Students across Alabama are gearing up for a series of BEST Robotics competitions that will take place over the next few weeks.
Originally founded in 1993, BEST is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting science, technology, mathematics and science education in the hopes of inspiring youth to pursue careers in related fields. Beginning with a membership of just over 200 students from a dozen schools, the volunteer-based program now partners with 700 schools and more than 10,000 students, according to the BEST website.
Over the next few weeks, robotics teams from schools across Alabama will get their chance to compete. Students from Hoover, Alabama, recently tested out their creations at a local mall, according to Alabama Live.
"Not only do they learn what engineers do, they learn the engineering process," University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Hassan Moore told the news outlet. "You design something, test it [and] redesign it."
According to the news provider, Hoover students have been tasked with designing remote controlled robots capable of locating and retrieving several "bugs" laid across bumpy, challenging terrain. Just miles away, students from Pell City High School are finalizing their own plans for the competition.
"The whole concept behind BUGS! is that the teams engineer and build a robot that can safely and quickly capture and contain different species of bugs and provide them with food," Central Alabama BEST hub director Brian Gann told the Daily Home.
The six-week process leading up to the competition will promote skill development in a variety of areas. According to the Daily Home, contestants will work with wide range of statistical and design software when creating and testing their robots. But they will also be asked to compile and present a marketing presentation explaining their creative process to a panel of judges.
"It is a comprehensive program that gives students the opportunity to learn critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, teamwork and other leadership skills," Gann told the news source. "It is truly a workforce development project."
The robotics competitions are just a few of the technology initiatives popping up across the region. In Alabama's quest to become a research and development hub for leading engineering operations, developers are already halfway to completion on a state-of-the-art robotics park. Alabama Live is also reporting that a number of ideas and collaborative partnerships may have been generated at the recent Alabama Launchpad Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference.