BattleBots fans, here's your chance for a live, grassroots display of might, ingenuity and all things robot. The FIRST Robotics High School Championship will showcase robots created by more than 230 international high school teams. Of course, the folks at FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) aren't big fans of BattleBots. With its sensational techno-brawls, the Comedy Central program doesn't share FIRST's goal of encouraging kids to come up with robotic solutions to everyday problems.If the students' robots can't kick ass, what can they do? This year, participants built robots that can stack large Rubbermaid boxes. They were all given the same building materials -- and a mere six weeks -- to construct their bots. The ability to move boxes isn't too sexy, but it's practical. Now, isn't it better to build something than to reduce it to a heap of scraps? 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, and Friday, April 11. 7:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12. Reliant Stadium, 3400 Kirby. For information, visit www.first legoleague.org. Free. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
Clearly, spammers have figured out that the phrase "work from home" gets people's attention. There's a simple reason for this: Trooping to work in the morning sucks. Jim "Griff" Griffith claims there are thousands of people in America who have figured out how to actually make a living from home -- not by stuffing envelopes, but by trading goods on eBay.
Griffin first became obsessed with eBay in 1996, back when it was called AuctionWeb. He spent a lot of time in the site's only chat room, giving and receiving advice. Then eBay (the company was renamed in 1997) contacted him. "They had been watching what I was doing," says Griffin, "and wanted to know if I'd like to do it for real money." He became the company's first customer support representative. Now there are 600.
Griffin went on to write The Official eBay Bible and become an instructor for "eBay University." This weekend, he'll be teaching novices how to search for items on the site, but he'll also be teaching more advanced users how to run a successful business using eBay. And, by extension, how to never wear business clothes again. 9 a.m. Saturday, April 12. Marriott Hobby Airport, 9100 Gulf Freeway. For information, call 888-397-6205 or visit www.ebay.com/university. $25.-- Cathy Matusow
Feel the Burn
The Texas Hot and Spicy Festival, a trade fair for hot sauce freaks, is holding a cooking challenge called "Iron Texas Chef." Chefs from local firehouses will compete for the title of "Hottest Fire Station in Houston." With so much culinary heat on hand, maybe they should call the event "Iron Texas Stomach." Fun activity: While sampling the peppery products, try to count how many times Nelly's "Hot in Herre" gets played. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 12, and Sunday, April 13. Reliant Center, 8400 Kirby Drive. For information, call 281-416-0964. $3.-- Troy Schulze
Thanks to artists like the late Selena, Tejano music has found international audiences. This weekend, the Center for Mexican American Studies hosts "Dancing Across Texas," a two-day music conference on the state of the Tejano industry. The event features panel discussions, lectures and performances from some of our state's most acclaimed Tejano artists, including Little Joe y La Familia and Aviso. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, and Friday, April 11. University of Houston Hilton Hotel, 4800 Calhoun (entrance no. 1). To register, call 713-743-3433. $40 admission includes food and entertainment.-- Troy Schulze
Lubbock becomes a cultural destination
Lubbock may not immediately spring to mind as an art mecca, but it's not as devoid of culture as Houstonians might suppose. The self-confessed beer-swigging Wheeler brothers want to put Lubbock on the artistic map with "Ulterior Motifs," their annual one-night-only art and music extravaganza. The brothers swear that this year's event will be "the most diverse and impressive collection of art, artists and music Lubbock has ever seen." Lacking an intimate acquaintaince with the Lubbock art scene, it's hard to know whether that statement is hyperbole. But with works by Nancy Keinholz, Angelbert Metoyer, Ed Wilson, Terry Allen, the Art Guys and human "cremains" painter Wayne Gilbert, the show's got an eclectic lineup. Visitors also will get to take in the Wheeler brothers' own ironic westernalia works."Ulterior Motifs No. 5" is a good reason to make a pilgrimage to Lubbock. After all, unless you find yourself enrolled in Texas Tech studying something technical, when else are you going to visit? On the music front, the headlining act is Los Sonsabitches. The "raucous, electric country-rock" group, fronted by artist Bryan Wheeler (picking up on a theme here?), deserves a Grammy for its name alone. And for the more academically inclined, a panel discussion on contemporary art, with Wayne Gilbert, Gus and Sharon Kopriva and Michael Cullins, mediated by Catherine Anspon, will be held the day before the organized destruction of brain cells begins. The party runs from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, April 12, and will take up the entire 1100 block of Avenue K in downtown Lubbock. The panel is at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 11, in Texas Tech University's Architecture Building, room 7, at the corner of 18th Street and Flint. For information, call 806-744-9803. Free. -- Kelly Klaasmeyer