Only one team per school can participate; the school determines student eligibility. There is no limit on the number of students who can participate. Students have the opportunity to play a role on the robot design/build team, the marketing group, exhibit booth presenters, and so much more! BEST mimics industry by developing a product (the robot) and delivering the product to market. Students with all interests and talents can contribute to a BEST team!
Each team designs and builds a high-tech robot to accomplish defined tasks in a game-type format. Six weeks before the competition, the teams gather for Kick Off Day in early September at local hub sites where they receive identical kits of equipment (motors, r/c unit, batteries, etc.) and raw materials from which to build their machines, and a detailed set of game rules. The machines they build cannot weigh more than 24 pounds, must fit within a 24-inch cube, and must be built only from the raw materials supplied to them by the local hub.
Industry and academic coaches act as mentors for the students, encouraging and guiding them as they design and build their robots. In the BEST process, students remain the primary decision-makers and builders.
Teams are organized geographically into “Hubs” consisting of at least eight schools. The BEST program is made possible through a collaboration of teachers, technical mentors, corporate and academic hub volunteers, and funding sponsors. Each hub depends on a business, university, or other organizations willing to coordinate area teams. Funding is obtained from local sponsors.
Kick Off Day occurs on a Saturday in September. The local hub brings together the teams signed up to compete and unveils the playing field, game theme, and rules for the year. Up until this day, the playing field and challenge have been kept secret from the teams. Teams are introduced to the game, the rules are discussed, and the kits are distributed. The event usually lasts a couple of hours. A high school gym or similar facility is typically used, with the playing field being set up on the court.
Mall/Practice Day takes place on the Saturday of the fifth week of the competition. The local hub sets up the playing field at a local mall and teams are encouraged to sign-up for practice driving times throughout the day. The purpose is to provide practice, but, typically, teams come to “borrow” (i.e., steal) ideas from other teams about robot functionality (or lack thereof). It’s also a great way to generate interest in the upcoming game. Hubs usually invite television and newspaper coverage to help promote the competition.
Game Day occurs six weeks after Kick Off Day. It is typically a one-day event that merges the excitement of a high school basketball game with the strategy of a chess match and intellectual challenge of a science fair. Bands, cheerleaders and family cheer their teams on in the competition. Many hubs host the game in local high school gyms that can accommodate several hundred and upwards to a thousand guests. The gym floor is more or less divided in half, with one half containing the playing field and the other half containing what is called “the Pit”-sort of like the pit stop in a NASCAR race. Each team is provided a table on which to work on their machine between matches.
Somewhere in the vicinity of the facility is an area where the BEST Award components are judged. The components can include: a project summary notebook, describing and detailing how the team’s machine was designed and constructed); an oral presentation; and a table display. Professionals from industry and academia volunteer to serve as judges. An awards ceremony caps the full day of competition.
Adapted from Jubilee BEST Robotics