Each week, Andrew Stroup and Corey Fleischer will recap the latest episode of “The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius.” Stroup and Fleischer are the two Maryland contestants competing on the new Discovery Channel show that airs Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Stroup and Fleischer hold weekly viewing parties starting at 6 p.m. at Luckie’s Tavern.
See last week’s summary here.
Episode 7 summary:
For the penultimate challenge, the teams were challenged with a real-world military application: create a device that automatically detects and prevents unauthorized access at a gated checkpoint.
As a civil servant for the Department of Defense, I pass by these checkpoints every day, and found this challenge an interesting problem. Each team was given three days and $5,000 to complete their design.
With only four contestants remaining, the stakes were high. To make things even more intense, there were no individual eliminations. That meant the two contestants on the winning team would move on to the finale, a double elimination for the contestants on the losing team.
[Editor’s Note: Andrew was already eliminated for the top prize, but still competes with the BLUE team, where fellow Maryland contestant Corey remains active.]
After everything was said and done, the BLUE team was victorious, meaning Amy and Corey will be going competing in the finale for the grand prize: $50,000 and a one-year contract at WET design and engineering firm.
If you missed the episode, you can watch it here.
Episode 7 in-depth coverage (for those interested in the RED Team’s design, and the behind-the-scenes “dirt”):
BLUEPRINT CHALLENGE: Very similar to my approach, Tom had laid low with regards to the blueprint challenge, as it was obvious winning them (especially as runner-up) was a disadvantage. Also, and only speculation, I wasn’t surprised when Tom was selected as a team captain, since it seemed like regardless of what we would have proposed, it was our turn to take on a leadership role in one of the two challenges leading up to the finale. The judges picked Amy as the blueprint challenge winner and Tom as the runner-up. The major flaw in the implementation of our similar strategies was that we did not win the blueprint challenge (only runner-up), meaning Tom (like I was in challenge 6) would be dealt two forced picks.
THE CHALLENGE DETAILS: The details regarding the challenge (some mentioned, some not) made this much harder than initially anticipated. The passengers and the car were not to be damaged, the system had to be automatically triggered and the design could not be naturally closed (my design). An accelerometer was also installed inside the car to measure the g-forces the car experienced when impacting the design, a metric stated would be used in the judging criteria.
TEAM SELECTION: Another pattern that was seen throughout the competition was that the eliminated contestant from the previous challenge was always picked last, a trend continued in this challenge with Dan and me being picked last by the teams. Although Amy was selecting the team, Corey (whom she picked from the remaining contestants) was freaking out because Amy hadn’t picked me yet. I ended up on the Blue Team, Amy’s team, along with Gui and Alison.
DESIGN: Amy’s original design was a trailer re-designed to be an oversized mouse trap for a car. Not attached to her design, the team came up with a sled design, which would use a pop-up gate (powered by pneumatics, triggered by an Arduino and limit-switch attached to the gate) to stop the car, take the front wheels off the ground and slide/drag across the ground until it came to a stop. The entire sliding platform sat on guide rails that were lubricated with grease, reducing the drag against the ground and guiding it for the first 20 feet.
CONTRIBUTIONS: The Blue Team as a whole worked well together. I spent most of my time at the beginning of the build welding and then the last day and a half building the pneumatic system and getting all the electronics working. It was a fun build where I got to do a lot of fabrication and build entire subsystems that were in my wheel house. For the pneumatic system, we actually reused the accumulator from the jumping robot (challenge 4), which was custom built (really well) by Tom.
COMPETITION: Both teams had really interesting designs, one being simple looking and unassuming (Red Team) and another that was robust and unique (Blue Team). At the end of the day, both teams were successful in stopping the car, but to different degrees.
BEHIND THE SCENES: The competition location was setup in a remote location with a lot of hills. As the speeding cars (controlled remotely from a setup several hundred feet away), the cars would lose connectivity due to a weird radio interference from a repeater. This happened multiple times for both teams and led to each team being subjected to three rounds of the “enemy car.” During one of the car attempts, it went “rogue” again and actually crashed into the pneumatic system, breaking off one of the threaded connection points on the accumulator (the crash can be seen in the background right before the Red Team enemy car starts). We were given two hours to fix the problem, but we were in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, after a lot of attempts and a little bit of luck, there was just enough threads to engage and seal the solenoid valve to the accumulator.
DECISION: To be honest, I thought we (Blue Team) lost. The Red Team stopped the car with more finesse, with a simpler design, and the car experienced lower g-forces. However, the judges seemed to be more interested in an innovative solution for this challenge and ultimately picked Amy and Corey as the two finalists.
WHAT’S NEXT: The last remaining question is whom do I root for at this point? Whom do I help cross the finish line and win it all? As stated in my challenge 6 write-up, I was supporting either Eric or Corey. With Eric eliminated, my goal is to help Corey succeed. You’ll just have to wait until next week to see if and how I’m able to do so.
Knowledge is power!
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