Neal Bascomb, Author, THE NEW COOL: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts; Mark Hannum, Educator, Thomas Jefferson School For Science and Technology; Kent Hughes, Director, Program on America and the Global Economy

When Dean Kamen, a millionaire inventor, realized that most kids couldn't name a living scientist, he created the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition to encourage high-school students to consider careers in science and engineers.

In The New Cool, Bascomb follows FIRST team 1717, the D'Penguineers, from Goleta, California, during the 2009 season. The team of high-school seniors, all rookie robot builders, is led by Amir Abo-Shaeer, a physics teacher. The astonishing story of a team of high school seniors and their remarkable mentor, who come together—not to play a sport or exercise their athletic prowess—but rather to build a machine that will join with two other tobots to compete in the most heated, sophisticated robotics contest in the world. FIRST emphasizes gracious professionalism and combines competition and cooperation into a a type of coopetician that parallels real-life innovation. The FIRST competition, sponsored by a host of companies and universities,and organized by tens of thousands of volunteers is jumpstarting American innovation for the next generation—and beyond.


  • Kent Hughes

    Public Policy Fellow
  • Mark Hannum

    Teacher, Thomas Jefferson School For Science and Technology and former Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow