Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Forget the football players-teen brainiacs and shop class wizards rule campus in this gripping alternative-sports saga. Journalist Bascomb (The Perfect Mile) follows the seniors of California's Dos Pueblos public school through the 2009 FIRST high school robotics tournament. Their gonzo competition task: build a robot rover that can dump balls into its opponents' baskets while traversing a very slick floor, in a cross between a basketball game and a high-tech medieval melee played on ice. Under a charismatic, innovative teacher, the D'Penguineers teammates design, manufacture, wire up, and program their mechanical gladiator while studying everything from the physics of friction to the latest CAD software. Bascomb's narrative is an engrossing tutorial in the industrial arts as the students surmount the fiendish engineering challenges of getting their device to move, maneuver, pick up balls, and fire them with uncanny accuracy. But he also gives us plenty of suspense and pathos as the kids endure sleepless nights to finish their gizmo, perform frenzied last-second repairs, and concoct subtle game strategies. The result is an inspiring homage to the spirit of invention and a genuine sports epic, to boot. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

When Dean Kamen, a millionaire inventor, realized that most kids couldn't name a living scientist, he created the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition to encourage high-school students to consider scientific careers. Bascomb follows team 1717, the D'Penguineers, from Goleta, California, during the 2009 season. The team of high-school seniors, all rookie robot builders, is led by Amir Abo-Shaeer, a physics teacher and the founder of a fledgling engineering academy. The actual game play and strategy sessions during competitions are undisputedly exciting, but a large chunk of the book is devoted to the six-week robot-building period. Bascomb gamely explains the rules of play and how they apply to construction, but this section may leave readers a bit bored, especially those unfamiliar with the topic. The book's movie rights have been snapped up and with good reason: there's a Bad News Bears story here longing to break free a team seemingly divided against itself is pushed to greatness by a visionary leader with an unending stream of life lessons to dispense. An unabashedly feel-good story (once the robot gets built).--Jones, Courtney Copyright 2010 Booklist