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The 2016 South’s BEST robotics championship took place at Auburn University earlier this month in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. The championship featured the top 58 robotics teams from five southeastern states.

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 24th year nationally and 16th year in Alabama. BEST Robotics is the only robotics program in the nation that is offered to schools at no cost. 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, which is hosted by Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

During the championship, teams competed for robotics awards in a series of head-to-head matches on a playing field designed for this year’s game titled, “Bet the Farm.” The challenge behind this year’s game was for each team to create a robot that could plant corn seeds, harvest and deliver ripe corn, hydroponic tomatoes and hydroponic lettuce, secure loose pigs and feed them, and turn on a water valve. Awards were presented to teams whose robots had the best performance and scored the most points during the competition.

The DARC, or Decatur Austin Robotics Coalition, robotics team from north Alabama received the first-place robotics award. The team is comprised of students from Decatur High School and Austin High School, and is part of the Tennessee Valley Robotics hub, which is headquartered at Calhoun Community College.

In addition to robot performance, teams competed to receive awards in other categories, such as engineering design notebook, marketing presentation, team exhibit, interview and team spirit and sportsmanship. Awards were given based on criteria such as demonstrated teamwork, a positive attitude and enthusiasm, school and community involvement and creativity.

W. P. Davidson High School in Mobile received the highest award presented—the first-place BEST Award. The BEST Award is given to the team that most embodies the concept and spirit of the competition. The winner of the BEST Award is judged on a combination of project engineering notebook, marketing presentation, team exhibit and interview and team spirit and sportsmanship.

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; to prepare students to be technologically literate and thus better prepared to enter the workforce; to help students develop leadership, project management, teamwork and organizational skills; and to develop confidence and competence.

More information on South’s BEST, including a detailed game description and list of winners, can be found on the website at