the stuff in the shop room down the hall is actually far more dangerous, but it doesn't involve the sanctioned game of using it as a weapon.

    Play careful, Kids! Don't ruin the fun for future generations by chopping any of your toes off.

    Also, just once incident of a robot with a chainsaw chasing screaming teenagers down a hallway would put a quick end to the program, I'd assume.
    • as an exersise to the readers out there. go look up the injury records for school sports. Broken legs in soccer. Lacrosse, Rugby. Football. How many kids do you see walking down the hallway on crutches or with a cast and a sling on an arm? Ask them how they got it.

      BBIQ stresses safety to the nth degree, and in it's first year (~50 teams) hasn't had a major injury. Shop tools are more dangerous. The control system of the robot (a required part from ifirobotics) is designed to be safe by default.
    • Legal department?
      That was cut out of the budget 4 years ago..
  • And I mean that!
    I had Pre-Engineering Electronics in high school (took it sophomore year). I really can not think of any one class more influencial in my thought processes (well, minus Humanities, but that's a different form of process).

    I'm sure all the science these people have learned in high school will be only more solidified in their minds after working on this sort of challenge. As my Pre-EE class taught me a new, more involved, way of thinking this sort of BattleBot challenge will benefit people in high school in similar ways. That is, learning to apply the knowledge they had learned (or, roughly memorized) in other classes will help them truelly understand that knowledge.
  • There was a story [] comparing BBIQ and FIRST a while back. It turns out that Dean Kamen (founder of first) doesn't really like battlebots. Go figure...
  • I tried to get my school to start one, but everyone just gave me strange looks. I tried to explain the logistics of it and how it would be relativly easy to get materials once we lined up a company or two to sponser, even came up with a few designs, but no one really took me seriously. Oh well, there loss.

    Love and Peace,
  • We've trained the kids already via quake 3 and UT2. Now all we need to do is build the robots to make it real; it looks like we're going to get kids to do that to.

    When this next crop comes of age, the military is going to have a hayday.

    I can see the advertisement now.. "Do you get scores over 300 in UT2003? Then YOU could already be qualified to operate the Slaughtermaster B7400! (see local recruiter for details)"
  • Perspective (Score:2, Funny)

    by X-Nc ( 34250 )
    "I wish it was around when I was a kid."

    Hell, I wish they had computers when I was a kid.

  • This is gonna go over big in monster truck country. You need somebody around who can teach the kids to weld. And really weld, not just tack.

    The great day, though, will be when autonomous bots start winning with faster-than-human reaction times.

  • I tried to get a grant from my university (which is internationally known for it's engineering program) to build a battlebot without any success. It's great to see something like this happening on such a level.
  • So this is the future investment for school budgets? Next kids will expect to be able to produce speed-surviving vehicles, without paying a penny.
  • Other Programs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OctaneZ ( 73357 ) <> on Sunday July 14, 2002 @04:01PM (#3882459) Journal
    Not everything has to be about robots!
    When I was in Elementary and Middle Schools I was in a program called Odyssey of the Mind []. This was a great program, with teams of 7 students, who would comptete in both a long and short program. For the long program (8 minutes), the team had a few months and a limited budget, and was allowed to choose one of the 5 problems to solve, Here are Last Years []. There was alao a short program, where you were given a set of supplies, 1 min to brainstorm, and then 3 minutes to do it. Usually this challenge took the form of building something, such as the tallest twoer you could with toothpicks and shaving cream, that could survive a 5mph wind, something like that. It was a great program, and wasn't limited to engneering tyes.
    There a programs like both OM and US FIRST, or the new robot wars in a lot of communitites, and whether you like their current format or not, we should all get involved. Many of us complain about the current state of education, and I have already seen people complaining about schools, and thanking vouchers. If you think these programs are great, get involved! If not get involved anyway and bring your experiences and incites to a younger group.
    • I was in the Odyssey of the Mind program for six seperate years. My team made it to the world finals 3 of those. The greatest thing about OM is the aspect that it encourages doing your own work, and working as a team. One of the unique things about OM is the fact that NO OTHER PERSON THAN THE TEAM MEMBERS can help. If a team wants to do something, they must do it themselves. They must research, learn, experiment, build, whatever. A few small exceptions, where safety is a factor apply. This has deffinitly changed my life by increasing the ability to listen to other's ideas, and learn something yourslef, instead of getting someone else to do it. I judge at OM competitions when I can, and just like giving back to the program. Any program that is brought in by the schools should have this kind of aspect to it, to teach kids both technical, and social skills. And OM definitly does teach technical skills, I can build a balsa wood structure now that weights less than 18 grams, 8 inches tall, and holds over 1000 pounds.
    • Is it just me or are two thirds of those challenges, in actuality, dorky plays? I was fidgeting uncomfortably in my seat just reading the challenge description.

      I have to admit, the Chameleon Car sounded like an cool project. I wonder if you had to make a full size (driver sits inside) vehicle, or if you could just do it with radio control? For $135 your budget will be very tight on any full sized car.
  • My former (just graduated) high school had a Battlebots IQ team. They put up a website [], which details their robot, E2, and the competition. They did quite well, winning 6 in the double elimination format. I didn't participate in this, but I was involved in the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge [], a robot competiton open to high school students in the State of New Jersey. I reccomend this competition to interested students, since I won a two grand scholarship that is going toward my EE degree.
  • For those trying to teach Java to kids, RoboCode [] is a great way to get them interested. They may not care about hello world in an applet, but pasting other folks tanks makes event handling fun.
  • It really depends on the curriculum. I have this image of thousands of high schools making their kids construct from an assigned and approved text. I'm sure companies will come along and start marking 'kits' that work with these assigned texts and designs.

    The downside to this would be virtually identical bots in uninspiring battles. I really hope we don't see this. It would be nice if the course focused on basic engineering fundamentals and then found ways to foster innovation.

    In either event, I'm happy to see this. Get people proficient in robotics at an early age, and by the time they become adults we will see some really amazing things.
  • .. a cool HS. I wonder if they'll have Lego Mindstorms 101 next year.
  • Okay, i could see this as being an interesting course on engineering in college, but give me a break, how many schools are going to be able to afford this? How many PTA moms are going to raise unholy hell when they learn their school is spending cash on teaching their precious Jimmy how to build a violent machine of destruction instead of textbooks written in the past five years? many *teachers* want to waste their summer going to that camp for no extra pay?
    • The summer courses are a week long, and involve having the teachers have thier own mini-robotics competition, and every single one leaving has given good reviews on the way out. The idea is that teachers who don't want to do it won't show up, but the teachers who want something new, and want to be part of this can show up, have a good time, and learn what is available to /help htem/ teach the course. it's not a required curriculum for the program, just a well put together starting point for the teachers.
  • It's great to have another player in robotics for education. The FIRST program was started by Dean Kamen, the Segway Human Transporter inventor, as a way to promote science and engineering to students. It starts with Lego robotics and has been around for several years. It's usually found in the K-8 grades and is a staple at MIT. Students learn how to write technical procedures, mechanical design, programming and engineering, and of course teamwork. For everything they do there is an attempt to align the tasks with other curriculum such as math, english and science. I volunteer for a middle school robotics club; a lot of work, but a lot of fun.

    For the high school students the FIRST program ( gets serious. Here students build real robots designed to meet a specific challenge. AutoCAD and other software companies provide software grants to high schools so the students are getting the real thing. Local businesses involved in engineering usually provide volunteers to mentor the students. It can cost 1 school over 30K to compete at this level. is a site from a high school in RI that has been involved from the beginning and scores pretty well.

    The more the merrier, I think, when it comes to this kind of stuff. There has been some concern though, of making sure the students are truly meeting a challenge, and not just building something for the sake of going out and destroying things. The FIRST robotics programs usually involve designing a claw or figuring how many ping-pong balls you can pick up and get into a basket.

    If you find yourself wishing you had this when you were in school, then ask around at your local school district - folks are always looking for volunteers.
  • Buy all of your kids, nephews, nieces, etc. legos. Preferably the teknic (sic?) or mindstorms variety. They will learn more on their own than you have time to teach them.
  • This seems really cool, if you have the teachers to pull it all together. I went to a pretty crappy public high school (though they claimed it was above average by New York standards). The summer after my junior year, my school sent two of the math teachers to take some programming classes to teach AP computer programming in C.

    So, in theory, my senior year, i would be able to take the AP programming class and possibly get college credit.

    Wrong... The teachers that they sent out were not programmers by any standards. By the 3rd month, we had already surpassed their training. After that, it was student and teacher working together to learn the material. Some of the students (myself included) were better off just reading books on our own. By the end of the year, we only got through a third of the curriculum that we were suppossed to. So, taking the AP exam wasn't even an option.

    Point being, this new program seems really really cool, but I hope that they actually take this seriously before they half ass the training and use unqualified people... cause it's unfair for themselves and the students.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @05:50PM (#3882878) Journal
    "Mom! My homework ate the dog!"
  • A friend of mine operates a robotic combat team, Indecision Robotics []. His bot, Sudden Impact, has apparently won Robot Wars in the UK. Anyway, he has already come up with an "Antweight Highschool Curriculum", availible here [].

    I think that this idea is pretty cool. I would have loved to have a course in high school where I could rip things apart and build a bot like this. Guess I'll have to wait for my design project in my 4th year of Aerospace Engineering.
  • Why do they have to be devices of destruction? With all the interest in car/racing movies lately, why not just make radio controlled cars from scratch? Parts are readily available for things that would be too difficult to make and it would offer the same amount of learning potential. The nitro burning engines could lead the class down a path of combustion engine history, dynamics of an engine, as well as learning what horsepower and torque are. The suspension could teach physics and angles. The servos and batteries could teach them about impedance, torque, and amps.

    All of these items are on a battlebot. The only difference is that is in the world of rc cars, the competition is benign. In battlebots, it is open and obvious destruction. We should be fostering construction rather than destruction, imho.
  • We all know that everyone's favourite TV show is BattleBots on Comedy Central, Right?

    Nooo! Robot Wars UK is way better!!
  • Considering that the average boy junior high wants to make destructive metal machines that can potentially terrorize the girls in class, this is the perfect program. Being the principal of such a program could be stressful when an agry parent comes to you complaining that his daughter came home in tears because little Joey tried to use his 'spin of death' and almost ruined her binder, nevermind hurting her. This program will probably be shut down completely after about 5 major accidents.
  • Battlebots doesn't get enough credit. Really, they don't.

    Unlike those other WWF-inspired hype and showbiz chainsaw shows, BB is still a game show about design and engineering. I wish they'd get some less obnoxious announcers and lose the babes doing the in-the-pits interviews (I know, I know, but The Man Show comes on right after it, right? Can't you do your oogling then?)

    The other show that really deserves credit for this sort of thing is Junkyard Wars on TLC -- leave it to the Brits to come up with an entire game show about engineering, AND it's an hour long. This is better than The Secret Life Of Machines *AND* Connections.

    Too bad more network programming crudholes can't do math or we'd see more of this sort of thing.

  • ...the real men do Junkyard Wars

grep me no patterns and I'll tell you no lines.