The BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) began as a small robotics contest 21 years ago in Texas, and this year there were 400 high schools and junior high schools in 18 states signed up to offer students a chance to participate in the challenge.
Talladega High’s Career Tech Center team and Hope Academy, both located in Talladega, advanced to regional competition in Auburn last weekend. They were among 20 schools from the five-county Central Alabama Best District competing earlier this fall.
Both teams won first place awards, the first time any team from the Central Alabama district won a first place.
Hope Academy won first place for T-shirt design, and also won the second place Founders Awards for Creative Design and third place for Most Elegant Robot. The small private school has made it to regional competition three straight years, every year since Central Alabama Community College began serving as the host for the competition.
Talladega High’s team won first place for the Best Mascot.
More recognition may be coming. Only the top three awards in each category were announced Saturday, and more complete score sheets will be sent to schools later.
Talladega’s teams were among the top 56 schools from 18 districts representing six states.
Building robots that can perform specified tasks is the centerpiece of the BEST Robotics program, but there is more to it than that. The teams function as if they were private companies that are also concerned with marketing and promoting their business. Game days are spirited events with room for creativity in promoting and encouraging the teams. Noisy fans in the stands, game announcers, officials and competitors on the competition floor and the accompanying fanfare mark the occasion.
The program gives students a new arena for developing teamwork, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The experience and enthusiasm help students better understand real-world applications for some of their classroom lessons, which helps open their eyes to new college and career opportunities in the future.
It’s an educational opportunity that fits well with the state’s college and career-ready goals and with new course of study goals aimed at developing critical thinking in the next generation of students.
Central Alabama Community College is to be commended for stepping up to the plate to bring the program to our part of the state, and so are all of the school administrators, team coaches and volunteers that help make it happen.