Campus Life

UWF hosts BEST Robotics Competition for area middle- and high-schoolers

The University of West Florida hosted the Emerald Coast Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics competition in the Field House at the UWF Pensacola campus Oct. 23. Nineteen middle- and high-school teams competed for the top prize and a chance to move on to regional competition.

The competition began Sept. 11, when the schools received the materials kit and documentation specific to the tasks the robots would have to perform. Teachers and volunteer mentors were allowed to assist the students constructing the robot. The robots are remote-controlled. Four robots are in the game at one time, and each round is three minutes long.

The hub issued two kits of parts to each school. The Expendables kit included raw materials such as plywood, sheet plastic, boards, PVC pipe, sheet metal, metal rods, wire and an array of hardware. The Returnables kit included motors, switches, batteries, battery chargers and the remote-control unit. The student teams were limited to the materials they are given.

Beyond the robotics facet of the competition, teams are also judged on other elements.

“The teams also do a project engineering notebook and marketing presentation,” said Bill Weber, the BEST Hub director for UWF. “They are also judged on best spirit and sportsmanship and they participate in a team exhibit and interview. The competition goes beyond a simple robot competition; it also introduces the team members to other skills that successful engineers and technologists will need in an industrial environment.”

This year’s theme, “Total Recall,” was a chance for the students to direct their robots through a series of tasks that can be found on a real-world production line, including processing, sorting and packaging various “goods.” The tasks also demanded the students use teamwork and communication to effectively relay information.

The competition was fun to participate in, as well as watch, as one family from Pensacola discovered.

“It’s a great way to spend a Saturday,” said Elizabeth Riviera, a mother of two young children who begged her to bring them. “There’s as much energy here as a sports game. I’m just as pumped as the kids.”

The competition is broken down like a traditional sports competition, with semifinal and final rounds deciding the ultimate winner.

Many in the crowd agreed that it was a great event and thanked UWF for hosting.

“UWF is so gracious to host [the BEST Competition],” said Jeff Harold, father of one of the Woodham Middle School participants. “It’s an awesome event thanks to them.”

The top winners who will proceed to the regional competition Nov. 18 through 20 in Auburn are: Bethlehem K-12, Woodlawn Beach Middle School, Workman Middle School and Woodham Middle School.

“The games were very successful and everybody seemed to enjoy it immensely,” said Bill Weber, the BEST Hub coordinator for UWF.

Jane Halonen, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, summed up the day best. “Science rocks.”