LOS ANGELES, Caif. - Andrew Stroup has always been ahead of the pack. He graduated from Charles Page High School in 2003 and headed to Oklahoma State University, where he doubled majored in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering.
Today, he lives in Baltimore and is an engineer for the Department of Defense, co-founder and CEO of the tech start-up CommonKey and co-founder of Baltimore Foundery. Stroup was also selected as one of 10 contestants competing to be the next great innovator in Discovery’s newest series "The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius."
It was a co-worker that talked Stroup into applying for the show -- the day before the deadline.
‘It was pretty last-minute,” he admitted.
He was contacted shortly after to send in a video submission. Stroup got to work with a GoPro camera and an iPhone.
“A lot of the videos submitted focused on engineering, but I decided to keep my video focused on why I would be great for the show and how I am a competitor,” he said.
A few weeks later, Stroup was flown out to Los Angeles where he joined other contestant hopefuls for a series of I.Q., personality and ingenuity tests.
“It was about three or four days long,” he said.
Stroup must have impressed, because about a month after the casting, he was selected to be one of eight male and two female contestants on the inaugural season.
Filming the eight-week series took Stroup about six to seven weeks, with 12 hours each day spent in the workshop and about 18 hours spent on camera.
Stroup said from day 1 they hit the ground running, and the competition began right away.
Hosted by Kal Penn, the show is a Discovery's quest to fin the next great technological mind.
“Think of it as 'Top Chef' for engineers,” he said.
Here’s how the show works:
Each episode contestants are presented with a challenge. Each person is given 30 minutes, a drawing board and pen, and they must then submit their findings to the judging panel. Judges then select two winners and those two winners select their teams.
“We are really engaged, competent engineers, and we all really want to showcase what we can do,” he said. “Yet as we worked together, the teams began identifying each person’s specific skill set. So there is an extra layer of strategy there.”
After the two teams have been picked, they begin their challenge – building, fabricating and presenting a complex design. In the first episode, teams have to stop a set of explosives strapped to two pick-up trucks headed in a high-speed, head-on collision from exploding.
“This isn’t your fifth-grade egg-drop experiment," he said. "These things aren’t easy, solvable problems.”
What makes the show unique is once competitors are eliminated, they don’t go home; each player sticks around and continues to help the remaining players complete their objectives.
The main goal is to be last one standing and the winner of $50,000 and a one-year contract working for WET, a company that is credit for some of the “most innovative water-based designed environments” in the world, according to Discovery.
Stroup said prior to knowing what was at stake, he knew he wanted to be on the show, even if it meant missing nearly two months of work.
“Discovery is fully invested into this project, and being behind a show that has so much support is huge,” Stroup said.
The first episode aired May 1.
What viewers may not see on the show: the one room with four bunk beds and one bathroom shared among the eight male contestants.
Another challenge Stroup said he faced was obtaining certain materials within the allotted time of the challenge.
“To try and build a design with what you can procure in three days, or however long we have, that becomes a challenge," he said. "It is not an easy task.”
Despite the obstacles, the former Sandite said he worked hard to make his family and friends in Green Country proud.
“I saw this as a chance to pay homage to may Oklahoma roots," Stroup said. "I had a lot of unique mentors who helped shaped me. They all had a hand in me becoming who I am today.”
The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Discovery.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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