National/World Editor and Sports Editor
Former NASA engineer Mark Rober released a video on YouTube on Feb. 6 where he pits the world’s best field goal kicker, Matt Prater, against a robot designed to kick field goals. On Sep. 29, Rober was out on the LGHS football field testing his creation — then only a skeleton of the machine that later featured a mannequin wearing a Ray Finkle jersey.
Explaining what the day was about, Rober remarked, “Today was a big deal. So anytime you have an engineering build, you want a proof of concept. You don’t expect to get it right right out of the gate; that’s just really hard to do, and even if you do, it’s problematic because you don’t know how close you would have been to an even better solution. So today we just wanted to make sure we had enough power with the machine, which we do. But we have some tweaks that’ll give us more accuracy moving forward. So now it’s back to the shop. We’ll make some tweaks and then we’ll come back out again in a little bit.”
The following is a transcript of an interview with Mark Rober by El Gato News.
Q: What inspired this [project]?
A: I’ve done other [projects] like a rocket golf club, and a dartboard where you get a bullseye every time, so this seemed like a natural challenge: could I kick the world’s longest field goal [and] make a machine to help out? And the answer is yes, because we kicked further than the world’s longest field goal today and there’s still like a buttload of tweaks we can make to this, to make it more powerful and more accurate. So, I’m super pleased with the results from today.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the way you do your projects?
A: In general [we have] fewer people. I would have done this back in March, except for the pandemic, so this got pushed back quite a bit. But, you know, we just have to be smarter about when we film things and we do tests a bunch and all that stuff.
Rober live streamed a series of lessons on YouTube over the summer that focused on teaching basic physics concepts.
Q: Are you thinking of restarting [your lessons] in the school year?
A: Potentially. A big part of that was like no one knew how bad this pandemic would be, and I didn’t want to be a once-every-two-months YouTuber in case it was gonna be bad. I kind of wanted [to be] a presence in people’s lives who are looking for some sort of stability, who just got kicked out of school. It was just a sucky situation honestly for you guys in high school. So now that that’s stabilized a bit I feel less pressure, plus I kind of wanted to practice and see if I really wanted to teach high school physics, which I do eventually. And I really liked it, so it kind of ticked those boxes, so I may go back and do some but I’m pretty busy now back with a monthly grind, that it’s like, maybe now, we’ll see.
Q: So are you still thinking you eventually want to become a teacher?
A: Yeah, for sure, even more so after doing the live streams. I really liked it. It’s just so hard right now because the channel is sort of firing on all cylinders and there’s a lot of things I’ve agreed I would do that I have to come through on, but I am still in [the] process of getting my teaching credentials. So, I did put a pause on that but I think I’m two classes in or something.