Frequently Asked Questions

1. When will your episode air?
2. Can I play? (entering a team)
3. Is it a real junkyard?
4. Does the team know what they are going to build ahead of time?
5.Who provides the expert? What do they know about the challenge?
6. Is the junkyard salted?
7. Do you really get only 10 hours build time?
8. Is there a prize?
9. Who paid the airfare?
10. How about time off from work?
11. Is it fun? Why did you get involved? Would you do it again?
12. What's with all the drawings?

1. When will your episode air?

If you are in the UK, the new season (#3) which includes The NERDS,  started broadcasting on September 17th, 2000. Our first episode was broadcast on October 1.

The US network has arranged to show the full second and third British seasons.  They have also commisioned  a series of all US teams to be shown early next year. Here is a three season episode guide.

Current (unconfirmed) schedules mention a US marathon showing of the British second season in November, the third British season on Wednesdays in December, and the firtst all-US season starting in January 2001. (all on TLC)

The US teamed series was shot in the same scrap pile, by the same people. The NERDS are not a part of this series.  (Its not fair to pit a first time team against one that has done a show, so until the US has other experienced teams, we will compete in the international league)

Unconfirmed rumors have the British network also broadcasting the US teamed series.

They did make a special show, with the winner of the British series against the winning US series team.

2. Can I play?
Possibly. They have all the teams picked for year 2000 series. If you want to be notified of the next call for teams there are mailing lists for just that purpose, for each show.  For the UK series Scrapheap Challenge use its mailing list signup; for the US show Junkyard Wars  use that shows mailing list signup page.   It will be one of the first places mail will be sent when they are looking for teams again. You will need to have formed your own 3 person team, and the more of you that know how to weld, the better. The most used tools on set are your brain, the MIG, then the various saws. I have a contestants eye view of the application and selection process here. You should also read our  advice for contestants. US entrants will need to have a valid passport to apply.

Note: The nature of the site, and the heavy reliance on power tools mean that it will be difficult to run a "kids" challenge, that is in the same spirit as the original adult show. The production company are continuing to study the issue.

3. Is it a real junkyard?
Yes and no. It is a set, located in a junkyard.  Its real scrap piled there. The set used to be one corner rented in a real, working, scrap yard, in the rather industrial "Canning Town" part of London. (the yard has been sold, and the set is in storage.  Several candiates for next years site are under consideration) You have to wear a hard hat to go to the toilets, which are right next to the truck scales. On the other side of the wall, there are people in claw loading cranes, literally tossing cars thru the air. (and they are good at it. The "waiting" piles for the balers are both neat, and taller than the cranes can reach)
4. Does the team know what they are going to build ahead of time?
Not a clue (usually). Its part of the fun. Sure we speculate, but the possibilities are near endless.   We did suspect that our first challenge would involve water in some way, as they had Geo renew his diving certification, but not anything further. Teams really do find out, on camera, the morning of the build.

5. Who provides the expert?  What do they know about the challenge?

RDF finds the experts, and assigns them to the teams. Each expert knows in advance what the challenge is to be, and has submitted suggested designs, with a critical parts shopping list. The team meets their assigned expert the night before the build in the hotel bar, and a running joke is that you can't ask what they do for a living. All we found out the night before about our last expert was that he was an amateur league cricket player.

6. Is the junkyard salted?

Yes, but not with very much. The only stuff they seed into it are things that there is no substitute for, and can't be safely made in the time/tool constraints of the scrap pile. For example, any propellor those Navvies could have made for their amphibian, wouldn't have been safe to run up to speed. For our show that used steam, they would had to provide certified boilers and fittings, as the paperwork needed to certify a boiler takes more than 10 hours, let alone building it. For stuff like steel tubing and random shapes, the crane just tosses a couple of tons over the wall to re-stock with.  Some of it is "experienced", and some is the same sort of random "drops" (the short ends left when a metal dealer cuts a piece to size for a customer) that I buy from junkyards here.  Oh yea, sometimes they seed decoy's, right thing, but wrong size. And if the idea of the show is that you will make some specific part (a pump for example) they will go and make sure there aren't ready-made ones for you to find.
Oh yea, the expert isn't supposed to tell the team what you will be able to find, and what you must make.

7. Do you really get only 10 hours build time?

Pretty much. They do give you credit for the time consumed when the hosts come and pester you with questions, and there is a one hour tools down (enforced) lunch break (but you can walk over talk and point at your machine, you just have to wait before you implement what you discussed).  Time may "stretch", since they have never tried the challenge before, they can only guess if it is possible to build in 10 hours, but you had better not count on it.  You really start to hustle when "One Hour Remaining" gets called.

In addition, the next day, before the crane comes and puts your machine onto the truck, you and the health and safety inspectors go over the machine, and add things like belt guards to make them happy. The machines don't have to be "consumer grade" safe, but rotating parts must have covers, all riders on the thing must have a clear escape route, etc. There is usually some "race day" kludge time available as well. Since its at the test site, the supply of parts, and tools are very limited.

8. Is there a prize?

Not in the "be a millionaire" sense. You get your expenses paid, and a small appearance fee. Finalists get medals, the overall winner gets one years custody of the scrap trophy. Of much greater personal value is the hunk of your creation, that you sawed off at the end of the test day to hang on your office wall, and years of great bragging about what you built.
9. Who paid the airfare?
The TV company paid for the plane tickets, the hotel, and meals.  Due to some record bar bills the previous year (two teams plus about 10 production crew managed to rack up a UKP 1000. tab in one night), we had to buy our own beer. Any extra days after the show was taped, and plane fare for non-participants was the team members responsibility.

10.How about time off from work?

Well I used vacation time. (Holiday for British speakers) For US contestants, you should figure on a full week per show. (Unless you live in the UK, you want to get there a couple of days early, you don't want to be touching power tools while you are jet-lagged). Its a tournament, and if you are simply amazing, you could do as many as 5 shows. (heat, quarter, semi, final, and a grand final against the team that won last year.). Should you be that fortunate, I am sure you will figure something out.

11.Is it fun? Why did you get involved? Would you do it again?

Are there seats open on the Saturday morning flight from Logan? What team are we up against? Do I have to stay at the 'ooge? (one of our nicknames for the hotel they used to put teams up at. It was close to the site, and a tube station, but was Fawlty Towers without the humor.)

Its an amazing, exhilarating, exhausting experience, and every participant that I have had the chance to talk with, would, without hesitation, accept an offer to do another challenge. Where else do you get people encouraging you to cut a car in half, calling it educational?

As to why I got involved, my email signature quote sums it up pretty nicely:

This planet needs a lot more kids that think taking the lawnmower's engine apart is more fun than playing nintendo.

12.What's with all the drawings?

The real point of the show is not the competition. Its real goal is to teach some science, and get some kids to think that engineering or similar can be a fun thing to do with your life. The competition is (in part anyway) a trick to get them to watch those explanatory drawings until the end. (same basic relationship as the show and the commercials that break it up).
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