Twelve-year-old Jordan Steel moves with his family from California to the City of Materials in Ohio, where science and technology permeate all aspects of daily life. At his new school, the Roberts Academy, Jordan discovers the secret world of the Robotics Club and the awe-inspiring Robot Wars.
Even though underclassmen are rarely allowed to join the Robotics Club and participate in the Robot Wars, Jordan gets in with his new friends, the Silver triplets. They soon forge a team called the Warriors of the Old Republic. Paris is the electronics wiz and Friday is the welding guru. Goldie brings magnetics to life, and Nick is a computer ace. Together, they learn to depend on each other’s strengths to build a robot to compete in the Robot Wars.
But not everyone wants an underclassman team in the Robot Wars. Jordan and his teammates can’t be sure who their real friends are as they try to understand their new school, the secret Robotics Club and their competition. Even darker than some of their competitors’ intentions, however, is a secret housed in the halls of the Roberts Academy – a secret that seems drawn to Jordan and his friends.
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ROBOT WARS IN THE CITY OF MATERIALS
By Daniel P. Dennies
iUniverse, LLCCopyright © 2013 Daniel P. Dennies, Ph.D., PE, FASM
All rights reserved.
THE CITY OF MATERIALS
Jordan Steel stared out the window of the family car. His eyes drifted back and forth between the tree-lined highway and the clouds in the sky. His head rested back against the headrest of the car. It seemed as if he had been in the car for years.
The summer had been winding to a close when Jordan and his family had started their trip to the City of Materials. It was late August and still hot and humid when they arrived in their new hometown.
The City of Materials was set in a small valley surrounded by wooded hills in northeastern Ohio, about an hour east of Cleveland. It was very different from the near-desert conditions Jordan was accustomed to in Southern California. He had never seen so much green grass and so many trees in his entire life. And it wasn't just the number of trees that amazed him but the variety, each with its own different shade of green and leaf shape. The northeast corner of Ohio was a very green and lush area with many old forests that dated back to before the Europeans had come to settle North America.
It had taken Jordan and his family a week to drive from Southern California to northeast Ohio. The trip was long but fun, as the Steel family loved to travel in the car and had spent many trips exploring California this way. In the car with Jordan were his parents, Dante and Emily, and Joshua, his three-year-old brother. The final leg of their journey was to cross over the bridge in the southern part of the City of Materials.
"Remember what I told you about this bridge, Jordan?" asked Dante.
Jordan remembered. This was the second bridge to be built across the river to the City of Materials. The original bridge was built in the early 1940s, using a slender ribbon bridge deck design, which was influenced by the "streamlining" design approach that was popular at that time and had been applied to everything from teakettles to locomotives, resulting in designs that are still admired today.
Unfortunately, the original bridge wasn't stable in the high winds that sometimes occurred along the river that passed the City of Materials. The bridge's slender design acted like an airplane wing, which caused the roadbed to lift in the high winds and then twist as gravity brought it back down. Even during construction, the bridge was seen to wiggle in the winds, and a local boy named William, who would dance in time with the bridge, had earned the bridge the nickname "Wiggling William" from the local townspeople. The designer had made three separate and distinct efforts to dampen the movements of the bridge, but all three efforts had failed. Within two months of its opening, the bridge had collapsed in a spectacular fashion. Luckily, no loss of life had resulted, as the bridge slowly increased its wiggling over a period of hours, giving everyone time to get off the bridge.
A few years later, a new bridge had been built that wasn't slender but had a larger, more traditional structure under the roadbed. It stood up to the winds and was still in use today.
"Hey, Jordan, what's this stuff on the bridge—the stuff that covers the metal?" asked Emily.
Jordan sat up in the backseat and looked hard at the bridge as it sped past his window. The bridge was a gray color, and at first, Jordan thought that the gray was the color of the metal. As he looked harder, he saw that the "color" was chipping off in many spots. Jordan smiled. "It's paint."
"That's correct," Dante said. "Can you tell me why the bridge is painted?"
"Hmm ..." said Jordan. "I don't know."
"It's the same reason that we paint cars and pipes and many other products made from carbon steel," Dante mentioned as a clue.
Jordan thought for a moment, and then his face lit up. Dante and Emily smiled together as the answer dawned on their son.
"The bridge is painted to stop corrosion," Jordan said proudly in a loud voice.
"Absolutely 100 percent correct," said Dante. "Did you know that the United States produces millions of tons of structural carbon steel every year?" he added. "In 2008, the United States produced 91.4 million metric tons, and the world production was 1,326.5 million metric tons. Most of the structures we see every day are made from carbon steel, but the steel will corrode if not protected. Painting is one of the most common methods to protect carbon steel structures from corrosion.
"Say, Jordan, do you ever recall seeing another bridge that was painted a spectacular color, like a bright orange?" Dante asked.
Jordan thought for a second and then remembered that the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, was painted an orange color. Jordan had seen the bridge up close a few years ago when the family visited San Francisco.
"Remember what we learned about the bridge and how pretty it is in the sunlight, Jordan?" asked Emily.
Jordan thought back to the tour guide who had spoken to his family about the bridge. The Golden Gate referred to the Golden Gate Strait, a name that originated around 1846. The bridge's main suspension span was 4,200 feet long—a world record that stood for twenty-seven years. It was still the second longest in the United States, with the longest bridge being the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which linked Staten Island to Brooklyn.
Jordan remembered that the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge were 746 feet tall, which made them 191 feet taller than the Washington Monument. As they'd driven under the two towers, Jordan had thought they looked like two orange "Iron Giants." The five-lane bridge that crossed the Golden Gate Strait was about 1.7 miles long and used simple yellow markers to switch the center lane so that three lanes of cars travel into San Francisco for the morning commute and three lanes of cars leave the City in the afternoon and evening. Jordan had always thought this was a cool way to create a "changeable" carpool lane.
Dante interrupted Jordan's memories. "You know, in comparison to structural carbon steel, the United States' production of stainless steel was 2.3 million metric tons in 2008, and the world production of stainless steel was 25.9 million metric tons. That means that stainless steel is only about 2 percent of the amount of structural carbon steel produced in the United States and the world."
"Hey, Jordan, what's this stuff—stainless steel?" asked Dante.
Jordan rolled his eyes. "Not again, Dad." Then, in a very robotic and well-rehearsed voice, he continued, "The advantage of stainless steel is that it's corrosion resistant and doesn't need the same corrosion protection required by structural carbon steels. The downside of stainless steel is its cost. The inherent corrosion resistance is due to the fact that it has a minimum of 11 percent chromium content by weight. The chrome content and other alloying elements in the stainless steel cause it to cost more than structural carbon steel."
Dante smiled. "Well done, Jordan."
Emily broke in and said, "Enough already; you have him programmed like a robot."
"Robot?" asked Jordan. "What about robots?"
"Never you mind about robots, young man," said Emily. "You do enough with robots."
Jordan was twelve years old and about to enter the seventh grade. He was tall for his age, just over five feet tall. He had a slim build and weighed over a hundred pounds, as he would proudly tell you. His hair was light brown with just enough blond mixed in to make him look almost blond during the summer months. His eyes were brown and seemed to lighten when he smiled. His mother would say they sparkled. And it was his smile that people noticed—not the large, full-teeth smile of Hollywood stars but a smaller smile, just slightly more than a grin. His father would half-jokingly warn his mother that Jordan's smile would most surely get him into, and hopefully out of, trouble. Either way, Jordan's father was sure that he and his wife were going to have to deal with the consequences of that smile.
The family had spent the first part of the summer touring around Southern California, visiting their favorite places and doing all their favorite things before heading east to make their new home in Ohio. The family found it hard to say good-bye to all their friends. This was especially true for Jordan, who had to leave both his friends from school and from the neighborhood. Jordan had many friends, as he was trustworthy and a very likable person who got along well with most people.
Jordan had reminded himself often, I will always be able to keep in touch with everyone through letters, phone calls, texts, e-mails, and social networks. However, the time to start the trip across the country to their new home had arrived much too soon.
Jordan's mother and father loved to travel and to learn about the places they visited, so Jordan was given the task of learning about Ohio before they left. As parents, they were hoping this small learning experience would help Jordan with his transition to a new state, a new home, and a new school. Jordan loved computers and was very skilled at using the Internet to discover information. During their car trip across the United States from Southern California to northeast Ohio, Jordan's parents asked him questions about Ohio. Jordan would then look on his laptop or search the Internet to find the answers.
Dante was a metallurgical engineer. He performed failure investigations for a living, which meant he discovered why things failed and then recommended ways to fix them so the failure wouldn't happen again. His new job was going to be at the Griffith CSI Laboratory in the northeast part of the City of Materials. Dante knew a lot about the science of failures, how to find their root cause, and the required solutions.
Before the cross-country trip, Dante and Emily had told Jordan a lot about the City of Materials and had brought him pictures and maps. As they crossed the bridge and headed down toward the city, Jordan could see that the City of Materials was laid out just as his parents had described, in a wagon-wheel pattern, with the Materials City Park in the middle as the hub. It somehow seemed bigger to Jordan than the pictures had indicated. The park was also the hub of activity in the city, with forests, hiking trails, concerts during the summer, and a popular information center.
"See the apple tree by the information kiosk, Jordan?" said Dante. "That tree was grown from a splice from the original apple tree that Sir Isaac Newton was sitting under when he conceived the law of gravity."
"No way!" exclaimed Jordan.
Emily then added, "A popular story has it that Newton was sitting under an apple tree, an apple fell on his head, and he suddenly thought of the universal law of gravitation."
"Can we stop?" asked Jordan. "That's pretty cool."
"Not today, big guy. We need to get your little brother home and get settled into our new house. But I tell you what; we will take a little tour of the rest of the City of Materials."
Dante turned left and drove around the City of Materials in a clockwise direction. Leaving the park, they passed the Bain Library. "It has a great computer system with a search engine called the STEAM2 system, Jordan," noted Dante.
Jordan looked up with a quizzical expression on his face. "Why is it called STEAM-Squared?"
Dante smiled. "It stands for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Materials Management system. The two M's in a row make it STEAM2, get it?"
Emily added, "It's connected to every business and school in town, as well as libraries around the United States and around the world. When I was here last time, I connected to the New Library of Alexandria in Egypt to look at some papers on new medical research. In fact, the people in the City of Materials have an expression when they go to the library to research a problem. They say they are going to STEAM the problem."
"Very cool," said Jordan.
Dante replied, "Not really cool, Jordan; STEAM2 is hot!"
Jordan groaned at his dad's bad joke. Emily and Dante smiled to see Jordan interested in the new town.
They then passed Mayor Charpy's house, where Dane and Emily had met the mayor at a "Welcome to Town" social function a few months earlier. "There he is now, walking his dog, Beaux-Bo," said Emily.
Jordan looked to see a large, well-dressed man walking a large dog that appeared to be a cross between a pointer and retriever. He could not tell if the dog was white with black spots or black with white spots. The dog was very energetic and very friendly, sniffing each person they met, wagging his tail, and looking very excited. The mayor was an older man with glasses but appeared to be in great shape, as he briskly walked the dog toward the park.
Dante slowed the car down and pulled over to the curb. "Hello, Mayor," Emily said as she waved.
The mayor stopped; walked over to the curb; and, with a big smile, said, "Well, good afternoon to you two! Glad to see you have finally arrived here in our little town. It's great to finally have you here." The mayor then looked in the backseat and said, "And these two fine gentlemen must be Jordan and Joshua. Good afternoon, my young sirs."
"Hello," replied Jordan.
Just then, Joshua looked at the mayor and said in a small voice, "Hello."
The mayor laughed a great laugh. "Well, I hope you both like our town. Come by for a snack if you have the time. Well, we must be off. Beaux-Bo and I never miss our afternoon walk." And away he went.
"I hope all is going well for the Inaugural Materials Ball in November!" yelled Emily as the mayor sped off.
He smiled, gave a big thumbs-up signal, and waved good-bye.
"Quite a personality, isn't he?" said Emily.
Dante replied, "I heard he has been in government work his whole life. He was a bigwig in Washington, DC, and then retired here and became mayor. He has a real 'open door' policy. He likes people to come by and chat. He was also an amateur weightlifter. Did you see how well he keeps physically active? He just doesn't seem able to stand still for too long."
Emily smiled at her husband and said, "Well, I know someone else who suffers from that problem."
Dante smiled back. "Guilty as charged."
Dante started up the car and passed Martens Hospital. New and spacious, this is where Jordan's mother, Emily, would be working as a doctor. Emily turned in her seat to look at Jordan. "I'm looking forward to working here. This hospital has a very good reputation and gets many new clinical trials."
Jordan knew that his mom liked clinical trials, which she'd often explained were part of the process by which scientists researched and developed drugs so that new and improved medicines would cure, combat, or prevent disease.
As they continued their drive clockwise around the city, they passed the Modern Marvels Manufacturing Factory. "I heard they use the latest and greatest manufacturing concepts for many different products," Dante said. "It would be interesting to see what they have going on now."
Jordan looked at the large, gray buildings and wondered if any new robotic products were being developed inside them.
The City of Materials Science Center in the west part of the city came next. Emily pulled out a brochure the mayor had sent to them. She read, "Explore the materials of the past, present, and future. The latest exhibits include nanotechnology and samurai swords."
"What's this stuff, nanotechnology?" asked Jordan.
Dante answered, "Nanotechnology, or if you prefer the short version, nanotech, is the study and the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. The people involved with nanotechnology are trying to create materials and devices of the size of one hundred nanometers or smaller. Nanotechnology is a very diverse and fascinating science."
"How big is a nanometer?" asked Jordan.
Emily looked back at him. "According this brochure, it's one billionth of a meter. That's pretty small, right?"
"Yes," said Jordan, "I'd hate to drop some of those." Then Jordan asked, "What color are the nanos at the science center?"
Emily looked at Jordan with a quizzical expression. "What color are the nanos?"
"Yeah, Dad always jokes that he has seen blue and red nanos and wants to see the green nanos."
Emily just smiled. "Your father was just pulling your leg; the nanos have no colors."
"Aw, Dad!" Jordan said.
Dante winked at Jordan in the rearview mirror.
As the car passed the science center, Jordan noticed that the buildings were completely enclosed by a large, open dome that looked like half of a soccer ball. "Wow, what's that?" asked Jordan.
Emily replied, "That's a geodesic dome, Jordan."
Excerpted from ROBOT WARS IN THE CITY OF MATERIALS by Daniel P. Dennies. Copyright © 2013 Daniel P. Dennies, Ph.D., PE, FASM. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - The City of Materials, 1,
Chapter 2 - Meet the Silvers, 12,
Chapter 3 - First Day at School, 25,
Chapter 4 - The Primary Domain, 32,
Chapter 5 - The Robotic League of America, 44,
Chapter 6 - Team WoTOR, 56,
Chapter 7 - Robotics 101, 74,
Chapter 8 - The Robot Wars, 86,
Chapter 9 - Lighter, Faster, Stronger, 107,
Chapter 10 - Team WoTOR Prepares for Battle, 123,
Chapter 11 - The Ironman Cometh, 136,
Chapter 12 - When Robots Fail, 150,
Chapter 13 - The Team to Beat, 174,
Chapter 14 - The Final Battle, 193,
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