Robotic teams set to roll in on Wallace

Published 10:05pm Thursday, November 1, 2012

Students from 18 Alabama schools will put their knowledge of science and robotics to the test Saturday as they compete in the BEST Robotics Competition at Wallace Community College.

Robin Fenton, state director for Friends of BEST, said students have been working hard and preparing for “the big competition day.”

“This will be the first time that we have a major competition in Selma,” Fenton said. “We started off with a smaller competition last year, which was leading up to this larger competition.”

Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology, BEST Robotics is a non-profit volunteer based organization that strives to promote a strong knowledge of science technology in regional students.

Fenton said through building a robot, students learn vital skills for a career in science technology.

“What BEST does is it mimics industry,” Fenton said. “They’re learning the skills that industry needs for high-skill, high-demand careers in Alabama.”

Teams will be competing in two areas Saturday: the robotics competition and the BEST award, which has four components, Fenton said.

Throughout the day, teams will present their engineering notebook, a marketing presentation, exhibit booth, and they will also have the opportunity to win an award for spirit and sportsmanship.

This year, Fenton said, the playing field presented an exceptionally difficult challenge.

“Their challenge this year is a space elevator and it’s a real world topic that NASA is actually learning about,” Fenton said. “So the students have been learning about space elevators, nano-technology — all of the science behind it.”

Each team received a kit of raw materials containing lumber, PVC pipe, nuts, bolts and aluminum to construct their robot.

“Every school has identical materials,” Fenton said. “They had to go home and build a robot for this purpose and now they’re coming back this Saturday and seeing if they can carry supplies from a ship up to the national space station.

So their goal is to not only build that robot, but convince industry that they have the best robot to accomplish the task.”

The winning teams will then advance to Auburn University to compete in the regional competition on Dec. 1 and 3.

“BEST robotics is now recognized as a premier work force development tool in the state of Alabama,” Fenton said. “Through participating in this, they learn about industry and business.”

The competition has no admission cost and begins at 9 a.m. in the Wallace gymnasium.

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