Alabama BEST Robotics Recruits Schools

Published: Jul 21, 2006 1:07:53 PM
Media Contact: Cheryl Cobb, cobbche@auburn.edu, 334.844.2220

The Alabama BEST Middle and High School Robotics Competition is gearing up for this fall's competition at Auburn University and is recruiting Central Alabama schools to join the excitement

BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) Robotics, Inc. is a non-profit organization based in Dallas whose mission is to inspire middle through high school students to pursue careers in the three career fields through participation in an annual sports-like, hands-on science- and engineering-based, six-week long competition.

Alabama BEST, co-sponsored by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn University, is starting its sixth year as a local competition site. The competition is free to schools; funding for the competition comes from local industries. Teachers simply have to register for the program and attend a workshop on Saturday, August 19 to learn how to successfully run a BEST team. There is no limit to the number of students that can get involved.

The Auburn program started as a response to industry needs for more engineers, scientists, and technical professionals in the workforce. "The U.S. and Alabama are facing critical shortages of engineers and the BEST program is effective at both demystifying engineering and getting students excited about practicing engineering," said George Blanks, director of K-12 Engineering Outreach in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

"BEST students relish the challenge of building a robot that performs certain required functions in a game-like atmosphere and they love to compete against other schools," continues Blanks. "They come away from the competition with organizational and decision making skills, a better appreciation for teamwork, and the ability to analyze and solve problems. It's incredibly rewarding for them."

Alabama BEST kicks off the six-week long competition on Sunday, September 17th at 1:00 p.m. in the Auburn High School Gymnasium. Teams will pick up their free kits of raw materials, equipment, and competition rules. They will also get their first look at this year's playing field and robotic challenge -- Laundry Quandary.

Besides designing and building a robot, teams must write a 30-page technical notebook, make an oral presentation to a panel of judges, and create table top displays that reflect the theme of the competition and their work as a team.

One of the unique features of Alabama BEST is the role team mentors - engineers and technical professionals from industry - play in the success of the teams.

"The mentors serve as guides or advisors, shepherding the team through the six week design, build and test phase," says Blanks. "They provide real-world applications to abstract science and math principles, thus teaching the students how science and math factor into the engineering."

"We have teachers tell us that their students learn more from the six week engineering process than they can teach them in an entire year of traditional classroom instruction," he continues.

The Alabama BEST competition will take place on Saturday, Oct. 28 in the Student Activities Center at Auburn. Winning teams will advance to South's BEST, scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9 at AU's Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum, to meet competitors from the eastern U.S. For more information or to sign-up, teachers are encouraged to contact Blanks at 334. 844.5759 or at blankgw@eng.auburn.edu. Those interested in the BEST program can learn more at www.bestinc.org.