An estimated 400-450 high school and middle school students, along with teachers and some parents, represented teams from 13 schools that are participating in the BEST Robotics competition, hosted by Central Alabama Community College in Talladega.
Each team will design and build a robot that will move under its own power, find and retrieve moving objects without damaging them and deposit the objects in a prescribed area within three minutes.
They’ll have six weeks to work this bit of engineering magic, but engineering is merely one part of this project. They’ll also write a project report, prepare a professional sales presentation and build a trade show booth.
“It is a comprehensive program that gives students the opportunity to learn critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork and other leadership skills,” says Brian Gann, director of CACC’s Talladega campus and the driving force who brought the competition to Talladega.
After working for months to nail down all the details and surviving without sleep for days leading up to the kickoff event at Munford, Gann’s excitement was contagious as the time approached to open the doors and let the kids in.
Once the bleachers filled up, Gann stood on the floor in front of them and controlled the crowd like a maestro leading an orchestra. His left hand went up and the kids on his left said, “Oooooooooo.” His right hand went up and the kids on his right said, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh.” Left, “Oooooooooo.” Right, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh.”
They listened closely as Gann rattled off about 500 rules, and when he’d finished, they got what they’d come for — their supplies and a chance to check out the playing field. They swarmed down to the basketball court with notebooks, cameras and tape measures to record as much information about the field as they could capture in the minutes allotted.
None of them was the least bit intimidated by the task before them.
Build a robot? No problem. In six short weeks, 13 new Alabama-built robots be strutting their stuff at the Talladega Superspeedway.
This is the future, and it looks promising.