While being No. 2 doesn’t have quite the same cache as taking home top honors, it’s not such a bad consolation prize when the contest pits creative kids from across the world.
At least, that’s how Ray Carr is looking at the second-place finish his son’s team achieved in the X Prize “After Earth” competition.
Sean Carr and his teammates, Ross Edwards and R.J. Walters, finished second to a team from Missouri in the competition, which drew entries from young pioneers spanning four continents. Other countries competing included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, India, Egypt, Hungary, Singapore and Oman.
The trio of local 14-year-olds would have preferred to win, of course, but they’re taking a philosophical attitude. They said they had fun rising to the challenge and learned how to be better teammates.
The contest was based on the movie “After Earth,” starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith. The sponsor, X Prize Foundation, uses competitions to address “the world’s grand challenges,” according to its website.
In this case, the teams explored ways to make Earth more sustainable and how to use robotics to investigate the potential for a new settlement for humans.
Ray Carr coached the young men, who are also members of the Trinity Dragons robotics team.
As part of the competition, the team designed and built a robot that can scoot across a surface, lift small buckets and deliver them to where they need to go, and then return to its base.
While the robot seemingly acts on its own, it actually completes its work through computer programming and infrared sensors. It carries out its tasks in a fictitious place, called Nova Prime.
The team also produced a video that tells the story of their imaginary world. It opens with images of what’s going wrong with Earth — traffic jams, billowing smokestacks, parched earth, landfills and a dead bird. It then pans to a view of Carr’s backyard in Lutz, where fish thrive in water tanks, which provide water and nutrients to a flower and vegetable garden in a system. That in turn produces fish and organic vegetables, using very little water.
The video features a lively musical soundtrack and an entertaining look at the steps the team followed to create and program the robot.
Other portions of the video show the rover coming together and the construction of Nova Prime.
Ray Carr said that even though they placed second, the team is included in a montage on the recently released “After Earth” DVD.
For making it to the final round, the team received a Lego Mindstorms robotic kit and a Sony Handycam video camera.
Competing in these kinds of contests is a great way to learn, Ray Carr said.
“Edison said he learned 3,000 ways not to make a lightbulb,” he said. “That’s what they did, too.”