Bright Spots in Home Schooling

February 18, 2005  

Homeschool Team Wins B.E.S.T. Robotics Competition

Last fall, forty-five homeschool students, from the Wichita Kansas area, came together to form the Wichita Warriors Homeschool Robotics Team. They competed in the B.E.S.T. (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) robotics competition, winning first place in the B.E.S.T. Award and second place in the Game Award at the Texas B.E.S.T. regional competition.

B.E.S.T. was started in 1993 by two Texas Instrument engineers, Steve Marum and Ted Mahler. Beginning with just one site (called a hub) and only fourteen teams, it has now grown to 23 hubs with more than 575 public, private, and homeschool teams which include more than 6,000 students from ten states. The B.E.S.T. program has two parts, the Game Award and the B.E.S.T. Award.

In the Game Award, participants have six weeks to design and build a remote-controlled robot. At the beginning of the six weeks, contestants receive identical kits provided by their hub and find out what the year's challenge will be. Each year the robot has to perform a different task that is dictated by the game. This year, Squeaky, the Texas B.E.S.T. mascot, was sick with B.E.S.T. Fever and needs its "DNA" rearranged. The robot had to pick up plastic balls and move them to the appropriate storage bin to score points. Each match had four robots competing for three minutes to see who could score the most points.

The B.E.S.T. Award documents how the robot was built and is considered the higher of the two awards. It includes a thirty-page technical notebook documenting the engineering process used to design and build the robot. A twenty minute oral presentation is given by each team to a panel of judges, explaining their fundraising efforts, publicity, promotional events, and team dynamics. A booth, similar to a tradeshow display, is built to show the team's promotional efforts for B.E.S.T. within their school and community, and interviews by a panel of judges are conducted to assess the students' enthusiasm and to prove that the students were the primary builders of the robot. The teams were also evaluated for their display of spirit and sportsmanship on Game Day.

At the Kansas Game Day, the Wichita Homeschool Warriors received first place in the B.E.S.T. Award and second place in the Game Award. They continued on to the Texas B.E.S.T. Regionals, held at Southern Methodist University, where they competed against sixty other teams to finish once again with a first place in B.E.S.T. Award, and a second place in the Game Award. This was the Warrior's third consecutive first place win in the B.E.S.T. Award at both the Kansas and Texas competitions.

Other homeschool teams did very well in the Texas B.E.S.T. Award. Texoma Home Educators took third place, Woodlands Homeschoolers took fourth place, and Alamo Area Home School took fifth place.

Many parents note that their children have learned many skills while participating in robotics, including public speaking, fundraising, leadership, and teamwork. Because the competition is student-oriented, the students lead the team, design and build the robot, and make the decisions. They can receive advice from their parents and engineering mentors provided to the team, but the students must do the work themselves. Diligence, perseverance, and attention to detail certainly helps all homeschoolers do well in B.E.S.T. Robotics.

 Other Resources

For more information about BEST Robotics, please go to http://www.bestinc.org.

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