Campus Life

Student-built robots invade campus Oct. 17

Twenty-one robotics teams from middle and high schools across the West Florida region will get on their mark, get set and start their robots Oct. 17 at the second annual Emerald Coast BEST Robotics Competition. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the UWF Field House. Hosted by the University of West Florida-the only BEST hub in the state of Florida-the competition is designed to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology through participation in a sports-like, science and engineering-based robotics competition.

“The program aims to teach teamwork, problem solving, project management and pride in task completion within the constraints of a short time period and limited material resources,” said Bill Weber, BEST Hub director. “Each student team has six weeks to design and build a remote-controlled robot to solve a problem or perform a specific function. Students build their robots from a materials kit provided by the hub. Each team is judged on its robot performance, oral presentation, table display, project notebook, spirit and sportsmanship.”

This year’s theme is “High Octane” which will focus on the chemistry of renewable energy. The objective is for teams to use robots to collect and employ representative components of common molecules, such as CO2 and H2O, catalysts and energy to produce progressively more complex molecules to finally make isooctane, a fuel.

“Of course, the robots will not really mix chemicals,” said Weber. “They will collect units of the four components represented by objects of different shapes and sizes and place them in a ‘processing plant’ to make points. By actively engaging students in this manner, they will hopefully walk away with a better understanding of how to apply science, technology, engineering and mathematical concepts to solve problems.”

Weber expects to host approximately 700 student team members and 60 teacher/mentors, with an expected attendance of 1,400 people.

“One of the goals of Emerald Coast BEST is to accommodate as many robotic teams as the competition venue and hub finances can support,” said Weber. “Our sponsors help us do this. This year, our sponsors include UWF, AT&T, Gulf Power, Armstrong World Industries, Bit-Wizards IT Solutions, Inc., Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and Webb Electric of Florida.”

Best Robotics Inc. is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization. No fees are paid by students or schools participating in BEST robotics. Hub operations are funded by corporate and individual sponsorships paid to the hub. Materials kits to build the robots are provided to the teams by the hub.

“There is a major shortage of engineers and scientists in the United States,” said Weber. “The BEST Robotics competition is a great opportunity to encourage middle and high school students to choose science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related careers.”

For more information on the competition, contact Weber at (850) 474-3407 or e-mail For more information on sponsorships, contact Gretchen VanValkenburg at (850) 474-2875 or e-mail