To answer a few questions about the last blog - no my graduates have been pretty focused on their college experience and moving into industry or graduate school and aren't doing things like Battlebots. There was something about the way we talked to them and what they observed that pushed them in that direction. We saw plenty of kids who wanted to hang on to the 'glory days' like old football players and the kids generally felt weird about that and talked about taking what they learned and moving on. So no one has gotten involved in the adult or college versions of these project teams so far. I think we stressed that this 'is now' and move on and do great things with your lives - solve problems.
Talking about great things, one of them had their undergraduate research part of a Google XPrize entry into the Avatar competition. They placed 3rd against other companies and research universities and became one of the 15 finalists. The university won money and now he is working hard until the end of this year when the 15 finalists go up for the final prize. It is all about telepresence robotics to do things like enable remote surgery. He has two parts he is working on - making the robot manipulator as agile as a hand and on the other side, the device the person wears to control the manipulator give feedback that feels real. I had a chance to try it out before it was entered the first time and was amazed. And now they are 6-months on with it. Many different problems can be solved with this type of technology push.
So you won't see them on TV in those types of competitions. I would prefer it that way. I have told them over and over to solve climate change, cure cancer, etc. Go solve some unsexy but super important problem.
And yes - the grit and problem solving is awesome. And you don't have to win the top award to have experiences that are so forming and important.