Our Family

Our Family

Sunday, November 6, 2016

BEST Robotics Competition

 Last spring, Howard County 4 H added a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Club for ages 9 and up that would meet once a quarter unless there was something special that was going on then.  My boys main project area is Utilizing Science and Technology so we were very excited to sign up for this new club.  We had a meeting in the spring and one over the summer each with different topics and discussed things that were upcoming that we may be interested in working on, one of which was the BEST Robotics competition.

The club leader contacted me in July and said that she had found what what we needed to do to get a spot in this competition and asked me if I would be willing to help coach the team.  Neither of us had much experience although her son had competed with a team last year and she had attended a competition.  We decided to try and form a team and secure our spot in the contest.

We ended up with 10 team members.  The team had to consist of students in 6th grade and up.  We were supplied with a box of items that we needed to use to build a robot, the software to program it, and a controller and batteries.  We were given 6 weeks to complete our project and had to be in Little Rock on November 5th to compete.  The theme was Down on the Farm.  Robots would have to complete different farming tasks in a 3 minute period to earn points.  Each task was worth a different amount of points.  Each team would complete in 5 rounds and the top seven teams plus a wild card  would move on to the semi final round.  The top 4 teams from the semi finals would complete in the finals and move on to the next competition.

There were several different things we had to do:

We had to have a journal recording everything we had done over the 6 week time period.  This I have to say is easy for 4 hers because we have to turn in a journal every year.  We recorded the minutes of all of our meetings, included our discussions and plans on design. scoring matrix, t-shirt design, pictures, and more.

We had to design and build a marketing booth.  Team members had to be present at the booth during the competition and had to answer questions about the process the team followed and on the topic.

We had to build and program a robot.  We also had to decide what tasks our drivers should attempt to complete to gain as many points as we could.  We had 5 different drivers and 2 spotters.  The spotters could encourage the drivers, help tell them what to do, and drop their seeds down a shoot (golf balls down pvc pipes) for the driver to plant.

We ran into a few snags over the 6 week period.  We were missing some items in our kit and had to wait for them to be shipped.  We had trouble downloading the software.  We had a piece of wire that did not work and had to wait again for them to ship us a new one.  We did not know until 2 days before our journals had to be mailed that we had to include a research paper!  And our club had no money.  Since we are a brand new club we have not done any kind of fundraising.  We got a $30 donation from Walmart that we put towards the booth supplies but we had to keep things pretty simple.  But the robot was completed and programmed, the booth was planned and built, and the journal was completed on time and shipped out.

Game day arrived. We had a two hour drive to Little Rock and had to be there by 8:30 in the morning.  32 teams were signed up for the competition and our team was the only non school team.

We got the booth built.

 Checked in the robot and waited for our turn.  Teams that have to drive more then an hour do not go in the first round.

There were two playing fields and 4 teams competed at one time.  Each round lasted 3 minutes.  During that time you could: turn the water valve, put pigs in a pen, harvest corn, pick tomatoes and lettuce and put them in a bin, and plant seeds.  The driver and the spotter had to stand in a taped off area and could not touch the robot once the match started.

We were in blue Nick and Charlie were waiting for their round to start

Alex getting ready to drive

Nick getting ready to spot for Josh

Nick putting the robot in the gate

Nick carrying the robot to the pits

Closer look at the robot

After round 3 we were in 2nd place!  After the 5th round we were in 4th place and headed to the semi final!

We had to drive three rounds in the semi final.

Alex driving in the semi final

After that we did not make it to the finals.  We were around 30 points below the winning teams.

My younger children were so well behaved!  They had to sit for a long time!

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot!  We ended up winning the BEST Rookie Award and the BEST Research Journal.  I was so proud of our team!

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