Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Secret to Winning the BEST Award

The Only Way to Win the BEST Award

The year our BEST Robotics team (Texoma Home Educators- T.H.E. BEST - the acronym worked out nicely!) placed 4th in the BEST Award on the hub level, and the 1st-3rd place teams advanced to Texas BEST, we decided to study what it takes to win the BEST Award.  

Our family, along with another team family, attended Texas BEST in College Station.  We studied the displays and notebooks and talked to the winning teams.  My husband, the engineer, made some very good observations.  We put his observations into practice and won the BEST Award at the hub level for the next 4 (or more) years.  We also placed in the top 3 at Texas BEST during those years.




The BEST Award is a separate competition from the Robot Award.

Here is the only way to win the BEST Award at the hub or the regional level:

Find out what the judges are looking for, do it, and make it easy for them to find.

That seems rather simplistic, but it is very true.

How did we do that?

1.  Look at the BEST Award scoring sheet.

This lists everything the judges are giving a score for.  There are five main categories:

Robot
Notebook
Display
Presentation
Spirit & Sportsmanship

Each of these categories has sub-categories within it.

The time to decide how your team is going to fulfill each category is not in September when the new season kicks off.  No, you need to look at the list at the end of season.  Some of the categories need to be worked on during the year.  There is not really enough time to do it in the 6 weeks the team is designing and building the robot and preparing for the competition.

What can your team do during the 'off season'?

Recruit new teams.  This is often accomplished by giving presentations/demonstrations at other schools, youth organizations, or homeschool groups.  This will also fulfill the category of promoting BEST.

Promote BEST.  There are many ways to do this.  Your team can brainstorm what they want to do.  Can they get on a local TV talk show?  Write an article for a newspaper/magazine/blog?  Have a display at the local library?  Come up with a plan.  How many promotions do you want to do? What are you going to do?

Our team had the opportunity to have our robot on display at the Houston Space Center.
  
Learn to use a CAD program.  This will help your team immensely when it comes time to draw plans and have them available for the notebook.  The last year I had a student on our team, he made a CAD drawing for every part on the robot.

Practice presentation skills.  The off season is a great time for team members to build or hone their public speaking and presentation skills.  Mock presentations and interviews would benefit the whole team.

Fundraising.  Brainstorm ideas for fundraising and do some throughout the year.  I told you yesterday how our fundraising (link) allowed us to buy motors and a remote control so we could run our robot after the competition since all the equipment has to be turned back in to the sponsoring hub.  Since the robots use 'brains' now, you might want to purchase one of those, too.

I have not covered every section of the BEST Award scoresheet, but I have told you the only way to win the BEST Award.  

Go through every section
Decide what your team will do
Do it year-round
Collect ideas for displays and spirit

Don't forget to take pictures!

A well organized displayed with students prepared for judges.

When you put all this great stuff on your display, don't hide it among cutesy clutter.  Make it very obvious.  Label it according to the score sheet.  If there is a fundraising category, put all your fundraising activity under the appropriate label - fundraising.  You might be surprised by how many teams do not do this.


It may seem like I am giving away secrets, but truthfully, not many teams will follow this simple advice.

If your team does, they will rise to the top.

Any other winning teams out there who would give other advice?
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