AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The public will have an opportunity to witness firsthand the enthusiastic, sports-like environment surrounding the final competition of the BEST Robotics Program as the 2013 South’s BEST championship takes place on the Auburn University campus in Auburn Arena, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7-8. Hours for the free, public event are 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Answering the nation’s need for more and better-prepared workers in scientific, industrial and technological fields, BEST, which stands for “Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology,” is a middle school and high school robotics program, now in its 21st year nationally and 13th year in Alabama, that is available to all schools at no cost.
BEST is the third-largest educational robotics program in the nation and the only one that is free to schools. The not-for-profit, all-volunteer program challenges students to design, build and market a robot to use in a six-week-long series of competitions, culminating in the South’s BEST championship hosted by Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
The championship will feature the top 56 teams from multiple states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana. Five schools from the local War Eagle BEST hub are competing in the championship, including Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, Lee-Scott Academy, Saint James School, Springwood School and Wetumpka High School.
During the championship, teams will compete in a series of head-to-head matches on a playing field designed for this year’s game – “Gatekeeper.” The challenge is to upgrade a fictitious robot, “Squeaky,” with the fastest and “BEST CPU” on the market. Each team must design and build a robot that can complete specific tasks related to the upgrade. On the playing field, the student-built robots will be mounted on a trolley that moves in a 90-degree angle, giving the robots access to three stages. At each stage, the robots will encounter challenges that mirror real-world engineering concepts. Stage one will require students to guide the robot to collect transistors to make gates; in stage two the robot will use previously built gates to fabricate integrated circuits; and in stage three the robot will use previously built integrated circuits to fabricate the BEST CPU.
In addition to robot performance, teams will compete to receive awards in other categories, such as engineering design notebook, marketing presentation, team exhibit, interview, team spirit and sportsmanship. Awards are given based on criteria, such as demonstrated teamwork, a positive attitude and enthusiasm, school and community involvement, and creativity.
“BEST works because students are the sole participants and primary decision-makers, designers and builders for the competition,” said Mary Lou Ewald, director of outreach for the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn University. “BEST is successful because students have an opportunity to interact with industry leaders, technical professionals and engineers who act as mentors, guiding them through the challenges they face while designing, building, promoting and competing in the BEST Robotics program. Students gain skills and hone talents they will use as members of the future workforce, including: abstract thought, self-directed learning, teamwork, project management, decision making, problem solving and leadership.”
The primary objective of the BEST Robotics program is to: provide students with a real-world engineering experience that incorporates the practical application of math and science; prepare students to be technologically literate and thus better prepared to enter the workforce; help students develop leadership, project management, teamwork and organizational skills; and develop confidence and competence.
More information on South’s BEST, including a schedule and detailed game description, can be found at the website at www.southsbest.org.
(Written by Candis Birchfield.)