Grove City College BEST Robotics competition kicks off Saturday as scores of students from area middle and high schools assemble on campus to begin work on their animatronic entries for this year’s contest.
The competition, now in its ninth year at the College and previously known as Wolverine BEST, is part of BEST Robotics, Inc., a nationwide non-profit, volunteer organization whose mission is to engage, excite and inspire young people to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology through competition. The program is free and open to all students of public, private and home schools.
But it isn’t your typical science fair. Held in Grove City College’s Arena, BEST plays out like a sporting event, with hundreds of fans packing the bleachers to cheer on their teams. Some schools even send mascots and pep bands. Along with the game day action, BEST teams make marketing presentations detailing their robot’s design, construction and mission. Teams are judged both on the performance of their robots and these presentations.
Game Day is set for Oct. 27. Marketing presentations will be made on Oct. 26 during a trade show-like event at the College. The BEST buildup also includes a demonstration on Oct. 13 at Ross Park Mall. Winners of the Grove City College event will compete at a new regional competition, Pittsburgh BEST, on Nov. 27 and 28 at Carnegie Science Center and Heinz Field.
On Saturday, students will learn about the competition and be supplied with materials to build their robots. This year’s theme, Current Events, challenges the robot builders with gathering and recycling plastic pollution from garbage gyres in the ocean. The gyres, for purposes of the game, are wide baskets filled with plastic bottles and golf balls that the student-designed and -built robots will pick up and move.
Grove City College’s Dr. Mike Bright, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, started BEST at the College and ran the program for many years. He serves on the board of directors of the national BEST organization, which is based in Pittsburgh. Over the years, many Grove City College students have volunteered their time to the competition.
New Grove City College BEST Robotics co-director Phil Rosenstern ’10, who works as a controls and automation engineer for Komatsu Mining Corp., graduated the year before the competition started at his alma mater, but he’s been involved in various capacities since its inception.
Rosenstern – who shares director duties with Scott Jaillet, electrical engineering technician at Grove City College – says it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and encourage area students.
“I've watched many BEST students go on to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educations and subsequent careers,” Rosenstern said.
Twenty-three school groups from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio are participating in the competition. They are: Altoona High School, Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy, Christian Life Academy, Clarion Area High School, Commodore Perry High School, Cornerstone Prep, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Eden Christian Academy, Ellwood City High School, Franklin Area Junior/Senior High School, Family Instructors of the North Suburbs, Grove City Area Homeschoolers, Grove City High School, Grove City Middle School, Holy Trinity School, Kennedy Catholic High School, Mohawk High School, Plum Senior High School, Redeemer Lutheran School Sharpsville High School, Slippery Rock High School, West Middlesex High School and Union Area High School.
If you are interested in volunteering to help out with Grove City College Best Robotics, contact Danielle Bryan, volunteer coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-458-2175.
Materials are provided by sponsors, including the Elliott Group, a Jeannette, Pa.,-based company that designs, manufacturers and services turbomachinery for a global clientele. Grove City College BEST organizers continue to seek sponsors for the ongoing effort. Anyone interested in sponsoring BEST should contact the Office of Development at Grove City College at 724-458-2991.