tv Education in America Dont Fail Me CNN May 15, 2011 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
army colonel. did not speculate on what was behind the kiss and did not rule out drug trafficking. most bodies had no heads, and two of the victims were women. i'm don lemon at cnn world headquarters in atlanta. thanks so much for watching. have a great week. i'll see you back here next weekend. good night. i'm so excited! >> that was that robot when he turned around. >> looked like a near-head collision. >> 15 people working super hard to get our robot working. >> clear. >> are you ready? in three, two, one -- ♪
>> carlos is here. jackie's here. >> reporter: it's before dawn on a saturday in january. and across the country, thousands of teenagers are up and ready to go. >> i'm very excited. >> reporter: from new jersey to arizona. to tennessee. >> we're about to go find out what our objective is. >> reporter: it's opening day. broadcast live from new hampshire. but this is no ordinary sport. america's future is on the line. it's a robotic competition that brings 50,000 high school students into stadiums across the country. they call it an olympics of the mind. the purpose is to inspire kids to take challenging math and science classes to prepare them for the high-tech jobs of the future.
it's what american public schools often fail to do. >> we've basically had a 19th century model of education that is not preparing enough young people to be successful in the 21st century of global economy. it's amazing to me that at a time of high unemployment rates we actually have over 2 million unfilled high wage, high skilled jobs. >> reporter: 2 million jobs right now that are -- >> unfilled, high wage, high skilled jobs because we haven't produced what we need to do. >> the work has to be done, so we send the work to people in other places that can get it done. this is absolutely backwards. >> reporter: you run a fortune 500 company. are you worried about finding employees for your company who can do the job? >> the answer is, more than worried. i'm living with the problem. i'm panic-stricken about it. >> reporter: and that's why companies like xerox are funding this competition. among this year's competitors, maria castro, brian whitehead,
shaun pattel, three grids three different economic backgrounds with very different opportunities. >> i want to be a solar engineer and i want to go to stanford engineer. >> reporter: junior mar are a castro is a student at the mostly latino high school in phoenix, arizona. the average family here makes less than $30,000 a year. >> maria, what is the ratios of the 45? >> the one and one and the radical two. >> one, one, radical two. beautiful thing, right? >> reporter: maria wants a career that pays well and is pushing herself and her school to get it. >> i was like, well, why isn't anybody challenging me? i mean, i would do a whole week's lesson in a class period. and i was just like, okay, this is too simple for me. it's like, okay, what's next? >> reporter: do you worry when you go off to college you're not going to be prepared to compete? >> yeah. especially like with this example, english. we're learning how to capitalize and when to capitalize. i mean, that's things my little sister should be learning, you
know. >> reporter: it's because more than half of the 2,200 students at maria's school don't pass statewide tests in reading and math. >> when they come to school, you know, they come with fourth grade reading level and behind in math, so we really have a lot of catching up to do. ♪ >> reporter: guitar playing brian whitehead is from middle class seymour, tennessee. this senior is about to become a programmer on his school's brand new robotic team. >> i guess i'm a nerd. i've got all the honors classes, scholars bowl, band, jazz band and now robotics to tack on to that. national honor society. i guess i just do all the higher level education things. should we connect them side to
side? >> reporter: brian wants to get into a top engineering school, but already he's at a disadvantage. are there classes that you are not able to take because they're not offered in this school that you'd like to take? >> well, i guess, any a.p. classes at all. >> reporter: there's no a.p. classes here? >> no a.p. anything. >> reporter: advanced placement. >> no. >> reporter: biology, chemistry, physics, history? >> nothing. >> reporter: advanced placement classes give a leg up to students who want to get into top colleges. brian hasn't taken one. ♪ >> reporter: sophomore shaan patel is from upper middle class montgomery, new jersey. the son of indian emigrants shaan is already taking two a.p. classes which leaves him little time for his favorite hobby, dancing. >> i'm taking spanish 4, a.p. history, a.p. statistics, and
english and chemistry honors, and then after school i have boy scouts, robotics and dance. >> so a.p. classes, honors classes, a full slate of after-school activities and how much homework every night? >> two to four hours usually. >> reporter: that sounds like you're swamped. do you feel pressured? >> well, i've got stress but the thing is that it was my choice to take all these classes. it was my choice to take the extracurriculars. >> reporter: in the u.s. students have a choice. most choose not to take the tough math and science classes. but in most industrialized countries, classes like chemistry and physics aren't optional. it's one reason why out of 34 countries, american students rank 17th in science, 25th in math. shanghai, china, finland, south korea, slovakia, canada, australia, estonia, ireland, belgium. that's just a partial list. >> singapore. >> reporter: who are ahead of us? >> yes.
>> reporter: why does it matter we're number 17 and 25? >> we should be leading the world in education. one generation ago we did. one generation ago we had the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. we're flat-lined, stagnated. it's simply not good enough. >> if we don't generate the next group of innovators, scientists, engineers, problem solvers in this country, our standard of living, our quality of life, our security will plummet. >> reporter: dean kaman has made his millions with inventions from the insulin pump to the segway. >> if you want kids to study math and science, you don't create a science fair. >> reporter: that's why he created the robotics competition he calls f.i.r.s.t., for inspiration and recognition of science and technology. this year's challenge, to build a robot that can race across a field and score points by hanging tubes on pegs.
this time a new twist. students must build a second mini robot. >> race to the top of the towers. >> that is too cool. >> first one to the top gets a 30-point bonus. >> this looks really awesome, and i can't wait to get started. the mini bot was confusing, though. >> thank you. >> reporter: is the answer to america's future in this box of parts? starting now, maria, brian, shaan and tens of thousands of other students have six weeks to turn these pieces -- >> it's called robotics christmas. >> reporter: -- into a working robot. >> i've never seen this before. >> this would be rotational momentum. >> reporter: in new jersey shaan's team is counting on figuring it out with the help of a advanced physics. but maria's team has a secret plan. which one will have the advantage? [ male announcer ] diane was already
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robotics competition, create a fast robot with an arm that can grip and score. >> two little arms like this. >> how high can the arm go that we're building? two-piece arm, three-piece arm? all these things we're working out. >> reporter: maria is vice president of the robotics team. >> it's just my little sister and i. >> reporter: because everybody moved out. >> or got kicked out. >> reporter: she's the sixth of seven children. >> all of my brothers and sisters were "a" students. >> reporter: and they went from being "a" students to -- >> dropping out. >> reporter: dropping out all together. >> my sister got pregnant when she was younger. like, everybody was kind of just expecting me to follow into their same foot steps, you know. >> reporter: everybody, including her father. she overheard him two years ago at her 15th birthday party. >> he was like, just a matter of time before she fails. >> reporter: fails. >> yeah.
he's just like -- it doesn't really matter what she does right now. i mean, she'll eventually give up. it hurts because everything i did was to make him happy, to make him proud. out of all his kids i've been the one who's helped him the most. well, that's the way i see things, you know. and it hurt. just like, listen -- >> reporter: did it motivate you in any way? >> yeah, it did. >> reporter: it did? >> yeah. i kind of just took and looked around, you know. now it's like, okay, if i'm going to get straight as, it's not just for you anymore, it's for me. >> reporter: by 2015 minority students will be more than half of u.s. schoolchildren. latino students are the fastest growing group, and they have the highest dropout rates. >> we have dropout rates in the minority community of 40%, 50%, 60%. that's morally unacceptable and economically unsustainable. >> reporter: what's the risk if black and latino students are not taking high-level math classes? >> it's just a disaster.
the risk is that you have a country with a population who are excluded financially from the success of the nation. >> reporter: because that's where the jobs are. >> that's where the jobs are. >> reporter: maria's goal, to study solar engineering at stanford. of the 30,000 who apply there annually, 2,300, just 7%, are accepted. >> i analyzed like all the classes i was taking. and with what i have, i wasn't going to be able to take calculus before the end of my senior year. >> reporter: what's wrong with taking just pre-call clause? >> well, to get into the university i need at minimum calculus. >> reporter: so maria took action, signing up 31 students and a teacher for an accelerated math class which combines albera and pre-calculus into one. next she had to fine the money for the after-school class. >> everybody's like, i'm not going to go. what if i get in trouble?
you're not getting in trouble. you're asking for something. >> reporter: maria's mother came with her to school every day to push for the new class. >> reporter: maria's father emigrated from mexico in the 1960s. he learned english working in the backs of restaurants. now he supports his family with social security retirement checks. what do you think motivates her? >> her own will. i mean, she can do a lot of things. she wants to be better than probably many people around her. >> reporter: after months of lobbying, maria finally got the math class. >> tangent of 30 is what, maria? >> radical three over three. >> correct. >> reporter: it started in september with 32 students. but five months later, only 12 are left. is she unusual? >> she's unusual.
there are kids that have some degree of maria in them. maria tends to be the one out in the front. >> we're studying for our math final. >> am i to use sign or cosign? >> use the sign. >> this is backwards. >> reporter: to stay in the advanced math class, maria must study -- >> multi-thread -- >> reporter: -- while her team tests and adjusts the robot's arm. >> where is it hitting? >> reporter: it's been nine years since teacher fredi started the team. his robotic alumni now work as engineers at intel and microchip, making two, three, four times what their parents earn. >> i have something to show you. >> looks exciting. >> it's going to blow your mind. in is an arm segment. >> are you satisfied with it? >> yeah. >> once we point out to the kids that these jobs are available, and look at the salary you can
make, once they see that, i don't even have to push them anymore. i just need to get out of their way. >> lift it up. >> reporter: they want to go all the way to the nationals in st. louis, where they'll face off against wealthy, highly rated schools. >> there we go. >> reporter: are you worried they've got a major advantage in this competition? >> as much as money they have, that's how much heart we have into it. that's how much harder we have to try. >> lift. >> reporter: so it's on? >> yeah. >> i'll hold it. >> reporter: this year maria's team is working on a secret strategy. it's something neither the team in tennessee nor the team in new jersey has. >> you have to have at least six wheels on this thing. 20 inches per second. if the pole is there and pushing onto the pole -- >> reporter: shaan is only a sophomore, but he's already a year ahead of maria, a junior, in math. you'll take calculus next year. >> yeah. >> reporter: that's a college level class, right? >> i think so. i think a lot of schools do that. i think a lot of kids take calculus in high school.
>> reporter: he's wrong. only 16% of u.s. students take calculus in high school. >> by sixth grade the children begin only for math instruction. they start differentiating. >> reporter: in montgomery, parents put kids on the track to advanced math in grade school. >> i try to take classes that will challenge me. i'm trying to challenge myself as much as i can. >> reporter: your brother's autistic. >> my brother has autism, yes. >> reporter: do you think you view the world differently because you have a brother who is autistic? >> i feel i have no right not to use any abilities have i and that's why i want to challenge myself so much. >> reporter: so he's loaded his schedule, and he's a builder on his school's robotic team. >> push in from the bottom up. >> reporter: acquiring skills that will make him successful in an engineering program. this year shaan's dad, a mechanical engineer, is volunteering on the robotics team. the first challenge for this team, their arm.
>> it's going to be an elevator type thing and it's going to start like that and push up like that. >> we have two unknowns, acceleration and torque. >> this would be momentum. >> we both take a.p. physics. the class is helping me now because we know how to solve for like the amount of force needed in order to, you know, lift up the elevator. >> reporter: shaan's teammates believe they have a winning design. >> ready? enable. >> reporter: the programmers are testing their new code. >> any error messages? >> reporter: and it doesn't work. >> it's my code. why doesn't it work? >> reporter: in classrooms across tennessee, there's a completely different sort of struggle. following a stunning admission from the former governor. were you lying to parents about -- >> oh, yeah, absolutely. building up our wireless network all across america. we're adding new cell sites... increasing network capacity, and investing billions of dollars
>> reporter: in tennessee rookie programmer prion whitehead has taught himself the code to make his robot move. >> it's like learning a new language. you learn a little bit. you figure it out more as you go. but we don't know much of it, but we know enough for now. you can have forward and backwards, so it would be up and down. >> right. >> on the first arm. if you pulled the trigger, that's the second arm. ♪ >> reporter: this is the very first year brian's team is building. wiring and programming. >> you go backwards. of course it goes backwards. >> reporter: can you show me what the code looked like? >> yeah. >> reporter: did you map it out first? >> yes. >> reporter: brian is a senior
at seymour high school. here, more than 70% of students will go on to higher education. what age did you know you were going off to college? >> i was maybe 7 or 8. >> reporter: years old you were going to college because your mom was like, you're going to college? >> yeah. >> reporter: his mom, juanita, didn't attend college. she's making sure her three children don't make the same mistake. brian is the youngest. this last year has been very difficult for the family. brian's father, jeff, fought leukemia for years. he was only 48 when he died last spring. >> i started to realize which things are important and which things aren't. >> reporter: after your husband died? >> right. didn't matter how much money we had. i would have rather him do more he wanted to do. >> reporter: what's your vision of the best for brian? >> i would want him to do something that he loves and something that he's passionate about. i would also like him to be comfortable. >> reporter: comfortable means a
high-paying, high-tech job. brian took the a.c.t. college entrance exam just two days after his father's funeral. and he aced it. scoring in the top 1% of the entire nation. suddenly, brian had a world of opportunity open to him. brown, m.i.t. -- >> and the strange thing is, when he took his a.c.t., he did not put any of these schools at all, so they must have a way of tracking people. >> reporter: yale also sent an application. and it became his top choice. what do you think his chances are for getting in? >> i don't know. >> reporter: do you think his education is as good as anybody else in the country? >> no, no. definitely not. i mean, i -- >> reporter: that's a nice school. that's a good school. >> right, right. >> reporter: full of middle class people. >> right. >> reporter: with great middle class values. >> yeah. >> reporter: and you don't think he's getting a great education?
>> it might be my misperception, but i always keep thinking that it's better everywhere else. >> reporter: maybe not a misperception. after this revelation from tennessee's former governor phil bredesen. were you lying to parents -- >> oh, absolutely. i mean -- >> reporter: out and out lying to parents how good their kids were doing? >> one case in eighth grade math we were telling 80% of the kids they were proficient when they took the test. >> reporter: what was the real number? >> 22%. >> reporter: 22% instead of 84%. >> and you just say, look, you may feel good for a minute if you think that -- >> reporter: but it's a lie. >> -- but you're not doing these kids any favor by lying to them like that. >> reporter: high scores on easy state tests made tennessee seem like an educational powerhouse. the truth, tennessee was one of the lowest performing states in the country. >> today begins a new era, a new time in public education in our country. >> reporter: in 2001 the passage
of no child left behind tied student test scores to federal education dollars. president bush's no child left behind law, the states have to report their standardized test scores, but they're making their own tests. you need to report your numbers but you get to design your own test. that's what no child left behind -- >> it's going to be, you report your numbers, and by the way, some really bad things happen if your numbers aren't good, so you figure out how to figure out the numbers. and i think that pushed an awful lot of states in the direction of, well, we don't want these bad things to happen. we don't want to lose federal funding. we don't want to be held up as bad school systems so -- >> reporter: they dumb down the tests. >> let's make it work. >> reporter: and make it works means they dumb down the tests. governor bredesen said bluntly we lied, we lied to parents in the state of tennessee. how many other states are lying? >> in many, many states around the country we've been lying to children and families. >> reporter: what's many? more than half? >> yes, yes, probably more than half, absolutely.
>> reporter: more than two-thirds? >> well, you -- you know, you can go -- you can do the math and look at those disparities. >> reporter: we did look. out of 30 states that have reported test scores for 2010, 29 claimed their eighth graders are doing better in math than national tests indicate. >> we have to change that after we set it up. >> reporter: in tennessee easy tests came with low standards. but reforms put in place by governor bredesen are now raising the bar for all students. >> the whole process of just getting more kids interested -- >> reporter: the focus of tennessee's reforms, the math and science curriculum. the idea, pay those teachers more, create specialized science schools in poor neighborhoods and put into place some of the toughest graduation requirements in the country. governor bredesen also joined more than 40 other states in developing a set of high
national standards in reading and math. >> this is just -- >> this is just to give a visual, yeah. >> reporter: but tennessee's reforms come too late for high school seniors like brian. >> your value at zero -- >> reporter: at brian's school, only about 20 students a year out of 1,300 take calculus or physics, the top math and science classes offered. >> we started out with, i believe, eight or nine and several dropped. >> reporter: calculus teacher can't keep students in her classroom. then they realize, well, i have to work. and i think some were burnt out their senior year. and i think, oh, i have to work. i don't know if i want to put in this much time. >> reporter: what about the parents, do parents call you and say, put jimmy in physics, i want him to be the most prepared? >> no. >> reporter: no, never? >> no. >> reporter: what parents do
call the principal about, sports. >> we live in america. our sports are important to us. >> reporter: does that drive you crazy? >> well, no. it's it is what it is. >> reporter: that's a value system. >> yes. >> reporter: how do you change a value system? >> people, it has to be important to them. you know, you've got average, and nothing wrong with average, average middle class, we're very happy, this is wonderful, we're moving along here. >> reporter: but no one's knocking down the door saying, make this school great? >> right. i want to provide the best education i can for the students. that's my job. everybody should be pushing toward the top. getting them to do it, jumping on board and saying, hey, let's go, is not as easy. >> revolutions into engines. >> reporter: a big challenge for this team -- >> like, so if you have to, what do you -- >> reporter: -- getting the arm built on time. >> we have that arm set as big as it's going to be anglewise. about like that.
>> this week is going to be programming the arm, building the arm, seeing what we're going to do with the mini bot because we're not entirely sure on that. >> reporter: will their inexperience keep them from winning? what role do parents play when it comes to getting kids to tackle math and science? that's right. it runs flash. so unlike some tablets we could mention, you get the best of the internet - not just part of it. ♪ flash, aah-ah ♪ flash, aah-ah
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>> whoa! >> do we know which way is front ? >> reporter: three weeks left to finish the robot. maria's veteran team is test-driving their secret weapon. if their plan works, it could give them a huge competitive advantage. six days a week her team is building and practicing, but twice a week maria must miss robotics for the accelerated math class she fought for. >> oh, my god, it's the final. >> reporter: four more students have dropped. only eight remain. >> do all your work on a scratch paper. just like we've done in the past. >> reporter: today maria has a big test. to advance to pre-calculus, she has to pass. only hours later maria gets good news. >> ya! i got an "a." >> reporter: she'll be ready for calculus as a senior. >> it starts varying. it's still off.
now you just have to worry about getting the right gear going. >> okay. that's good enough. >> yes. let's go home. >> go home and do your homework. >> i'm so tired. make sure the door's locked. [ speaking foreign language ] i got an "a" on the test. >> very good. >> thank you. >> reporter: so, how do your parents feel about it? do they support you? >> they do but, i mean, there's not much they can do to support me. so, like, there's no money. and they -- educational-wise, my dad dropped out at sixth grade, my mom dropped out at fifth grade because their fathers, both of them, had their fathers pass away. >> we need to teach our kids it's not just the winner of the super bowl who deserves to be celebrated but the winner of the science fair. >> reporter: the patels are watching president obama's state of the union address. the president's focus, education.
for shaan, the focus is midterms. >> i have to stay up pretty late, till 12:30, 1:00ish. you can't have bedtime when you have a lot of stuff to get done. >> i think he's very much the typical american teenager, hanging out with his friends, going to the movies. >> reporter: and taking classes most american teenagers will never take. >> but in this town they do. >> reporter: montgomery, new jersey, population 22,000. average family income, more than $200,000 a year. it's home to some of the nation's biggest pharmaceutical and tech companies. and what's most important to families here -- >> we knew they had a great school system and that was really the clincher. >> we'll get together tomorrow night to study. >> education is what parents can
give to kids to give them a sound footing. >> reporter: do you think your kid is getting a great education? >> i do. >> he never believes that. >> 60 over n squared divided by 4 pi squared. >> reporter: at shaan's school it's mostly children of asian immigrants taking the very top math and science classes. >> how about 20? >> reporter: this is advanced placement physics. so, your school is 30% asian, but when you look at advanced placement classes, physics, 89% of the students taking that class are asian. chemistry, 72%. what do you think's the reason behind those numbers? >> it's probably where the student and parents wish to go as far as trying to get into a specific field. engineering or math, science, chemistry-related fields. they're kind of charting that path very early on. >> reporter: asians are 5% of the u.s. population. but they make up more than a
quarter of the engineering graduates at top engineering schools like cal tech and m.i.t. >> i think it's more like the parenting than it is just being asian. >> we think current events are important. that's why we ask you. >> i get you. i'm just saying we don't do it in class. education is the most important thing. >> he learned. he did it. >> grades come first, i know that. and a lot of kids, a lot of houses are like that. >> reporter: do asian families put a greater emphasis on math and science? do they place a greater value on math and science? >> i think they see careers in the math and science fields as a way to success. these are poor countries you're talking about, so you're looking for a way out sometimes. >> on all four or -- >> yeah. just double check. >> what better way to get it than ensure you'll be able to get a job. >> perfect. >> that's -- yeah, that's the reverse turning, not the forward.
>> reporter: two weeks left, and brian is working on the robot every single day. >> everybody ready? >> reporter: writing code. >> here we go. go. wow. >> what did you do? >> one of them -- you have to put as a negative to make it turn. >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: fixing glitches. >> all right. that's false. this one's true. false, true, false, it should work. let's try this. bam. >> yes! >> it worked, kind of. >> yeah, it works. >> what is it finding? >> the three foot line it works. >> that's true. >> reporter: his rookie team has never done any of this before. this is the mini bot. >> this is the mini bot meant to climb up this pole, put it on. >> it automatically turns on. >> reporter: is it going to win? >> yeah. >> duh. >> reporter: duh?
>> i'm going to try to do this in one motion. >> whoa. >> off with his head. >> reporter: that arm needs to get fixed fast. >> let's hear it for team 1403. >> reporter: because across the country the battle for a spot in the finals is getting under way. witnessed snowfall on the first day of spring. ♪ but the most beautiful thing i've ever seen was the image on a screen that helped our doctor see my wife's cancer was treatable. [ male announcer ] ge technologies help doctors detect cancer early so they can save more lives. bringing better health to more people. ♪
long hours, completing their robot. what makes you think you have the best robot? >> it's fast. and it's maneuverable. >> reporter: are you feeling the pressure already? >> not yet, but i know last year we were in finals, i could feel it. >> reporter: their goal -- finish early and give the driver days to practice. their classmates are all backing up. i wonder why. i go -- >> no button. >> reporter: no button just push down. okay. that's my right. that's my left. i'm not sure i have it down yet. sorry. >> just back up. it's fine. so now you know one of the pressures i face. >> reporter: think you're going to win? >> i think we're going to win. >> reporter: there's glass all around the outside of it? >> for the most part. >> reporter: only hours left until the robot must be completed. >> this is the chain.
reinforcement -- >> reporter: sounds like a lot for 24 hours. maria's team is frantically checking wires and testing circuits. six weeks of work comes down to this one moment. >> we're in good shape. >> remember 116205, verified. >> reporter: think you're going to win? >> yeah. i think we're pretty dangerous this year. >> reporter: especially dangerous because of their secret strategy. they built a second identical robot. that means even after their robot is packed, they'll have a full month to practice. most teams don't. early spring and at 48 regionals across the country, thousands of teams are competing for a shot at the finals in st. louis.
>> this is ready to go. >> reporter: maria's team has never built a winning robot. could their secret strategy give them the advantage they need? >> i have really high hopes we're going to win right now. >> reporter: shaan's team, the kids taking the top math and science classes is competing in the pennsylvania regional. they're excited to test their robot, number 1403. >> let's hear it for team 1403! three, two, one, go! >> you guys score. we'll play defense. >> reporter: to play, three robots work together to form the red team. another three make the blue team. they score points by hanging tubes and deploying mini bots. get the most points, win the
round. >> we got first. >> my parents, my brother came and my grandma and my other grandma and grandpa all came. it's just really great they all came to support me. i'm so happy to see them all. i got to show them my robot. >> reporter: at brian's tennessee regionals, he and his mom are anxiously watching their robot. 3675. and the arm isn't working. >> 50 seconds left to go. >> reporter: they can't hang any tubes which means their robot can't score for the team. can these first-timers make a comeback? >> can't move. i can't move. >> we can't score. we can't score! >> one of our wires popped and then our limit switch broke. >> reporter: shaan is on the pit crew.
their job is to fix the robot and get it back in the game quickly. >> ready, lift. >> reporter: the robot is back in, but will the team score enough to make it to the finals? >> we hope we're going to win. we're not so sure, but we think we can. >> got to go through it. >> reporter: in arizona, maria's team must win the next two out of three matches to advance to the finals. game one, easy win, but their robot is taking a beating. >> i thought it was that other robot when he turned around. it looked like a near head-on collision. >> back up and go forward. >> reporter: game two -- >> oh, you're not on. >> reporter: a loss. everything hangs on game three. >> good luck. >> reporter: three teams, three chances to go to the finals in st. louis. who will make it? >> in three, two, one! g up our s network all across america.
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>> might as well just get in there. >> the robot didn't do too well. it achieved well for us being rookies. >> reporter: but their hard work is rewarded -- >> our next award is rookie inspiration award. congratulations 3675. from seymour, tennessee. >> i didn't expect to get an award. >> get out of my way! get out of my way quick! hit it. >> reporter: meanwhile in pennsylvania -- >> back, mini bot, mini bot. >> 1403, set, fire. here we go. oh, burst. >> we're not taking that penalty. >> i'm pretty sure we got second or third. >> beautiful. >> reporter: shaan's team wins an engineering award. but they don't score enough to advance to st. louis. >> i'm kind of disappointed
right now. i don't feel too bad because we had a great time. >> reporter: new jersey and tennessee are out. >> are you ready? >> reporter: in arizona, maria's team is still in. everything hangs on this last game. >> blue, blue, blue. >> drop it. there you go. right there. up, up. >> mini bot, go. on the way. wait. yeah! >> reporter: their secret strategy, all the extra practice time, pays off with a victory. >> everything that we've been telling the kids and everything the kids have been working for really paid off and they can see it. that's what winning today means.
>> four, three, two, one, zero. >> reporter: starting now, they have one month to practice for the finals. >> i've sacrificed a lot to be on this team. and i hope that once we win nationals, it will finally pay off. >> reporter: what do you see when you look up in these stands? >> i see the same thing you see. the future of this country. it is undeniable that those kids in ten years will be the work force and the leadership of this country. >> reporter: more than 15,000 students have traveled to this stadium for a shot at the championship. maria's team, the top seed from arizona, isn't doing well in the qualifying rounds.
>> everything was going really, really bad. the only thing we had good yesterday was the pizza. >> oh, my gosh! >> oh, no. he called penalty. >> did he go into the lane? >> go, go, go. >> reporter: they must win the next match or go home. >> stay with him. push the white one. >> now we're playing defense. >> push it. push it. compensate. you can do this. >> we lost that one, guys. >> we lost? >> yeah. >> got first and sending on the mini bot, so we're out. they had a huge experience here. there's a lot of new kids here and we're going to come back stronger next year.
>> i'm proud of you all. >> reporter: do you feel like you're a winner? >> yeah. our team fought hard. >> reporter: you're tearing up. >> uh-huh. i'm proud of it. >> reporter: you're proud? congratulations. you've been fun to follow. no crying. no crying. for maria and her team, it's time to pack up. >> looking at first and second. a tied score. now 70 seconds remaining. looking for second. ten seconds remaining. they're going up. >> reporter: the winning team is made up of students from
california and indiana. they come from schools in mostly middle class communities. >> regardless if we won our lost, our team is a lot stronger as a whole. and i think everybody has matured a lot more. including myself. >> these kids at the end of one season are permanently changed. what these kids are building is self-respect, self-confidence. what they're building is an understanding that in the real world, being smart is really cool. it's really important. it's really accessible. it can lead them to career options they never thought about. >> yes! >> reporter: and it's all shaped like a robot. >> the robot is a way to make it fun. but these kids walk away saying, i can do that. >> there are probably several kids i will never know, but because of the stuff our team did, they will end up creating a career in engineering and they wouldn't have done it if they wouldn't have had a chance on the robotics team that we