Schools from across northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma will compete in the annual River Valley BEST Robotics Competition Oct. 19 from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus, a competition to determine who can engineer a robot to best fit the year’s thematic criteria.
Sept. 7 kicked off the competition, when each team was given a kit and the theme of this year’s event, which is “Gatekeeper.” Competitors will work to upgrade the central processing unit (CPU) of an outdated robot named “Squeaky.”
“The BEST Robotics motto has always been ‘no robot left behind,’ but one challenge remains: Squeaky, the original BEST robot, needs serious upgrades to become Squeaky 2.0,” an overview of the competition stated.
The schools have 42 days to design and engineer a CPU, which they will showcase at the competition day on Oct. 19 at the Stubblefield Center. A practice day will also be held on Oct. 5 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Judging criteria for the competition includes each team’s robot performance, engineering notebook, marketing strategy, and sportsmanship.
John Martini of Fort Smith, assistant professor of electronics technology at UAFS and director of River Valley BEST, said this year’s event will be a “challenge” for the students.
“This year’s competition will be a new challenge for the teams with the opportunity to showcase their robot programming skills,” he said.
Participating teams from Fort Smith include Southside and Northside high schools, Fort Smith Home School, Kimmons/Darby Junior High, Faith Home School, Chaffin Junior High and Western Arkansas Technical Center at UAFS.
Other participating schools from Arkansas are Cedarville High School, Lincoln Junior High, Fayetteville High School, Lamar High School, Ramay Junior High, J.D. Leftwich High School and Woodland Junior High.
Schools from Oklahoma include Muldrow High School and the Tulsa Engineering Academy at Memorial.
BEST stands for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology and is a non-profit volunteer-based organization. BEST seeks to engage students in engineering-related activities situated in real-world working environments, hoping to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related fields.
UAFS has participated in the robotics competition since 2003, and UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran has been directly involved in the event since his hiring in 2006.
“BEST is a great opportunity to show off our beautiful campus and city to both local and out-of-state middle to high school students, their parents, and their teachers,” Beran said.
The event is open to the public, and admission is free. For more information, contact Martini by telephone at 479-788-7772 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.