Bronson Beverly just realized that it’s up to him to save the Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School robotics team.

It’s a January afternoon in an abandoned science lab on the third floor of the Petworth school. Thousands of dollars’ worth of NASA scrap metal is sprawled out across three lab stations. In six weeks, these parts must become a robot. The dozen or so students gathered around them are Roosevelt’s first-ever robotics team. The team will compete in the Chesapeake Regional robotics competition in Annapolis, Md., in March.

A partial lineup of the Roosevelt robotics squad:

There’s Brittany Jackson, a popular 16-year-old whose aunt forced her to join to beef up her college applications and math grade. She has already joined and quit the cheerleading squad, dance team, and math club since entering Roosevelt.

There’s Raúl Velásquez, 16, and Luis Garcia, 18, both recent immigrants from El Salvador who are in freshman classes because of their shaky English skills. They’re off to the side laughing and speaking in Spanish.

There’s Clive Baker, a 16-year-old who specializes in dead-baby jokes, curse words, and metal bands. He says he has joined the team because he’s a “full-time slacker” with nothing better to do.

Mathletes they are not.

Bronson’s credentials are stacked for a 15-year-old: Last summer he worked as an assistant to scientists at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He creates Web sites and has a box of astronomy and chemistry books under his bed. He used to dismantle and reassemble toy robots for fun.

In the lab, his teammates are getting rowdy. One student is dribbling a neon-yellow foam ball around the room, darting around lab stools. Another just answered her fifth cell-phone call in about 30 minutes.

To focus their attention, math teacher Lana Cohen stands at the front of the room—eyebrows raised, yellow chalk poised—and asks for a volunteer to explain the rules of the 2006 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) game “AIM HIGH” to the rest of the team. It’s a game for robots, and the team’s success or failure depends on its machine’s ability to play it in Annapolis.

Everyone dodges Cohen’s attempts at eye contact. Bronson rises. He’s a lanky, 6-foot-2-inch, African-American sophomore who wears his hair either in braids or in a pouf secured by a band on the back of his head.

“If y’all notice, it’s like three-on-three basketball,” he says.

He then gives a clear synopsis of the rules of the game: Two alliances of three robots, each designed by a different team, have to score goals in either a center hoop (three points) or a corner goal (one point). For the first 10 seconds of a match, each robot has to be able to move by itself; for the remaining two minutes, a human can control it with a joystick. A robot scores five extra points by climbing up a ramp to a platform before the buzzer sounds.

Bronson finishes his impromptu presentation. The room is silent. Brittany looks more confused than the rest.

“Wait. What are we making?” she asks.

“A robot,” answers a teacher.

Bronson didn’t have the purest of motives for joining the robotics team.

“I did it just to show off,” he says. “’Cause I knew more than them.”

When Bronson was little, he would accompany his father, Earl Beverly, to his job fixing F-16s at Andrews Air Force Base a few miles southeast of D.C.

“I thought my dad had the coolest job,” he says. “I knew the name of every airplane just by looking at it.” Bronson would sit at the base wearing goggles and headphones and marvel at how his dad could “literally fix anything.” He wore Earl’s dog tag ID to school every day until Bronson got his own a few years ago.

Earl now works as an auto technician at the Honda of Bowie dealership. Though Bronson looks up to his dad’s mechanical skills, Earl says his son would probably never make it in that field: “He don’t like getting dirty.”

Just as well, because Earl doesn’t want Bronson to work on cars for a living. He wants better for him—a career in computers.

“I want a really good job, because your children are always supposed to have a job a level better than their parents,” Bronson says.

Bronson’s interest switched from mechanics to robotics when his parents bought him his first voice-command robot toy when he was about 6. He loved playing with his chemistry set, and his favorite show was PBS’s Bill Nye the Science Guy. He also used to dismantle his bicycle.

“Even when he was small…he would find ways to put little motors on [Legos] and make them go,” says his mother, Cecelia Beverly. “He was fascinated with that type of activity.”

His love of discovery rivals only his passion for perfection. He writes in typewriter-style penmanship, double-tracing over the “B” in Bronson to make sure it’s just so.

Bronson attended St. Anthony Catholic School in his Brookland neighborhood for primary school. He used to ask his teachers about the more risqué biblical stories, just to see if they’d give him sugar-coated answers. He was 8.

He transferred to School Without Walls for high school, but it wasn’t a good fit. Bronson struggled with Walls’ free-form academic structure, Cecelia says, and his grades dropped below a 3.0 average. He says he loved Walls, though, especially his humanities class, because the teachers answered his tough questions about religion and didn’t dumb down the issues just because he was young.

Finally, he headed to Roosevelt, whose science offerings gave Bronson pause. He and his friends at Walls used to trash-talk Roosevelt, especially the school’s barber classes.

“The child can’t read, but he can cut your hair!” Bronson would say.

Roosevelt only takes football and basketball seriously, Bronson says. He’d be much happier at a school where students are more academically focused. So he plans to suffer through just this one year at “Rose,” as he calls it, before he transfers somewhere else next year. (He has a school in mind but will not reveal it because it has a rival robotics team.)

In his first days at Rose, Bronson sat silent in classes with an angry look on his face. Then another student came up to him and told him jokes every day at lunchtime until Bronson laughed. “He was the one that broke me in Rose,” he says of his now–best friend.

He also meets a lot of friends at anime conventions. People tend to get decked out in the costumes of their favorite characters, but Bronson plays it cool and just wears a black cloak. When he’s wearing the cloak, he’s “Bronz.” He plans to attend the Otakon convention in Baltimore this August.

“I haven’t met one person in anime who’s racist,” he says. “We accept all religions.”

Bronson’s anime and robotics interests intersected when he met a friend at an anime convention who is involved in combat robotics, the “hard-core” world where robots have names like Vicious-1 and Diesector. He invited Bronson to join his team, but it is headquartered in Las Vegas.

The Roosevelt team offered an easier commute than Sin City. Bronson found out about it in early December when he saw a flier taped up in the hallway advertising an after-school information session.

“You can build T. Roosevelt’s first Robot,” said the headline, with a clip-art graphic of a robot underneath. “T. Roosevelt is on the edge of a technological revolution—a step towards greatness and we need your participation and assistance to start our first Robotics Club….Are you up for the challenge?”

He pulled it off the wall and cracked up. “When I first saw the thing, I wanted to go to the meeting just for fun,” he says. “Just to laugh.”

He attended his first meeting on Dec. 12. Since then, Bronson has played a major role in building a Vex Robot for the team, a mini robot that comes with a manual. He’s the first person to pull out the white binder of instructions upon entering the lab every day. While Bronson is screwing the wheels in one day, one of his teammates starts flipping through the manual.

“Do not skip ahead,” Bronson says. He snatches the binder back and reads aloud an excerpt about the concept of a center of gravity to his team.

Midway through the six-week building period, Bronson is hard at work on programming tasks while everyone else screws around. He’s installing Autodesk Inventor software and perusing the manual. Another student is eating popcorn and shuffling a deck of Uno cards.

At 5 p.m., team mentor Jon Rutherford bursts through the door of the sleepy science lab, hauling a large bin of robotics supplies behind him. Rutherford is a government information-technology specialist who graduated from Roosevelt in the early ’70s. He’s wearing high-rise Wrangler jeans, a backward Washington Wizards hat, and an assortment of personal electronic devices on his belt.

He plops the hardware down on a lab table and pulls math teacher Cohen aside. Rutherford set off the metal detector when he came into the school today, causing a security official to question him. He is demanding an identification badge and a set of keys.

“We should talk about getting me an ID so I can walk in here like I own the place,” he tells Cohen. “When I dedicate myself to this, I don’t want to be treated like a second-class citizen.”

Rutherford tries to shake off the dis by launching into robotics-team tasks. He finds a two-tiered plastic rolling cart in the supply room that would be perfect for transporting parts. He gives freshman Denzel Twyman and Brittany some rags and a bucket to wash it. Denzel flips into fight-or-flight mode. He’s pacing. His ride is outside, he says. “I gotta leave. I gotta go.” He splits.

Bronson and Luis are in charge of logging onto the NASA Web site to watch the video of how to build a gearbox. The students are moving faster than they ever have in robotics practice. They’re swirling around Rutherford, who is standing in the middle of it all saying, “Sir!” and “Wake up!” when they’re not moving fast enough for him. Bronson is hunched in front of his computer, silent except for the clicking of his mouse.

Rutherford notices Luis Lara licking a Blow Pop. He snaps.

“Candy? In the robot room? Man, oh man, I love this.”

He whistles. “Ladies and gentlemen!” The students stop and look at Rutherford.

“You don’t understand. You have six weeks to build a robot. You’re lickin’ candy; you’re pickin’ your nose. I walk in here and see that you’ve been here since 3:30, and you haven’t gotten a thing accomplished.

“I don’t get paid for this. Nobody is going to offer me a job. You workin’ with me now? ’Cause I’m not playin’. You have less than five weeks to build a robot that can go to competition. You got me?”

They got him. The students are all silent and wide-eyed, all except for Bronson. His eyes are narrowed into slits, glaring at Rutherford. Who does this guy think he is? This is Bronson’s team. He puts his earbud back in, slumps back down on his lab stool, and refocuses on the computer screen.

Everyone else is back to work, even Clive. A few minutes later, Luis approaches Rutherford, sans Blow Pop. He’s ready for a new task.

“Good,” Rutherford says. “That’s what we needed an hour and a half ago.”

Rutherford goes back to connecting his laptop to the Internet. He complains about the school’s computer equipment. He also scoffs at the fish tanks filled with gravel and mildew that line the walls.

“Thirty years ago, these would have been filled with hamsters,” he says. “It’s sad.”

The fish tanks are just one charming feature of the team’s permanent workspace. Only a few columns remain of a wall-mounted Table of Elements at the front of the classroom. Paint has peeled back to reveal three layers of wall, dried chunks falling into a pile of crumbs below. A gray mouse sometimes pops into the back of the room, and birds have been known to fly through a broken window in the attached supply room. Room 315’s main selling point is its availability.

Roosevelt has a robotics team this year because NASA awarded it a $10,000 grant. NASA is in the middle of a three-year push to create teams in Washington, D.C., says Dave Lavery, a NASA executive. This year, there are more than 1,100 high-school teams in the United States and abroad building robots. Six of them are in D.C.

NASA targets areas with few teams—be they rural areas like Idaho and Nebraska or inner-city areas—for its sponsorship drives. Ballou and Banneker were the first D.C. schools with robotics teams, and they have been competing on and off for a few years. Rutherford knows people involved in both of those teams, but he chose to work at Roosevelt because of his connection as an alumnus.

The students are working quietly, trying not to ignite another Rutherford tirade. Bronson sits at his computer and cradles his forehead in his palm.

“I don’t like this game anymore,” he says. “This is my last day on robotics team.” He quickly adds, “Kidding!” so as not to alarm his teammates.

After practice, Bronson walks through a dark Roosevelt hallway, past the gym where the basketball team is playing School Without Walls and the robotics team is selling hot dogs as a fundraiser. He’s pissed.

“[Rutherford] lectures us about the same things over and over,” he says. “And he doesn’t listen. He pretends to listen….He yells at us about stuff that’s not our fault, like not having a good enough computer. If we went into the principal’s office and asked for a new computer, he would just look at us funny.”

By early February, Bronson is team captain—not that there were any other candidates.

“Nobody takes it seriously except Bronson,” says one of the teammates. “He’s always doing all the programming stuff.”

There was no election process, no big vote. His new leadership position is made official in the team brochure, where above a picture of him, it says, “I feel that the robotics team is a great start to a possible future and a career in technological enhancement[.] Bronson 2006 (R Team Leader/Programmer).”

The team has adopted a new name, R, for “Rough Rider Robots,” based on the school’s mascot. Before R, they used the FIRST-assigned name Team 1900. They’ve also finalized a design for their robot.

“I hate saying this, but it’s an advanced shopping cart,” Bronson says.

A Plexiglas basket will sit atop the motors, gearbox, and battery and will move with some sort of coil system that they haven’t quite figured out yet. The robot will use a conventional drive train, with a chain and sprocket. The whole thing will be protected by an outer Plexiglas box.

Their game strategy is to dump 10 balls in the corner goal, then race home to drive up on the platform for an easy five points—25 if the other two teams in their alliance also make it up the ramp.

Bronson powwowed with one student and two teachers to come up with the design. The rest of his team would have been happy with “a chassis and wheels,” he says.

“They just kept saying they didn’t care,” he says. “I’d ask them, ‘What do you want the robot to do?’ [They’d say,] ‘It doesn’t matter to me.’”

Clive has volunteered to be the team’s webmaster and has written the first news update for the team’s site:

“New Shtuff”

“We have a website, now! Hooray! Uh…yeah. *clears throat.* We have FINALLY got the chassis put together. Right now Luis is messin’ with the VEX. Uh, progress is rather slow so there isn’t much news. Check back a lot later.”

The team is changing. One girl dropped out after her boyfriend died from falling from an apartment building. At least five people who seemed dedicated in the beginning haven’t shown up for a week. The sign-in sheet consists of mostly empty squares, except for the core group, who initial by their names every day.

In positive news, they have acquired junior Shakisha Thomas, a math whiz who has Cohen for Algebra II. Cohen says she comes late to class, doesn’t do the homework, and gets 100s on all the tests. “I don’t work as hard as I should,” Shakisha says.

At a Friday night practice, six students and seven mentors and teachers are trying to figure out how to organize the electrical board. Bronson paces around the discussion circle with his hands clasped behind his neck. He listens for a while, then walks across the room to get some Ritz Sticks crackers.

“I feel like we’re wasting time,” he says to Matt Webb, an English and math teacher. “There’s gotta be something else we can do.” Webb takes Bronson aside.

“This is called the joy of group dynamics and democracy,” Webb says. “I know it hurts. But it’s good. I know you like to do things like—” Webb slaps the back of one hand against the opposite palm.

An hour later, the team has laid out the electrical board and moved on to slicing metal rods that will support the outer Plexiglas box. They’ll be using a chop saw. Webb worked at a metalworking shop in college and leads the team in all power-tool-related activities. Team members put on their plastic safety goggles to watch him cut the first rod. It’s loud, and sparks fly everywhere.

Bronson volunteers to be the first student up to saw. The students are giddy and start taking out their cell phones to take pictures of the big event. Bronson’s nervous. He holds the blade above the metal, afraid to have the sparks fly at him. Webb gives him a pre-game pep talk.

“You can do this,” he says. “It might burn for a half a second if it hits you.” Bronson saws through the metal. The team is riveted. Shakisha dances around in the sparks, squealing about how gorgeous they are. Students jockey for the next spot in line for the saw. Webb can’t believe all it takes is a sparks shower to engage every team member for the next hour.

“It’s called a chop saw—or the best part of robotics club,” Webb says. “Whatever.”

The team has until tomorrow to build a robot that can compete in a scrimmage at the National Building Museum. Practice on Feb. 17 runs late.

Bronson has been bugging his dad to come to a robotics-team practice since the season started.

“I was kind of glad he asked,” Earl says. “Shows he still has interest in his dad.”

Earl brings some tools to Roosevelt after work and lends his mechanical expertise. He helps cut and measure the Plexiglas and offers ideas to make the robot sturdier.

At the practice, Bronson is doing his best Rutherford impression.

“Shakisha, clamp!” he says. She just looks at him. He motions her over to the other work group, which is building a shipping crate for the robot.

“They have both of them,” he says. “Go ask for one.”

She still doesn’t move. Bronson stomps over to the other group, snatches a clamp off the workbench, and starts working again on the robot.

Bronson says he doesn’t like ordering people around but says, “That’s just management.”

“They hate me,” he says of his teammates. “But not in a bad way….I can tell they know I’m on them. When they stop working I say, ‘What are you doing? What are you working on?’”

Cohen says she shares Bronson’s Type-A tendency to not trust anybody but herself to do a job right.

“He’s trying…but he doesn’t have the finesse yet,” she says. “He’s a sophomore. He’s young. He wants to be a leader. He’ll get there, but he’s not there yet.”

The custodian kicks the team out of the school at 11 p.m., despite Clive’s popcorn-and-soda bribery attempt. When they leave, the arm for the ball bin—the mechanism for dumping balls into the goal—doesn’t move. Even if the robot makes it to the goal, it won’t be able to score any points. Minor problem.

On the afternoon of the Building Museum scrimmage, R is focusing on fixing the arm mechanism for its robot and also sizing up the competition. Veteran teams from Maryland and Virginia have some snazzyass robots. One machine sucks stray balls off the court like some kind of tricked-out Hoover. A 5-footer lines up with the neon green sensor above the center goal and machine-guns 10 balls through the hoop. Another is big on style, with camouflage bumpers and a Maryland flag flying off the back.

The announcer calls out that Team 1900 is on deck, and they carry their robot to the side of the field. Luis is driving, Bronson is coaching, and Shakisha is the one player allowed on deck to refill the robot with balls for scoring goals. Their aim isn’t to win but for autonomous mode (the first 10 seconds when the robot must move by itself with preprogrammed instructions) to work and for the robot to get up on the ramp.

Bronson and Michael “Tac” Tacelosky, the programming mentor, have been touring the other school’s robots together, asking them technical questions. The teams are happy to talk the duo through their secrets, because FIRST competitions are nothing if not congenial: A popular catchphrase is to compete in a spirit of “gracious professionalism.” Teams are quick to jump up and lend their competition tools, spare parts, or expertise.

“One of the big reasons of being here is to see what other people have done and learn about it,” Tacelosky says.

But now it’s time to see what Roosevelt can do. The team lines up next to its two alliance partners. A prerecorded chant of “3-2-1!” booms across the Great Hall of the museum, along with a chime and the sound of a crowd cheering.

The other five robots zip around the court. The Roosevelt robot doesn’t move. It sits alone at center court.

Everyone yells. Bronson is freaking out, arms flying around as he tries to direct Luis Garcia. Luis is focused on the robot, and his face betrays none of the chaos around him. Ten seconds into the match, autonomous mode flips to manual mode. The Roosevelt robot moves.

Now the team is yelling for other reasons. Shakisha doesn’t know that she needs to throw balls into the bin, so her teammates are screaming her name. Once she figures it out, there is a moment of calm until the team spots a new problem: The arm mechanism that they have spent all morning fixing has broken again. A metal rod is dragging underneath the robot as it moves. All the balls spill out.

All that’s left to do is race home and try to climb the 30-degree ramp. It’s the only move that will save this match from being a complete disaster.

“Straighten out!” There’s a ball in the robot’s path. “Go around the ball!” “Go!” “Go!” “Go!” Luis tries to drive the robot up the ramp. It slides down backward. The clock is in single digits. R has time for only one more attempt.

Luis scoots farther back and drives toward the ramp at full speed. It’s enough. The robot slams into the clear wall at the end of the ramp with a satisfying crash. The whole Plexiglas structure of the robot sways to the side from the force of the impact. The team braces for it to fall to the ground. Instead, it sways back upright.

The buzzer sounds, and the whole team cheers.

“Did you see that?” Bronson says. “Look how straight it is!”

The team is upbeat, almost manic. The wheels move, the ball bin moves, and the whole thing is in great shape, Cohen says. Other robots have been flipping over on the field, but that’s not a problem for Roosevelt’s machine because of its low center of gravity. The students have learned a few things, like that they need bumpers, more clamps to keep the Plexiglas in place, and more traction on their wheels to help them climb the ramp. “We’re going to do really, really well for our first year,” Cohen says.

The look of the robot tells a different tale. It’s been a tough day on the court. Strips of duct tape run down the side of the Plexiglas where the robot has cracked.

“We’re going to play that off as a design,” one of the students says. “Like Nelly has the thing on his face.”

Three days after the scrimmage, Bronson, a few of his teammates, and a teacher spend their lunch break packing up the robot. They are sending it via FedEx in a wood crate that took them more than a week to build.

Bronson screws the enormous crate shut and launches into planning the tasks that still need to be accomplished, like building bumpers. Nobody kisses the crate farewell, like some teams do. “Once that robot was gone, it was gone,” he says.

On March 16, the robot is waiting for R at the Halsey Field House at the United States Naval Academy. The team’s first job at the Chesapeake Regional is to uncrate its robot. Bronson volunteers to climb inside the wood box to untie the securing wires. He climbs out of the crate, and the team lifts its robot out.

When he first sees the robot again, Clive is struck by the amount of duct tape.

“Everyone uses all these fancy nails and screws,” he says. “What do we got? We got duct tape! That’s going to set us ahead.”

The other teams have more than fancy nails and screws. Team 341 from Ambler, Pa., is called Miss Daisy (unofficial motto: “It’s game time”). Actually, according to the program, the team’s full name is BAE Systems/DeVry University/Johnson & Johnson PRD/Rohm & Haas Company/Siemens Corporation & Wissahickon H.S.

Miss Daisy has built a frame around the entrance to its pit and decorated it with plastic foliage and a flat screen iMac showing images of the team’s building season and community activities on a loop. The students have made a full-color brochure about their team, including information about the 7th Annual Ramp Riot, an off-season robotics competition that they run at their high school.

The brochure lists their robot’s specifications, including four-wheel-drive, a two-speed transmission, and a top speed of 14 feet per second. This data is important for other teams who are scouting them for a potential alliance partner for the finals.

“Showoffs,” Bronson mumbles as he walks by the Miss Daisy booth.

Over the next couple of days, R faces serious setbacks. They fail inspection when Bronson loses control of the steering mechanism. The robot runs smack into a NASA inspector, leaving her scrambling to find the emergency switch before it plows into a nearby team. Every team is required to install an emergency switch on its robot for situations like this. R misses two practice rounds because the robot isn’t ready for the court.

They’re working hard on the robot, and Bronson the Dictator is back.

“Clive, drill bit!” he barks. “Drill bit from Miss Daisy!” Clive jogs to Miss Daisy’s pit.

Before one match, Bronson is off strategizing with the coach of an alliance member. Ressa Chee Wah, a 27-year-old, first-year physics and biology teacher whom some students call “Chee Chee” or “Chee-licious,” needs him for programming. She drags him back to the pit.

“You need to be doing programming,” she says.

“The programming is so easy!” he says. “All we know is we’re going to be BackBot. We don’t have any other strategy.” BackBot is a defensive role on an alliance in which the robot stays behind to collect balls or set up shots.

Chee Wah insists that he perfect the programming code before he starts strategizing. Bronson jumps and stomps down three times in a mini temper tantrum. He rolls his eyes and takes off in search of his programming mentor.

Cohen and Chee Wah discuss their overzealous leader.

“The fact that he went off by himself and he wants to control everything is a problem,” Chee Wah says.

“He thinks, I’m the coach. I’m in charge of telling the driver what to do,” Cohen says. “He’s trying to do everything.”

The next day, the robot’s programming malfunctions and puts the wheels into overdrive. The mishap mangles the pulley system for the ball bin, dislodges the battery, and further cracks the Plexiglas shell. The team digs deep and spends the rest of the night trying to fix it.

On the third and last day of the competition, Roosevelt is sleepy from a late-night Dance Dance Revolution tournament and Silly String war. The team repairs the robot until a final-call announcement sounds over the P.A. system. This will be their last match.

Once the team is in place, Cohen assumes her position on the sidelines. Her heart is racing, she says. Chee Wah is standing next to her, bouncing on her toes to the beat of an OutKast song.

“I hope today we do the best and that everything goes perfect,” she says.

The buzzer sounds, and the Roosevelt robot starts moving in autonomous mode. It moves forward, and the ball bin slowly starts its descent, dumping all 10 balls in the middle of the court, nowhere near a goal. Newly annointed driver Raúl tries to use the robot’s bumpers to push the balls into a corner goal, but he can’t get any of them in.

Now the robot is empty, and it’s up to Luis Garcia, who is now R’s designated human player, to refill the ball bin. He’s standing on the left side of the court, searching for the robot. He doesn’t see it.

“Luis! Other side!” his team screams to him, pointing to the right side of the court. He either doesn’t hear his teammates or doesn’t understand them. Claudia Barrios, a Roosevelt teacher and the team’s translator, tries to help.

“Otro lado, Luis, otro lado!” Luis finds the robot, but it’s too late. The buzzer sounds. The match is over. Roosevelt scored no points. R loses the match, 26 to 0.

Even though the final match is over, along with the 2006 season, the team is full of strategy and fury.

“I talked to them about this five times last night,” Cohen says. “How it’s about playing smart.”

“We need a new driver,” team member Kenton Winkfield says. “Bronson’s been saying Raúl doesn’t listen to what he’s saying.”

“Bronson micromanages,” Chee Wah snaps, arms folded.

The final standings have been announced. Roosevelt came in 52nd out of 64, with three wins and five losses. The team is probably not going to be drafted for the finals. The students’ faces are grim. Cohen rounds them up for a meeting.

“What do we need to talk about?” Kenton says as he walks to the circle. “We got smoked.”

In a small consolation, veteran D.C. team McKinley Technology High School comes in dead last.

“We beat the crap out of McKinley Tech, and that’s funny as hell,” Clive says. “And they’ve been doing this for how long?”

Bronson isn’t as amused.

“We’re better than this,” he says. “We’re better than what happened….I am very, very, very upset.”CP

Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Darrow Montgomery.