Central Alabama Best Robotics, a non-profit organization, serves as a home for science, technology, engineering and mathematics training in eight counties in Alabama — Calhoun, Clay, Coosa, Etowah, Randolph, St. Clair, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties.
Students from each school received their kits Saturday to construct a robot for the competition as well as a firsthand look at the featured game for the 2013 competition, Gatekeeper.
Brian Gann, hub director for Central Alabama Best Robotics, said each team has six weeks to build a functioning robot to compete in the Gatekeeper field of play and earn points based on tasks accomplished.
“At the end of the day, we want them to learn critical thinking and teamwork,” Gann said. “The robots are just a fun thing they get to do.”
Each school receives a similar kit containing plywood, pipes, nuts, bolts, wires and electronic components needed to construct a functional robot. The number of participating schools in 2013 increased by six.
“A school of any size can compete in this competition because everyone has to start from the same place,” Gann said. “We have public school, private school and home school students participating this year.”
Once each team has assembled their robot, they face off in a regional competition held Nov. 2 at the SPEED Channel Dome at the Talladega Superspeedway.
Gann said each team will be graded on a number of factors, including marketing presentations, team exhibits, engineering notebooks, spirit and sportsmanship.
“Each team is building a company based on real-world design,” he said.
The winner of the regional competition advances to compete in the South’s Best competition held Dec. 6-7 at Auburn University.
Talladega County Central High School junior Antonio Gary joins a group of about 20 of his peers, led by science teacher Reginald Jacobs. The team returns three student engineers in its second year of participation in this competition.
“I know that we’re going to be the underdogs, but I want to come out and show everyone we can actually come out and win this,” Gary said. “It’s going to be hard, but we’ll take a good shot at it.”
Winterboro High School senior Josh Hall joins nearly 25 team members as the team enters its third year of competing, led by science teacher Brian Young. After seeing the field for the first time, Hall instantly went into planning mode for his team’s robot.
“Our strategy is to go straight for the right,” he said. “We’ve got to follow the steps and we can’t skip anything. Our arm is definitely going to have to be able to go up and extend out. It’s a whole lot more difficult challenge than last year.”
Calm and collected, Hall acknowledged that as the competition draws near, the anticipation reaches a boiling point.
“This day is more relaxed and not as hyped-up,” Hall said. “But on game day, your adrenaline is pumping. Everyone’s running around and your heart is racing, especially if you’re controlling the robot.”