The 2015-2016 school year kicked off with lots of excitement and anticipation due to a new program that was introduced to us by Mr. Ron Oudenaarden, an engineer from Georgia Pacific. Ron introduced us to the BEST organization, a group of volunteers dedicated to promoting engineering, science and technology (STEM) in area middle and high schools.

BEST is an acronym for Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology. BEST is a national organization that originated in Texas, then spread throughout the country. Our team is a member of the South's BEST regional hub and the Wiregrass BEST local hub. For more information about the national and local hubs, please see the following websites:

Each year, students are given an engineering design problem that must be solved with in the 42-day time slot that begins at the kick-off for the year's competition, then culminates with a robotic competition, where students and coaches from each of the hub's schools compete for the chance to proceed to the area competition at Auburn University.

The title for the 2015-2016 school year's competition was "Pay Dirt."  The theme of the competition was mining. For this competition, students were required to design a remote-controlled robot that was able to do any or all of the following:

Collect various types of minerals or ores in various levels of the mine shaft
Make repairs to a mine shaft ventilation system
Take core samples from deep within the mine
Repair the plumbing system in the mine 

As part of the competition, students must plan a strategy that will maximize the number of points that their team may score during the 3-minute game.

In addition to the design and building of the robot, students must also set up a mock company to promote and sell the robot, build and set up a 10'x10' exhibit for game day, make and maintain an engineering notebook, and prepare for a "sales presentation" that is made to a panel of judges.

Students learn many aspects of engineering and business during this competition. Students were divided into the design team, build team, and marketing team. Each team collaborated with the other to bring the whole presentation to fruition. Team leaders were students who were either juniors or seniors. These leaders worked with younger students so that he team could build from year to year, as students graduated or progressed through high school.

The design team was composed of students who had taken one or more Drafting classes and were familiar with using Autodesk Inventor 3-D modeling software. Students the software to model working assemblies and parts that represented the actual robot parts. Using these models, students were able to make design changes and modifications to reduce downtime in the construction phase of the project.

The build team was made up of students who had taken our Industrial Fundamentals and Occupational Safety classes. Several of the build team students had also taken drafting classes. These students used tools and equipment that varied from power drills and saws to a vertical milling machine and a lathe to make the parts necessary to build the robot. Safety of the students was paramount during the construction of the robot.

Our marketing team was made up of a group of talented and creative students who used several methods to promote our team. These students made up business cards, sales brochures, and other promotional items that a business may use to promote and sell it's product. These students made PowerPoint presentations and practiced interview skills in preparation for our big day.

The 2016-2017 BEST competition brings much anticipation, as students will have a design problem near and dear to the hearts of Early County residents. The title of the competition is "Bet the Farm" indicating that the topic of this year's design problem is agriculture, a subject that is near and dear to all of our hearts, here, in Early County.