Students from a dozen southern Colorado schools will gather at Trinidad State’s Scott Gym on Saturday, October 20 to run their robots through their paces.
Each team will have had only six weeks to design and build a remote control robot. BEST is an acronym that comes from Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology. Teams of middle school and high school students from all over the country start with a kit, consisting of plywood, PVC pipe, a pile of hardware and robot parts. They then design and build a machine they think can conquer challenges in front of a screaming crowd and ticking clock.
This year SOCO BEST expects 12 teams from northern New Mexico to the San Luis Valley. Each year the game field changes. The theme this year is “Current Events” and has an ocean theme. The field is divided into quadrants, so four teams may compete at once. Robots will ride a wooden rail while trying to scoop trash out of a spinning basket. To complicate matters, the rail will move up and down and side to side to simulate ocean wave action. Teams may also choose to build an artificial reef.
In addition, teams may choose to compete in oral presentations, technical writing, team spirit, exhibit design and more. The goal, of course is learning. Students face a challenge and must solve problems, build, strategize and adapt. And on game day there’s the added pressure of a three-minute time limit before a live audience numbering in the hundreds.
In this intense setting designs are tested and construction flaws are exposed. “You can feel the excitement, and you can see learning happening,” said Trinidad State President Dr. Carmen Simone. Students are encouraged to continue, no matter what happens. Top teams must display not only operating skill, but point strategy.
Teams received the Ocean Current rules and robot parts on September 8. Each got a stack of plywood and plastic, motors and gears, and a remote control. They are working even now, to build a mobile workhorse. On October 13, they had a chance to come to Scott Gym and practice. Modifications are allowed during the following week and then on October 20 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the robots will be put to the test. Winners may then choose to compete at a regional competition in Denver later in the fall.
This year’s teams will come from New Mexico (Des Moines), the San Luis Valley (Del Norte and Monte Vista) and southeast Colorado (La Junta, Manzanola, Swink, Rocky Ford, La Junta, Branson, Trinidad, Walsenburg and Primero). There is no cost to the schools to compete, other than travel expenses. The event costs about $20,000 to host and that money comes from donations.
Admission is free.
It takes about 70 volunteers to staff the event. If you are interested in volunteering, donating or sponsoring the event, please contact Krystalee Moreno at 719-846-5657 or Krystalee.Moreno@trinidadstate.edu.