Troy University is the newest hub in Alabama for BEST Robotics to hold its first competition Saturday, inviting middle and high schoolers from the surrounding counties to show off their homemade innovations.
Hub director Robin Bynum, a professor of education, explained that the goal of BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) is to encourage diverse students to go into those fields and learn valuable skills before college.
The students were shown the nationwide standard playing field and given $1,500 of robotic components 42 days before the competition. In that time, they had to build a robot capable of removing plastic items from baskets while riding on a hanging wooden track.
“We were given the game six weeks ago,” said Wells Hutsler, a competitor from Wetumpka High School. “We’ve been prepping every second since then, building the robot, testing… getting ready for today.”
Rachel Rook, a team member from Wetumpka High School, explained that the baskets and plastic items represented plastics trapped in oceans, stimulating ideas to help clean the environment and food supplies.
“It’s affecting the wildlife that lives there, and from the wildlife being affected, the humans are in turn affected as well,” said, LaRissa Duke, one of Rook’s teammates. “(The wildlife has) microplastics in their stomachs, and we’re consuming that.”
Participating in BEST gives students a chance to develop skills in business, design and engineering which prepares them to tackle real-world issues like this, explained Duke.
In past years, BEST has assigned other challenges related to protecting first responders and innovating the farming industry.
“I’m really excited that Troy, Alabama has implemented this into their school and I really hope they continue,” Duke said.
According to Bynum, Troy is the first hub to cater to students in this area of the state, giving local students the opportunity to compete nationally.