“Pure Genius”—The Engineer Olympics

Bobby Miller

For this episode, our engineers designed robots that were capable of competing in the 100 yard dash, the javelin throw and standing long jump. In the last event, the robot was allowed to shed 75 percent of its weight.

The challenge intimidated a number of the contestants, especially Amy Elliott, Eric Whitman and Dan Moyers since making a robot perform three entirely different tasks is difficult. Tom Johnson even said that his designing of a robot is like Homer Simpson designing a car. Don’t worry; I’m sure I couldn’t do any better.

Nvate Big Brain Theory Pure Genius by Discovery Channel, innovation Mark Fuller, WET

The blue robot’s clever design allows it to win the javelin throw.

At the beginning of the Blueprint Challenge, Gui Cavalcanti told the audience that he doesn’t want to lose because, as a robotics expert, people back home will make fun of him if he fails. Well, I guess he’ll have to put up with some teasing because two other contestants won the challenge. This pleased me since he’s been arrogant in the past.

The runner-up this time was Moyers since he had a good overall design, one that was capable of transforming and reusing certain components for the different events. Moyers wanted to be a team leader who made the right decisions when it mattered, and he believes the leaders so far haven’t done that. The winner overall was Corey Fleischer for his skillful design, which he explained to the judges articulately.

This week, the red team consists of Moyers, Cavalcanti, Elliott, Joel Ifill and Alison Wong. The blue team consists of Fleischer, Joe Caravella, Johnson, Andrew Stroup and Whitman. It’s worth pointing out that the blue team does not have any females on it. Plus, Cavalcanti is unhappy to be working with Moyers and Ifill because he perceives them as arrogant.

As host Kal Penn points out, it usually takes months or even years to build a robot, but our contestants will have only four days and $10,000 to make their ideas come to life. No pressure.

The Red Team’s Preparation

At first, it seems as if Moyers, who has been known for his aggression and ego, is finally trying to get along with his teammates. He apologized for how he had acted in the previous competitions, and then he listened to everyone’s ideas. The red team decided to use a modified RC car as the base of their robot. They used a bow to launch the javelin, though Moyers had a few different ideas he wanted to test out before they settled on one. Finally, the bigger robot will deploy a smaller RC car with two, spring-loaded pipes to launch it to the sky.

The Blue Team’s Preparation

Fleischer does not want to be an aggressive leader, so he was willing to brainstorm with all the guys on his team. He ended up liking Johnson’s ideas—probably because Johnson is very determined. He’s been on the losing team all three times throughout the competition, and he’s ready to break this streak. Their idea is similar to that of the red team. They will convert a gasoline-powered, go-kart into an RC car. They used a pneumatic cannon to shoot the javelin with compressed air. Finally, they deployed a small robot that shot itself into the sky with compressed air for the long jump.

Nvate Big Brain Theory Pure Genius by Discovery Channel, innovation Mark Fuller, WET

This is not a drill, instead, it’s two drills acting like a motor.

After their first day in the shop, Stroup, Fleischer and Whitman discussed how they think Moyers is way too aggressive. They firmly believe that Moyers hates all of them. I found this interesting since, according to Moyer’s Facebook page, the three of them had been referring to themselves as the “three amigos,” or three friends, since the second episode due to their “alliance” against him.

Overall, everything goes smoothly for the blue team. The judges like how everyone’s calm, organized and working hard. Plus, Mark Fuller is impressed with how they’re repurposing common items in their design. For instance, they’re using electric drills to power their engine. Christine Gulbranson believes Fletcher is a great leader. Although he didn’t have much screen time in the previous episodes, I think the judges really like how he balances teamwork with executive guidance. It might be too soon to call, but maybe he has a good chance of winning this whole competition.

The Test: Let the Games Begin!

The first event is the 100 yard dash. The moment the event begins, the red team’s robot shot down the course like a bullet, going about 60 mph. While the blue team’s robot does roll down the course, it isn’t nearly as quick due to its weight. The blue team’s time was 11.64 seconds, and the red, 7.08 seconds. In comparison, according to AllTime-Athletics.com, the world record by humans for this event is roughly 9 seconds.

Nvate Big Brain Theory Pure Genius by Discovery Channel, innovation Mark Fuller, WET

The red robot’s slick design allows it to zoom to victory.

In the javelin throw, each team had three chances to launch their javelin. The blue team was able to send the javelin flying down the field. Guest judge Jason Bardis, worker on the Curiosity Rover and BattleBots champ, commented that the robot was beautiful and graceful because all the energy transfered exactly how it should. Their farthest throw traveled 318 feet. However, the red team’s bow, made out of six bands of surgical tubing, failed its first two throws. The final one at least traveled 122.4 feet, but the blue team still wins this event, tying everything up. The world record for humans in this event is 343 feet, 10 inches, according to AllTime-Athletics.com.

For the standing long jump, each team only had one attempt to make things work. Moyers was nervous since he knows he’s doomed to be eliminated if his team loses this event. His team’s robot simply fell over because the two, spring-loaded pipes needed to make it jump do not fire at the same time like they should. The blue team was still nervous, though, since they were unable to test out their robot’s jumping abilities beforehand. However, it manages to launch itself into the air, gracefully landing on its “foot” at 16 feet, 7 inches. This excited everyone, and even Moyers admitted it was the most impressive thing he’d seen on this show so far. Fleischer was especially proud since his team is the first to build a design that completed all the challenges set before it. And he should also note that his team’s robot defeated humanity, which has only jumped 12 feet, 2 inches in this event, according to AllTime-Athletics.com.

Nvate Big Brain Theory Pure Genius by Discovery Channel, innovation Mark Fuller, WET

The red team is now up for elimination. Since Ifill and Wong have already been eliminated, only Elliott, Moyers and Cavalcanti are on the chopping block this week. Cavalcanti believes Moyers is the weakest link because the javelin throw design could have been much simpler and made more quickly, and Moyers didn’t guide the group as well as he should have. While Elliott respects Moyer’s leadership skills since he was positive and provided nice reinforcement, his shop skills were highly questionable.

Moyers, infamous for being aggressive and egoistic, told the judges that he had a great team that worked hard and came up with genius ideas. He said the captain should go down with the ship, so he asks that his teammates be spared and he eliminated. Although the judges admire Moyers for taking responsibility and acknowledge that he had the hardest job of all, they come to the “tough decision” of eliminating him. Another team leader bites the dust.

To watch the full fourth episode, visit the “Pure Genius” website.

In the next episode, the teams will have to use the energy provided by a waterfall to make an elevator.

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