BEST stands for Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, and is a national program with fifty local competition sites in eighteen states. It is administered by BEST Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization, that sets curriculum and competition standards. The mission of BEST is to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through participation in a competitive robotics program that fosters knowledge, teamwork, and communication. A major tenet of the program is that it is free to schools; there is no cost for provided robotics materials nor to enter a team.
Each year, middle and high school student teams are tasked with building a robot to compete against other schools in that year's challenge. Each challenge is based on an educational model. Previous models include "Just Plane Crazy", in which students learned about aeronautics and built a simple model airplane with their robot; and "Total Recall" in which students studied six-sigma to optimize manufacturing.
The robotics competition is a high-energy sports-like environment but good sportsmanship is essential. Student-driven robots compete against the challenges of the game, not other robots. Each year's game theme and playing field is revealed in mid-September. Teams are given six weeks to design and build their robot before entering their local competition.
In addition to robotics, the most coveted award of the program is the BEST Award. To compete, students must provide an engineering notebook, give an oral marketing presentation, construct an educational exhibit, and show excellent team spirit and sportsmanship. BEST uses the excitement of robotics to teach engineering and business processes.
Co-founded in 2001 by the Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and College of Sciences and Mathematics, the War Eagle BEST* hub was an instant success as 22 Alabama teams competed in "RAD to the Core," a game in which students designed and built a robot that runs on an overhead track to move fuel rods from nuclear reactors. The enthusiastic support from participating schools in 2001 encouraged growth of the BEST Robotics program throughout the state.
Today, the state of Alabama is home to eleven BEST Robotics hubs. War Eagle BEST serves as the BEST hub for middle and high schools in the following East Central Alabama counties: Autauga, Bullock, Chambers, Coosa, Crenshaw, Elmore, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Russell, and Tallapoosa. In addition, War Eagle BEST accepts teams from West Georgia, as space is available.
Due in part to efforts by Auburn University, industry is now recognizing the BEST program as an ideal workforce development program in the state. The BEST program excels at introducing students to the engineering design process allowing student participants to become technically proficient. Technical skills acquired during BEST will serve the state's students in the future as more high tech industries arrive in Alabama.
The War Eagle BEST program kicks-off each August with the competition hosted in October. The top teams advance to one of three regional competitions. The eastern region's competition, South's BEST, is also hosted by Auburn University.
*War Eagle BEST was formerly called Alabama BEST