South's BEST robotics championship Dec. 5-7 on Auburn University campus

Published: December 04, 2014
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AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University will host the 2014 South's BEST Championships at the Auburn Arena on Friday-Sunday, Dec. 5-7.

BEST, which stands for "Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology," is a middle school and high school robotics program, now in its 22nd year nationally and 14th year in Alabama, that is available to all schools at no cost.

Answering the nation's need for more and better-prepared workers in scientific, industrial and technological fields, BEST is the third-largest educational robotics program in the nation and is 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, which is hosted by Auburn University's College of Sciences and Mathematics, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction.

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 Cornerstone Christian Academy, Eastwood Christian School, Lee-Scott Academy, Southside Middle School and Wetumpka High School.

This years's game has a "Bladerunner" theme. During the championship, teams will compete in a series of head-to-head matches on a playing field designed for the game. The challenge in Bladerunner is to design a vehicle that can transport large wind turbines without negatively affecting America's transportation system.

The robots must obtain over-size-over-weight vehicle permits prior to transport as well as navigate a transportation path that travels through an area designated as "environmentally sensitive" due to the presence of a prairie chicken habitat. The prairie chicken is an endangered species, and part of the game involves moving the prairie chickens to an alternative habitat. Additionally, each BEST team is allowed to establish an agreement with a neighboring team, allowing competitors to work together with a mix of parts on the small and large turbines.

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 detailed game description and a list of participating schools, can be found at the website at www.southsbest.org.

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