“This is insane,” said Ory Dyer, a junior at Hope Academy, which won the second place BEST Award at the Central Alabama Best competition and placed 10th out of 50 at the regional competition last year. “We’ve got to do everything completely different. We were thinking about wheel designs, but this year we don’t need wheels at all. We have to have a robot that can climb 10 feet up a pole or a rope or a combination of both.”
Dyer said he was a driver/engineer/programmer for the team last year.
“I was the go-to guy for the robot, and will be doing the same thing again this year,” he said. “It was tons of fun. I learned a lot about working well with other people and also programming computers.”
Dyer said this year’s challenge has the team rethinking everything.
“It is kinda new to us but we are hoping to do well with it,” he said.
Shelby Reynolds, Lincoln High School robotics coach, said it is their second year to participate. Last year, the Lincoln High School team won the third place BEST Award.
“We had about 40 students participate last year,” she said. “We organized them into five categories.”
Reynolds said the engineering team built the robot, the public relations team promoted robotics in the school and community, the communications team consisted of public speakers who did presentations and interviews, the marketing team came up with the T-shirt design, exhibit booth and business cards, and the journalism team wrote the project notebook.
“Robotics is project-based learning,” she said. “This is an extracurricular way to promote that — a preview of a real world job experience. The students learned more than just engineering, science and technology, they learned job skills, behaviors and attitudes to be successful in the job force. I think it really promotes student professionalism, including problem-solving and conflict resolution.”
Reynolds said most of the students who participated last year are participating again.
“We had some seniors who graduated, but some of the incoming freshmen are excited about joining the team,” she said. “We will probably have 40-45 students or more on the team this year.”
Reynolds said the students are excited about this year’s vertical challenge.
“I’ve already heard them talking about using the rope or the pole — already they are coming up with engineering ideas,” she said. “They aren’t intimidated — they are embracing this challenge. The students have 42 days to build the robot, but are excited year-round and we are trying to figure out how to keep it going year-round.”
Brian Gann, hub director for Central Alabama BEST, said this year marks the 20th anniversary nationally of BEST Robotics.
“This year’s game is called Warp XX in honor of that anniversary,” he said.
Gann said information about this year’s field and rules was given to the teams Saturday morning.
“They will spend the next week or two brainstorming ideas, coming up with designs and planning how to meet the challenge,” he said.
Gann said the schools each receive a kit of supplies and have 42 days to make a robot.
“This year’s robot not only needs to climb 10 feet, but also either place balls in a basket or hang several different items using the robot arm,” he said. “The theme is space elevators and space travel. The idea is the students have to design a prototype of a robot that can travel on carbon nanotubes into space.”
Gann said 16 schools are participating this year, up from 13 participants last year.
“We are continuing to grow,” he said.
Gann said participating schools this year are B.B. Comer Memorial High School, CE Hanna Elementary in Calhoun County, Central High School of Clay County, Childersburg High School, Crossroad Christian School in St. Clair County, Episcopal Day School in Etowah County, Gadsden City High School, Hope Academy, Lincoln High School, Munford High School, Oxford High School, Oxford Middle School, Pell City High School, Talladega County Central High School, Talladega High Career Technical Center and Winterboro High School.
“The program is very low cost for schools because Central Alabama BEST is made possible by support and partnerships from businesses and community organizations,” he said. “The major partners for Central Alabama BEST are McCartney Construction, Alabama Power Company, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, the Talladega Rotary Club, Talladega Superspeedway, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Alabama Governor’s Office of Workforce Development and Central Alabama Community College, and we have a number of other companies and organizations who provide all types and levels of support.”
Gann said Mall Day is 1:30-5 p.m. Oct. 14 at Quintard Mall in Oxford.
“Mall Day is the first time the students can practice driving their robots on the field,” he said. “And it gives the public the opportunity to see what the students are doing.”
Gann said the Second Annual Central Alabama BEST Game Day is a day-long event Oct. 20 at the Talladega Superspeedway Speed Channel Dome.
“It’s a great event, and as an organization we are also trying to think about how it could be a year-round training opportunity,” he said.
For more information, contact Gann at firstname.lastname@example.org.