Model building has fascinated teens for generations. But in the 21st century, tinkering with machines has reached a whole new level. This year thousands of American students – boys and girls — will participate in the world’s premiere robotics competition. High school seniors and their mentors from across the country take part in the unusual sport – one that celebrates brains rather than brawn. Ambitious teams design and build robots from scratch. Those who advance to the finals compete before 40,000 screaming fans. What their drive for success could mean for sparking innovation in American education — and defining a new cool.


  • Dean Kamen president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation. He founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)in 1989, a program to promote student interest in science, technology and engineering.
  • Amir Abo-Shaeer director and teacher of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy in Goleta, California. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010 for inspiring and preparing public high school students for careers in science and mathematics.
  • Neal Bascomb best-selling author of "The Perfect Mile" and contributor to "The New York Times."

Related Video: Highlights from the FIRST 2009 Competition

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