Tuesday, October 1, 2013

10 Reasons to Participate in BEST Robotics

BEST robotics

BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) Robotics  is a middle and high school robotics competition that was begun in 1993 by two Texas Instruments engineers in North Texas (that's where I live - they are great guys).

In 1998, when my oldest daughter was 12 (and my youngest 6 weeks old), I offered to coach a BEST robotics team.  That  year we had eleven team members and several adult assistants who ventured into the unknown and began a team that is still competing today.  I coached for 6 years and then passed the baton.  I couldn't begin to tell you everything the students and coaches learned in those years, but I can tell you why you should participate in BEST Robotics.

homeschool, robotics competition
Our first year at Texas BEST, which was the national competition.

1.  Provides Real World Experience to Students

Every student has asked, at least once, "When am I ever going to use this stuff?"  They are usually referring to math or science when making this inquiry.  Students who participate in BEST have the opportunity to use the math and science they have been learning and are often motivated to learn something they don't yet know.  Students are also provided a real engineering experience that may demystify engineering for them and encourage them to pursue it in the future.

real world experience
Getting some real world experience in design.

2.  Provides Leadership Opportunities

BEST Robotics teams are for the students.  Coaches are there to encourage, teach, and guide.  Students have the opportunity to step into leadership roles by leading the team and/or mentoring younger students.


3.  Provides Project Management Skills

The BEST Competition kicks off every fall at over 850 schools across the nation.  Teams are provided supplies to build a remote-controlled machine and a game-like challenge is revealed.  Teams then have 6 weeks to design and build a robot to compete in the game.  Teams learn to manage their time to meet the six week deadline.  This is a very real world product development challenge and gives students marketable skills.


4.  Provides an Opportunity for Teamwork

Many businesses look for team players when hiring employees.  BEST provides an opportunity for students to learn to work together as a team outside a sports environment.  Students learn that the best idea is not a popularity contest; usually the best idea is a combination of several different ideas.  
I found teamwork to be a little bit of a challenge for homeschooled students as they are used to doing their thing, their way.

Good teamwork is necessary for scoring with the robot.

5.  Develops Organizational Skills

Students learn to organize their time and materials to complete their task on time.  Teams who don't organize their time efficiently will not be ready to compete on Game Day.  When I was coaching, our team learned rather quickly that the task would require attention at least 12 hours per week.  

6.  Develops Marketing Skills

Teams who compete for the BEST Award (considered the highest award given) will be required to promote BEST Robotics and recruit new teams as part of their score.  Many students who may not initially be interested in engineering love the marketing and recruiting.  Many 'engineering' type students learn that marketing is part of developing and promoting a product.

Marketing to a young crowd.

7.  Develops Writing and Public Speaking Skills

Teams who compete for the BEST Award will also give an oral presentation to a panel of judges.  Students write and practice their presentation and develop skills that will last them a lifetime.  My two oldest daughters were on the presentation team several years.  The speaking skills they learned from that experience carried over into their other extracurricular activities and helped them with other competitions.

Speaking to a Rotary Club breakfast meeting.

8.  Builds Confidence and Competence

Students who are faced with a problem and work together to solve the problem within the given parameters experience a confidence boost.  Students gain a feeling of personal competence when they realize the goals were satisfactorily met.   

 The first year we competed, our team goal was to compete and not embarrass ourselves or other homeschoolers.  In 1998, we felt like we were venturing into a predominantly public school arena and would therefore be the first homeschool students/families that many people met.   The team was still designing a solution at the final hour, but on Game Day, they were able to do one thing well (out of the many scoring options) and therefore were able to score every time they took the field.  That allowed the team to finish in the middle of about 30 teams.  We all felt like it was a good first year and the team had enough confidence to continue the next year.

9.  Affordable

There is NO PARTICIPATION FEE.  All supplies needed are provided by the local hub on Kick-Off Day.  The competition is funded by corporate sponsors.  This allows any team to participate.  BEST Robotics is a volunteer-driven organization.  In 2012, over 10,000 adults volunteered at some level of BEST. Volunteers are the heart of this organization.

Ted, one of the founders, and Phil, the electronics guru.  Long time volunteers.

10.  It's Fun

There are many students who mostly participate in something because it is fun. BEST is a sports-like competition with cheerleaders and bands and those who participate in the BEST Award are given points for their Spirit and Sportsmanship.  Students who show up just because it is fun are exposed to all the other reasons BEST is such a great extracurricular activity.  Who knows?  They may decide to pursue engineering, math, science, or technology in the future.  BEST will have achieved its goal.

Yes, all this excitement for a robotics competition.

Back in 1998, when I had seven children aged 6 months - 12 years old, our team, Texoma Home Educators BEST (THE BEST), learned that even though BEST Robotics was a big time commitment, it was a very memorable experience.  

They also learned three more lessons:
   -Simple is best
   -Consistency works
   -The BEST 'bug' had bitten and we couldn't wait to compete again

*The students in these photos are all adults now.  I have fond memories of each of them.  However, if your picture is here and you don't want it to be, contact me and I will remove it.  

I will be posting about BEST the rest of the week.

Friday I will post about our successful fundraising and Saturday I will tell you how to win the BEST Award.  

Be sure to subscribe by email to get all the information!

1 comment:

9peasMom said...

I have been learning about this and had hoped for my 7th grade to join a team - we traveled to CA at a crucial time for being a part of it so I'm hoping he can do it next year! I really appreciated your sharing about this, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity we won't want to miss again!

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