Falcon BEST Robotics competition gets high school students fired up

BGSU to host event Oct. 28 at the Stroh Center

By Bob Cunningham

It used to be if you asked a group of children what they want to be when they grow up, one of them will say firefighter. Ask kids today the same question and they might say a robotics engineer who builds firefighting robots.  

At least that’s the hope of the Falcon BEST Robotics 2017 competition from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Stroh Center. It is the fifth consecutive year that Bowling Green State University has hosted the event. BEST stands for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology.   

There are 18 high school teams competing in this year’s competition, which has a fire safety theme. In addition to the students competing for a chance to advance to the regional in Fargo, North Dakota, there are a multitude of awards up for grabs.  

Each year, the BEST Robotics competition grows more exciting and the Stroh Center can expect to have a fun and festive vibe. The event is hosted by BGSU, the College of Technology, Architecture, and Applied Engineering (CTAAE) and Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education (NWO).

“Imagine 18 schools, parents and supporters coming to watch, so there will be more than 500 people there cheering and supporting their teams,” said Dr. Mohammad Mayyas, BGSU's Falcon BEST hub director and an associate professor of engineering technologies. “They bring their pep bands and play music, so the atmosphere is more like a football or basketball game. Also, hosting the event in the Stroh Center promotes a sports environment.”

The teams are required to design and build a prototype robot to rescue a fire test mannequin, contain dangerous chemicals and extinguish flames during a three-minute match. A robot can score points by performing each objective — the faster the accomplishment, the higher the score.

The goal of BEST Inc. is to help students decide on career choices early, especially ones related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  

“Robotics design is an excellent tool to boost the STEM field,” Mayyas said. “Because we are able to host this competition, it helps with our recruitment to our mechatronics and robotics program.”   

Sponsors of the event include BGSU, CTAAE, the College of Business, NWO, Lathrop and First Solar.