Imagination, ambition and technology collide at an annual high-school robot-building competition.
Journalist Bascomb (Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi, 2009, etc.) charts the marathon play-by-play teamwork of a group of fourth-year Southern California students from Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy as they competed in a robot-building contest. Since 2002, physics teacher and mentor Amir Abo-Shaeer has administered an experimental science curriculum culminating in a team entry in "FIRST" (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a worldwide robotics competition created by Dean Kamen, who lists the Segway among his many groundbreaking inventions. Bascomb incrementally amps up the suspense as he follows the Dos Pueblos D'Penguineers as they quelled interpersonal drama to collectively "embrace their diversity," working through weeks of 16-hour days designing, developing and constructing their most sophisticated yet efficient robot to handle that year's basketball theme. Challenged by the $3,500 raw-material budget, the weight of strict deadlines (robots must be completed in six weeks) and stiff competition (1,686 teams participate), the group was buoyed by the team's "SolidSeven," specific students who were specially pretrained and adept at spatial relationships, mechanism prototyping, electrical design, drive trains, computer programming and basketball shots—all essential to the success of their "PenguinBot." Aside from a mind-numbing plethora of physics terminology, Bascomb skillfully translates the exhilarating challenge to the page via intricately descriptive, expertly paced sketches of the group and their combined handiwork.
A nail-biting thrill ride for techies and armchair engineers.
“Gripping…Bascomb shows the reader every angle of a classroom no larger than the average storage space, bursting with tensions, emotions, and unparalleled enthusiasm…The New Cool is a tale of triumph both in and outside of the classroom…it gives me hope for the future of education.”
--Erin Gruwell, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Freedom Writer’s Diary
"Imagination, ambition and technology collide at an annual high-school robot-building competition…A nail-biting thrill ride for techies and armchair engineers."
"Gripping…Bascomb gives us plenty of suspense and pathos…An inspiring homage to the spirit of invention and a genuine sports epic, to boot."
"Outstanding...THE NEW COOL is a book that will make you feel good about America's ability to innovate solutions to its most pervasive problems. If you're sick of hearing about our impending doom, read this, and meet a generation of kids who could change not just the nation but the world. THE NEW COOL is, on its simplest level, the story of a robotics competition -- but once you realize the immensity of what's at stake, you'll be as nervously anticipatory as the competitors themselves. Neal Bascomb has penned an indelible portrait of a team on a mission that may ultimately be reckoned one of the defining books of the decade." --Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST, Inventor of the Segway PT, Member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and Winner of the National Medal of Technology, the Lemelson-M.I.T. Prize and the Global Humanitarian Action Award
"THE NEW COOL is a prodigious true story and I loved it! It is heartening to know that there are still dedicated teachers like my Miss Riley and kids like my Rocket Boys who take up the challenge of science beneath the American sky. THE NEW COOL is fast-paced, absorbing, and suspenseful. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer and his hard-working students. Even though their chosen field is robotics, they are all true Rocket Boys and Rocket Girls!" --Homer H. Hickam, Jr., author of the #1 New York Times bestseller ROCKET BOYS
"While THE NEW COOL takes the reader inside a season, limns a team and coaching staff, and masterfully recounts a gripping competition, this is anything but your conventional sports book. And not simply because the ‘big game’ is...a curious robotics contest. Like the kids he vividly captures, Neal Bascomb has himself performed a masterful bit of engineering here." --L. Jon Wertheim, senior writer, Sports Illustrated
"Illuminating in its portrait of how the next generation will do its problem-solving…If a space alien passing through the solar system stopped at a bookstore for some reading material before the next jump to hyperdrive, what he'd buy would be THE NEW COOL by Neal Bascomb." --Gregg Easterbrook, author of SONIC BOOM and THE PROGRESS PARADOX
"THE NEW COOL is a sparkling and moving account of a hidden subculture in American society. In an age in which people wring their hands in despair about the dumbing down of popular culture, comes this tale of high-stakes competition, inspiring leaders, and ultimately, hope, provided by young people who work to achieve the impossible. Neal Bascomb distills a scientific quest into an adventure that reads with all the thrill, passion, and human drama behind a storied run for the Super Bowl." --Neil Shubin, Provost, Field Museum of Natural History; Professor, University of Chicago; and author of YOUR INNER FISH: A JOURNEY INTO THE 3.5-BILLION-YEAR HISTORY OF THE HUMAN BODY
"I love this book. Neal Bascomb cuts through the arcane technical jargon of robotics to reveal an amazing world of smart high-schoolers with passions for math, science, engineering, and computers. The teacher who inspires them also inspires us. With kids like these, there is hope for the world after all." --Charles Petzold, author of CODE
"Thoroughly enjoyable! THE NEW COOL is not just a fascinating – and dare I say, really cool -- story, it also provides an important lesson. If America is ever going to fix its broken education system and re-energize the economy, we’re going to need more schools, teachers, and kids like those in this book." --P.W. Singer, author of WIRED FOR WAR: THE ROBOTICS REVOLUTION AND CONFLICT IN THE 21ST CENTURY
"THE NEW COOL masterfully involves the reader in the thrills and the agonies experienced by high-school students building a robot for a national competition. Neal Bascomb not only tells their totally engaging story but also captures the essence of what it means to be immersed in a real-life engineering project, complete with its conflicting constraints, limited budgets, and imminent deadlines." --Henry Petroski, author of THE ESSENTIAL ENGINEER: WHY SCIENCE ALONE WILL NOT SOLVE OUR GLOBAL PROBLEMS
From the Hardcover edition.