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Students seek to be the BEST

Tipton Durant Middle School seventh and eighth graders will participate in the BEST, or Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, Robotics program and competition Oct. 28 and 29 in Mobile. Students will have 42 days to complete a robot to feature in the competition. Tipton is asking for monetary donations and sponsorship from the community. Call 872-8080 for more information. -- Desire Taylor

When most students count down until the weekend, students at Tipton Durant Middle School are studying to change the world, one mechanical move at a time.

Beginning Oct. 28 and 29, 42 Tipton students will travel to Mobile to compete in the BEST, or Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology, Robotics competition inside the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Center.

Students had a little more than a month to design a robot from Plexiglas, plywood, sheet metal, screws and PVC pipes. The team, which includes project managers and designers, must design a robot to complete a four-part process and a game strategy course during competition.

Robotics faculty advisor Abina Billups said students are still in the constructing process and are asking for help from the community.

“On Sept. 17, we went down to Mobile to the kickoff to get our kit … we have a 42-day span to complete the robot,” Billups said. “Project managers see design of robot and create an engineering notebook where research is later done. We then create a marketing presentation and sales pitch to judges … we need the community’s support. Those that understand mechanical engineering can help with the technical aspect.”

Tipton participated in last year’s BEST competition held at Wallace Community College, placing third in marketing, presentation and interview category. Billups said the hands-on experience helps students all around.

“It helps students to articulate (and) public speak,” Billups said. “It helps them to better understand team work because people come together with many ideas. It broadens their perspective beyond regular math, social studies and science.”

Eighth grader and co-captain Christopher Davis, who participated in last year’s competition, wanted to participate this year to learn something new.

“I wanted to learn about engineering design, computer programming and marketing sales,” Davis said. “(Last year) I got to meet new people and help build our robot. I’m really excited; I feel like we could win this year.”

First-time participant and seventh grader Derell Riley helped to program Tipton’s robot and will market it to judges.

“I thought it’d be a good experience and something new for me to do,” Riley said. “We came together as a team and shared our ideas. We’ve been working for a couple of weeks — staying afterschool for at least two to three hours. This will give us experience. I hope it will show us leadership, communication and technical skills.”

Billups said the program opens up skill sets for students beyond the teacher, doctor or lawyer career path.

“We’re moving a workforce,” Billups said. “This gives children the opportunity to see there are trades out there they can do and when they become of age, they don’t have to question their ability. The seventh and eighth graders are seeing there are many levels of jobs.”

BEST is a nonprofit volunteer-based organization. Best’s mission is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology while promoting a strong emphasis on leadership skills, technical writing and problem solving.

To donate money or to sponsor Tipton, call 872-8080.
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