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OU on the BBC: Battle of the Geeks - About the programme

Updated Tuesday 26th September 2006

Take a Top Gear presenter, a box of oval passengers, and some inspired thinking... find out more about the programme.

Richard Hammond Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

Richard Hammond hosts this 21st Century version of The Great Egg Race which sees the cream of British and American inventors and scientists face off in a unique challenge in which they are given 48 hours to design, build and fly their own craft across the mighty Fish River Canyon in Namibia, the second biggest canyon in the world.

Aided by “performance-scientist” Kal Spelletich and the inventor of the world’s most flippable beer mat, Ian Johnston from the Open University, the two teams have to transport a valuable yet fragile cargo from one side of the canyon to the other and have it survive the journey intact.

As fans of the original Great Egg Race will tell you – this cargo is an ordinary egg and transporting it is anything but simple!

Although the idea remains the same as the original programme, no challenge was ever as exciting as this one, or in surroundings as spectacularly beautiful.

The two teams are made up of three British and American men and women of various ages, temperaments and scientific backgrounds. Seeing if they are able to work together, solve problems and get their craft airborne will be as entertaining as the result itself!

Stunning scenery, interesting scientific facts and a truly tense climax makes the programme a treat for all the family.

To demonstrate the difficulties facing the teams, Kal and Ian perform some demonstrations of their own such as hurtling across the desert in a jeep with a wing attached to demonstrate how hard it is to control a plane in the air and they give a practical demonstration of rocket science using a pair of garden chairs and some fire extinguishers!

Ian Johnston tells us: “The show demonstrates that bright, imaginative engineers and technologists can turn their knowledge and skills to solving strange problems in amazing places. And they do it with good humour and not too much shouting.

“What struck me was the determination with which the teams threw themselves into the challenge. They were astonished to find out what they had to do - but that only lasted a couple of minutes before they were fully immersed in the problem.

“The final products were a brilliant contrast - sound and fury versus nail-biting tension. And some of the ideas were cracking as well. We would have liked to have seen the trained marmoset but we didn’t have time.”

This programme was recorded in June 2006, before Richard Hammond's terrible accident while filming for Top Gear. We hope you'll join everyone here at the BBC and the OU as we wish Richard all the best for a speedy recovery.

First broadcast: Sunday 1 Oct 2006 on BBC TWO

Battle of the Geeks in more depth:


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