Battle for the best robot

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Sarah Mountain

Staff Writer

Troy University held its annual Boosting Engineering Science and Technology Robotics (BEST) tournament on Saturday, where local schools were tasked with designing, building and programming a robot.

The first-place title was given to Pike County Schools Center for Academics. 

According to the Troy University College of Education, the competition, first held in 2018, was formed to provide an opportunity for middle and high school students in Southeast Alabama to compete in the nationally acclaimed BEST Robotics Competition.

Competitors were given a kit of raw materials to create a robot through implementation of the engineering design process.

The competition is made up of three-minute rounds, in which, up to four teams compete in an arena to collect as many points as possible. Points can be claimed by completing tasks such as connecting lines, moving debris or installing different pieces on a board. 

Each team has only 30 seconds to prepare their robots before they must begin. Two preliminary rounds gave each team the chance to collect as many points as possible before moving on to the finals, where only the highest scoring teams compete. 

At the end of the day, Pike County Schools Center for Academics took the overall first place prize based on the team’s scores in robot performance, engineering notebook, spirit and sportsmanship, exhibit and marketing presentation. 

“We wanted to come and show what we really can do,” said Sam Boseman, a seventh-grade student from Goshen and a member of the winning team. “I’m really proud of us for winning against all these really amazing high schools.”

This team will go on to represent Troy BEST Robotics at the regional competition in Auburn alongside the teams from Zion Chapel and Abbeville High School, who scored high enough to move forward, as well.

“This is really important to me because it can start me on the road to getting a career I really want,” said Benjamin Taylor, another member of the winning team.

The competition was run by volunteers from Troy University’s College of Education and sponsored by businesses in the area.

“Dr. Bynum and the rest of our committee worked tirelessly to put on this event,” said Shannon Bales, assistant professor and volunteer for BEST Robotics. “We wanted to promote an interest in robotics but also, engineering challenges like these are beneficial for students.

Robin Bynum, hub director for Troy University BEST Robotics, said they hope to continue the event for many more years and encouraged the community to support the event.

“These project-based learning activities that help us to first of all stimulate their minds and those critical thinking skills, and of course their creativity,” Bynum said. “Research tells us that if we can keep students interested in these activities starting in middle school, they are more likely to be successful and not just attend but graduate from college.

“They have those goal-setting, leadership, and communications skills.” 

The regional competition will be held in Auburn on Dec. 7 and 8. 

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