The Drama! The Intrigue! FIRST Robots (and Their Masters) on TV

Allison Loudermilk

As you busy yourself this fall raking leaves, sipping cider and experiencing the Great Outdoors, you may want to consider ditching all that outside stuff, plopping down in your La-Z-Boy and flipping on "Gearing Up." The new one-hour documentary premiering right now on public television takes you behind the scenes of the 2008 FIRST robotics competition, serving up a healthy dose of suspense, teenagers and, of course, robots. Here's the promo:

The FIRST Robotics competition, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is an annual event held in Atlanta in which teams of students are all given an identical kit and challenged to build a robot that can rock some task, such as, say, slam-dunking balls into some nets.

"Gearing Up" trails four teams as they're readying their bots for the 2008 regional competitions. The documentary follows Miss Daisy, a bunch of old hands at robot building from Ambler, Pa.; the RoboDoves, a rookie all-girl troupe from Baltimore; the Ratchet Rockers from Wentzville, Mo., and, potentially my favorite, the Rambotics, an all-boys team from a Colorado correctional facility. I say "potentially" because I haven't seen it yet, just the promo. But here's a list of where to watch if you're curious. Better hustle, too, because it may be about to play in your area, if it hasn't already.

Who needs beautiful fall days when all that drama awaits you inside? And it does seem like drama. I read in the teaser that one robot must drop five pounds overnight and another team has to deal with three teammates escaping from school.

More robot reading at HowStuffWorks.com: Atlanta Gearing Up for FIRST Robotics Competition Robots and Teens Invade Atlanta for FIRST Championship Best Bots Battle at First Championship Saturday How FIRST Works Top 5 Green Robots