Review: Bots High [Movie Monday]

Today’s entry shows just how brilliant our youth can be, even in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and math. “Bots High” follows a handful of high school students as they design robots and compete in a national competition.

During my junior and senior years of high school, our then-new physics teacher began a BattleBots club. My fellow engineering-inclined students and I got together and had some great discussions, but unfortunately, a lack of resources and experience prevented us from going any further than engaging in spirited arguments about design and best practice.

Other schools, however, have been far less lazy in their pursuit for the ultimate prize in robotic destruction.

Bots High, a documentary from director Joey Daoud, follows three teams from Miami through their struggle to design and implement a robotic combatant strong enough to claim first place in the quickly-approaching national robotics competition.

Will Bales and his team from Ransom Everglade seemed to have the best chance, with their 15 lb. “Fluffy” and 120 lb. “El Cholo.” But, the students in the two teams from the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart aren’t push overs either.

The film starts with a regional contest, where Will and Team RE and Team My Mechanical Romance from Carrollton are competing. Despite a fiery conclusion at that particular competition, the two teams are resolute in their entry in the national competition, with a healthy friendship (and perhaps romance?) developing between the schools. The first half of the film showcases the teams’ progress, as they design and manufacture their bots, with the second half dedicated to the trials of the national competition itself.

As I was watching the film, though, I couldn’t help but think that Daoud was having trouble finding a focus for the documentary. Majority of the film was dedicated to Elizabeth Masson and Danielle Cosio of My Mechanical Romance, and Will’s relationship with them. Unfortunately, that left Carrollton’s second team, newcomer “Mechanical Misfits,” underrepresented, with majority of Ransom Everglade getting exposure in their final bum rush to finish their bots. The engineer in me would have also preferred to see more of the actual design process.

Still, there is something to be said about the celebration of engineering and science that these young students take to heart. The fact that both Carrollton teams are all-female is a stunning example of women taking charge in a stereotypically male-dominated field. The film also does a fantastic job of highlighting the camaraderie that happens between these competitors, which can’t help but make you smile in the end.

Verdict: Recommended. Despite my complaints, it’s ultimately an enjoyable watch (although, as I said, I was technically part of a BattleBots team in my time, so I am already interested in the topic), with Will and Elizabeth being likable hosts into the world of robotic combat.

Bots High is available for download now via iTunes, YouTube, and other download partners. DVD is also available for purchase.

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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