University Helps Youths' STEM Skills Take Root at BEST Robotics Event
Feb. 16, 2017
Fans and marching bands cheered on their teams at the recent Texas BEST & UIL State Robotics Championship, hosted by UT Dallas, as students competed to see whose robot could best harvest crops — whiffle balls painted red to mimic tomatoes on the vine and yellow paint rollers representing ripe corn on the stalk.
Held in December at the Dr Pepper Arena and Frisco Convention Center, the event gave middle and high school students hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and challenged them with complex engineering problems. Volunteers from industry and UT Dallas helped promote careers in STEM fields by encouraging future engineers and scientists at the competition.
The competition's theme, “Bet the Farm,” challenged students to design and build a robot to perform farming operations. Teams scored points by performing various tasks such as harvesting crops, corralling loose pigs and planting seeds.
A team from a small school in East Texas earned its second straight championship. The Martin’s Mill High School team was named the Texas Instruments Game Competition winner and took home the UIL State Championship in its grouping for the second consecutive year.
Its robot, painted in bright green and yellow to resemble a John Deere tractor, was designed to quickly maneuver through the obstacle course with speed and precision. Its design was named “Most Elegant Robot” by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
“This is all we did all year long,” Martin’s Mill junior Guillaume Wandres said. “We practiced and worked really hard to get to keep our No. 1 spot.”
Since 2011, UT Dallas’ Science and Engineering Education Center and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science have hosted the event, which brings together students from Texas and New Mexico. The event also was funded in part by Texas Instruments, State Farm, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Dell, MathWorks, Rockwell and Lockheed Martin.