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on April 10, 2011
I've been a FIRST FRC mentor for 13 years, and I have never doubted why I do it. Trying to explain what I do to the outside world is next to impossible. Mr Bascomb has managed to put into words in a story what many of us live each year.

Bringing in the student perspective as well as trying to bring the over view of FIRST is not easy, the book reads easily and I feel it gives the message those of us that work with FRC, FTC and FLL try to show our students.

I urge anyone who is concerned about where the students of today are going to wind up to find a FRC regional (start at usfirst.org) and see what these students are doing. Walk the pits, Talk to the teams, ask about the design process, how the team is managed, how it's funded. I know you will come away with a small portion of what I feel every week when I work with my team.

However a cautionary comment on those that see FIRST as the new best way to educate students. It's not about education, that's what schools do, it's about inspiring students to care about their future, to see a profession that is in demand, fulfilling and of use to society.

BTW the book makes a great gift for student leaders on a team as well as for teams that have become friends of your team ( that's my plan anyway)

Read this book, then find some FIRST events to attend. You will start to understand.
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on March 17, 2011
Although I previously had no experience or particular interest in robotics or science competitions, I do now. Neal Bascomb really made the story come to life and made me truly care about the progress of the students and their mentors as they went through the competition season.

This book highlights the societal importance of inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists and shows how dedicated, passionate educators can make a long-lasting impact on our advancement. It is comforting to know that there are teachers and students out there like those represented in this book. They are "cool" to me.

To top it off, it was really exciting and fun to read. Like all of Neal Bascomb's books, he makes the story alive, suspenseful, educational, and ultimately very enjoyable.
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on August 31, 2012
I would like the begin this review by giving some background on myself and how it will affect the review and impact this story have. I was a participant of FIRST robotics and now somewhat of a mentor. This book takes place in the 2009 Lunacy competition, which I have competed in. With that state keep in mind that there will personal opinion and experience that will skew some of my thoughts.

Back story

As I stated above, the story takes place in 2009 Lunacy competition. It is about 3 teams, but mainly focus around the California team of Team 1717, D' Penguineers. It does not only focus on build season and the competition. It gives stories of the students, Amir (the coach), and Dean Kamen (Creator of first and I love that guy). This background story is introduce in the beginning of the story and so is the 2009 Lunacy game, though I believe that if you just watch the Youtube video it would be better.

Characters..I mean people

They may seem like characters, but they are actually people. In fact they exactly capture the diversity of a Robotics teams. There is Gabe Rives-Corbet, a Tae kwondo champion and also the team's programmer, then Turk, the very skill shooter, and many more. Bascomb have a nice list and description of these kids and you'll learn to love them throughout the story.

Now I can relate to that, because the team I was on was like that. I was a programmer who is into martial art and animations, then a very lovable, devious electrician, Carlton. There were many unique "characters" on my team as well, so those who aren't familiar with the robotics team or think these people aren't real or over exaggerated, just don't be so ignorant.


This is where my history gets in the way. At first it, the story is very compelling...well casual. I know the game, so the explanation of the was not a big deal for me and the story had a nice flow to it. There were speed bumps for me, because of several factor:

1) Mentors

2) Tools

Let me explain why the Mentors gets me. My team basically have no mentors, we only had our coach and then graduates will drop in once in awhile, but they are no profession like Team 1717's Stan who was in the industry (programming). This annoyed me a little, but it was more like "Damn..lucky" then I got over it.

Tools...they did have better equipment than us and when it got to the point where they decided to build TWO robots that just got me...my team barely can make one robot, we have to recycled spare parts from our last year robot.

BUT because of this emotion that arise from this, this mean the book is doing its job to tell its story.

After I suck it in and continue reading, that's when it happened. I felt their pain and struggle as they struggled in Regional and then National. A constant question in my head was, "Why this team?"

This team not only show the Gracious Professionalism that Dean Kamen spoke of, but also best vividly captures all experience of every team out there. They help rookie teams, they make their own parts (for the most part), they figure out what's wrong with their robot- They even kick out a mentor that wasn't allowing them to work on the robot...their robot break down and they work fast and hard to solve these problems. They fought a plague and many more.... They faced both high-end and low-end team... it's pretty amazing.

There are short chapters about the other two teams and their struggle, which are really good break from Team 1717 story, but you need to pay attention on who's story it is.

Final Thoughts

Would I recommend this book? Of course. "The New Cool" really is a miss leading titled, but I can't think of anything else to describe FIRST Robotics. It's miss leading, because you expect someone preaching how cool this is and etc..but that's the thing...it's cool because of the struggle and the experience these kids-us kids face in and out competition. Coaches should read it, students, people outside of robotics should too....It's a definitely well put together...Good book.

I won't remember all the details of the book, but I will remember that fact the book capture the FIRST experience...well that's just the beginning..to truly experience FIRST you need to see it yourself. Encourage your school to pick it up and go to competitions..That's all I have to say.

[Not proof read]
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on March 3, 2011
FIRST I would like to say this is the first leisure book I have read since being at college for a year and a half and it is nice and relaxing to do so.

Also this book, for what I have read, has been very well written and I can see it being a good read for those that do not know what FIRST is about but also makes a connection to those who have been involved with FIRST. What I like about this book even more is that it goes over the 2009 season which was also my senior year in high school and my last year of involvement as a student in FRC.

I have not wanted to set it down but I have had to to get some sleep and to read the other not so fun books for my classes.

If you haven't gotten it yet, GET IT! Granted I don't know how it ends but if its at all like the beginning it will be a great read and end fantastic with you jumping out of your seat thinking that you just were involved with what the book is all about.
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on July 29, 2011
Well researched and written, really captures the atmosphere, which I experienced firsthand as a parent. This is about a relative "newbie" team participating in the FIRST international robotics challenge in 2009. It happens that my son was a senior at this school in 2006, the first year his high school--the one featured in this book--competed. Their mentor, physics teacher Amir Abo-Shaaer, a former engineer and dedicated pedagogue, worked very hard to realize his dream of hands-on education and affect his students' lives. Bascomb (and his collaborators who shadowed several other teams) does an excellent job recreating the atmosphere of the "build season" and competitions. The annual FIRST competitions are so much fun to watch I went down to Long Beach during two other years besides my son's (not the one described in this book, though), and it was exactly as described.
As an aside, any FIRST team wanting to know what it takes to become a serious competitor would be advised to read this book.
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on June 2, 2014
Working for a FRC team for going on for years now. I think this book really captures what it's like to be a part of a struggle that leads to the creation of a robot and then taking it on into the competitions. I recommend reading this book either just getting started as a mentor without FRC experience or if you're a parent who's child is getting involved with this. One really great touch with the author put into this book was the ending story. Many times I've seen kids that thought they were done with robot or anything to do with a robot at end of the season. It's always a real pleasure from the coaching or mentor perspective to see them discover something they didn't even know was there and to follow that passion.
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on April 7, 2011
The New Cool is a great book that gives the history of a FIRST FRC robotics team throughout the build process, into competition, and on to Championships. I've volunteered with this program for years and am aware of all the work that the teams put into their robots, but this has put me awe of the students and their mentors more than ever. STEM --- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math ---needs to be the "new cool" thing for America's youth --- it will get them a career, it will let them make a difference in the world.
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on April 21, 2014
This is a subject that is very close to my heart. My daughter is on her Robotics Team at school. The New Cool really captures the excitement and challenges of a very hard working high school robotics team. It also demonstrates how one very driven teacher/coach can make a difference in a school program. Several things they were able to afford to do are out of reach for many schools. But some of the funding gets back to how hard the teacher worked to improve the program. Great read!
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on April 11, 2011
Loved this book. Tense and exciting. I am going to give it as gifts to some educators and politicians I know...These young adults both girls & boys and their teachers/mentors/parents were amazing. Wish more schools, parents & corporations would support brain athletics. Went on line and found that my old public high school had won this year for its region! So glad there is a FIRST challenge, just what our country needs to keep up in the world...just wish the TV people understood that the public would watch if it were to be promoted correctly...it can co-exist right along with other competitions we view. Right up there with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
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on December 5, 2016
I got this book as a Christmas gift for my nephew who just started teaching robotics to middle school students. I think he'll find it inspiring and motivating! A great subject for young students.
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