BEST, an acronym for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology, began in 1993 in Texas with 14 schools and 221 students. It has grown to more than 850 schools and more than 18,000 students in 18 states, and is open to students in all types of educational settings.
The competition is set up as a tournament with spectators welcome. Some schools bring cheerleaders and pep bands to add excitement to the atmosphere on game day and celebrate achievements that can help shape careers and industries far into our future.
Saturday was the first day of this year’s six-week event. Students were shown this year’s course and challenge and were given their parts kits to begin building a robot to complete this year’s Gatekeeper challenge.
The program depends on volunteers and donations to operate — there is no charge to the schools — and the students get an experience that can challenges them to tap into technical and scientific skills in a hands-on project.
Our nation is becoming more and more dependent upon technology, but there are gaps in equipping Americans think critically about technology.
Students lead their teams in making decisions about how to build their robots. Through abstract thinking and teamwork they develop both confidence and competence in their work. They become involved in self-directed learning, project management, decision-making, problem-solving and leadership.
As a result they also have a chance to better understand the practical use of math and physics concepts. They gain an understanding of what engineers do, and how to solve real-world science and engineering problems. And through the charged atmosphere at game day, they get the kinds of recognition and accolades usually reserved for the athletes at their schools.
In just four weeks they’ll be giving their handiwork a public demonstration. Teams will converge on Quintard Mall in Oxford October 27. They’ll give their robots a trial run and plan any last minute modifications before competition dates November 1-2 at the SPEED Channel Dome at the Talladega Superspeedway. Winners there head to the South’s BEST Championship at Auburn University in December.
Brian Gann heads up the hub for Talladega, St. Clair, Calhoun, Clay, Coosa, Etowah, Randolph and Tallapoosa counties, recruiting sponsors and volunteers to make the program a reality. They’re all commended for bringing this opportunity to students in our area. The future will be here before we know it, and this kind of experience will help our young people be ready for it.