Robots in action
Competition drives home STEM lessons
By Julie Carle
The Falcon BEST Robotics Competition on Saturday (Oct. 26) was intense. The crowds were cheering and clapping for their favorite teams. A pep band and electric guitarist played upbeat tunes to keep the energy level high in between matches. And if you didn't know any better you might have thought you were watching an NCAA basketball tournament in Anderson Arena.
But instead of athletes competing against one another, the participants on the court were computer geeks and whiz kids intently focused on making their teams' robots work. The contest, hosted by Bowling Green State University, was the culmination of six weeks of effort by nearly 300 students from 14 area middle and high schools.
"This is a wonderful way to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics with hands-on, problem-solving experiences". Gatekeeper 2013, this year's theme, required the teams' robots to move inventory in different stages. The higher the difficulty of movement, the more points the robots earned.
The top-producing robot was designed and built by Findlay High School. The Elmwood High School team won second place, followed by the St. Mary Central Catholic (Sandusky) Panthers and McComb High School Panterbotz in third and fourth place, respectively. The Findlay team also won the Founder's Award and the Most Robust Machine Award.
In addition to the robotics competition, teams were judged on marketing presentations, team displays, team spirit and sportsmanship, and their engineer's notebooks.
The team that "best embodies the concept of Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology" and scores the most points in all elements of the contest earns the BEST Award. The Vanguard Technology Center Bot-tastic Inc. team of Fremont won the awards for BEST T-shirt, spirit and sportsmanship, exhibit and interview, engineering notebook and marketing presentation, which cemented the team winning the first place BEST Award, as well as the awards for engineering notebook, exhibit and interview, marketing presentation, T-shirt and spirit and sportsmanship. Perrysburg High School Creative Processing Unlimited was the second-place BEST Award recipient, and Sylvania Schools Syborgs placed third in the BEST category.
"This robotics competition is an important step in promoting and supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education at Bowling Green State University," BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey announced during the opening ceremony. "This is a wonderful way to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics with hands-on, problem-solving experiences.
"We are so pleased to be a part of this exciting endeavor for these middle and high school students," she added.
Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards applauded the teachers and students for taking on the immense task of building a working robot in six weeks with the supplies and parts provided by the Falcon BEST Hub. He also thanked the families for supporting the students, and the volunteers for making the first-time event happen.
"Good luck to all the teams. You are our future scientists, engineers and leaders," Edwards said.
The success of the event was helped in part by nearly 100 volunteers who served as referees, greeters, runners, scoreboard operators, pit bosses, and marketing and display judges. "We couldn't have accomplished the event without the help and support of the many volunteers and our sponsors – Argo-Hytos, Honda and Lathrop," said Dr. Wayne Unsell, director of the Falcon BEST Hub.