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CNN Today

Students the Brains Behind the Brawn in 'Bot Ball'

Aired April 12, 2000 - 1:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A teachers group says students should be required to study mathematics for an hour a day in elementary school and during all four years of high school. This is the first time in more than a decade that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has revised its guidelines. The council says many students aren't learning the math they need and it says students should master the basics of algebra and geometry by the end of the 8th grade.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Math may not be the only subject shortchanged in American schools.

ALLEN: Many experts think there should be an increased emphasis on science.

CNN science correspondent Ann Kellan reports now on a new program that helps make technology fun.

WATERS: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like any contact sport, there's victory and defeat. But in this contest, instead of humans, robots get punched, smashed and injured. The kids are the brains behind the brawn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to calibrate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you get it, Ian?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting it, I'm getting it.

KELLAN: Armed with a computer and $1,000 kit containing Lego parts and two robot brains, the kids, in teams, build "bots." Knocking balls off the perch is one way to score in this year's game. Get the balls on a tray and drag them to your side scores more points. Easier said than done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen some teams have a robot with two brains on it. A bunch of teams have been using these to have two separate robots, where they'll have this one go and basically do something simple like attack the other team's robots while this one tries to go and score all the points. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We first talked about it, they're going, we're going to build a robot? And they're like, we've built a robot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a longer shaft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stick this in there.

CATHRYNE STEIN, DIR., KISS INST. FOR PRACTICAL ROBOTICS: There's no remote control involved. They have to learn to program in C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nerve-wracking. We've been working on this thing for months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he on? He's not on.

KELLAN: David Miller, formerly a NASA, scientist came up with the bot ball idea. He helped program that little robot that rolled onto the Martian surface in 1997. He and his wife Cathryne Stein started the organization KISS, Keep it Simple, Stupid, and hold Bot- ball tournaments throughout the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has to get a little bit closer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit closer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because it only got to here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It only went right here.

BARRY GRESENS, HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER: A lot of parents come up to me and say, these kids normally would be sitting home watching TV, playing Nintendo and you have them out there actually learning and building and having fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the greatest feeling in the world when everything goes the way it's supposed to. It's just the best feeling.

KELLAN: Even though there's tension, competition, excitement, and the kids learn a lot, "bots" won't ever replace human jocks. Will they?

Ann Kellan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Go for it, guys. That's great, just great.

WATERS: That is fabulous, just fabulous.

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