Robotics program attracts dozens of area schools

Published 10:52 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011

An estimated 400 students and teachers from 24 schools crowded the gym of Wallace Community College in Selma Saturday morning in preparation for the BEST in Alabama’s March robotics challenge.

The program, state director Robin Fenton said, was formed for the purpose of aiding, promoting and developing a statewide program based on the BEST Robotics program.

The strong attendance numbers Saturday had Fenton very optimistic.

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“This is so exciting,” she said. “Our goal is to continue working with them after the competition and into the fall.”

While addressing the crowd, Selma City Schools Superintendent Don Jefferson said he was thrilled to be the host city for the program.

“I know Selma is excited,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for the city of Selma. We are ready to go.”

During the kickoff program the teams were given their robot challenge and kits. The challenge asks students to create a robot and have it maneuver through a small obstacle course that includes a bridge, S-curve, railroad tracks and parking station.

The teams have 42 days to design, build and test their robots and write an engineering notebook.

Students will also create a marketing presentation and design a table display.

On March 19 the teams, which include Dallas County High School, Keith Middle School, Martin Middle School, Selma High School, CHAT Academy, Southside High School and Tipton-Durant Middle School, will return to Wallace to compete in the day-long challenge.

Dr. James Mitchell, president of Wallace Community College, said he hopes to keep the competition on campus for many years.

“We are very honored to have this here at Wallace Community College in Selma,” he said. “We thank (BEST) for giving us a chance to be a sponsor. We are not just going to be a sponsor for this year, we want to be a sponsor for many years.”

Hosting the program has a positive impact on local schools and the economy, President and CEO of the Selma-Dallas County Centre for Commerce Wayne Vardaman said.

“This can have a tremendous impact on the local economy,” he said. “People from the teams will eat here, shop here and rent a lot of the hotel rooms in town.”

BEST Robotics Inc., Fenton said, is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering science, technology and math through participation in sports-like science and engineering competitions.