Pike County Schools Center for Academics took home the overall first place prize at Troy University’s annual BEST Robotics competition Saturday, while Ridgecrest Christian School won the top prize in the Wiregrass BEST Robotics tournament.
Both BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) competitions were held at Trojan Arena in Troy.
According to the Troy University College of Education, the tournament, first held at Troy 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.
Local schools are to design, build, and program a robot from a kit of raw materials through implementation of the engineering design process.
The competition comprises 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 the board.
Each team has only 30 seconds to prepare their robot 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.
“We wanted to come and show what we really can do,” said Sam Boseman, a seventh-grade student from Goshen and member of the Pike County Schools Center for Academics. “I’m really proud of us for winning against all these really amazing high schools.”
His teammate, Benjamin Taylor, is already looking at his future after the competition.
“This is really important to me because it can start me on the road to getting a career I really want,” Taylor said.
Their 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, which scored high enough to move forward as well.
Ridgecrest will represent the Wiregrass in the regional BEST Award competition alongside Early County and Cottonwood high schools, which will compete in the Robot Only and Regional Invitational Tournament.
The competition was run by volunteers from Troy University’s College of Education and sponsored fully by businesses in the area.
“Dr. (Robin) Bynum and the rest of our committee worked tirelessly to put on this event,” Shannon Bales, assistant professor and volunteer for BEST Robotics, said. “We wanted to promote an interest in robotics, but also, engineering challenges like these are beneficial for students. Not only do they have fun, but they also learn to design solutions for real-world problems while working collaboratively with their peers.”
BEST Robotics competitions often bring out the best in the students who participate, according to the event’s organizers.
“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,” Robin Bynum, hub director for Troy University BEST Robotics, 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.”
Bynum said she hopes to continue this event for many more years and encourages support from the community at the event.
The regional competition will be held in Auburn Dec. 7-8.