Move is BEST for area students, prof contends

Grove City College is looking forward to continuing and strengthening its connection to BEST Robotics as the nonprofit committed to inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) moves its national headquarters to Pittsburgh.

Serving as the Wolverine BEST Hub, the College has organized and hosted the BEST robotics contest for area middle and high school students for nearly a decade. It draws hundreds of student competitors, teachers, friends and families to campus, where student-built robots perform a series of tasks as part of larger game. Teams also make formal presentations about the robot-building process.

"The BEST program encompasses learning beyond STEM and has had measurable impact among the students who participate. There are many individual stories of students who decided they could go to college or major in a STEM field based on their BEST participation," Dr. Mike Bright, chairman of the College’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a member of BEST’s national board of directors, said.

Having the national headquarters just down the Interstate can only be good news for those students and institutions like Grove City College that support BEST and want to see the organization’s efforts expand, Bright said.

“When we started Wolverine Best in 2010, we reached out to schools up to an hour and half away from the College with a long-term goal of starting new hubs, or competition sites, adjacent to that area. A few years ago, with our help, Penn State DuBois BEST Hub started. We are working with other colleges and universities in the region to establish hubs,” Bright said. “More hubs mean more students get the chance to participate.”

BEST’s move to Pittsburgh and last year’s appointment of new Executive Director Rosemary Mendel, who has a long history in non-profit fundraising in the region, “can only help us develop new hubs and possibly secure a regional competition site in the region,” Bright said. Currently, winners of the Wolverine and Penn State Dubois contests must travel to North Dakota to compete regionally. “Pittsburgh would be dramatically better,” he said.

BEST Robotics, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that stands for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology. Supported by volunteer educators, BEST provides schools with a free robotics design education program and competition with the goal of inspiring students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each year, thousands of students from more than 850 high schools and middle schools nationwide participate in BEST Robotics regional competitions. It was previously headquartered in Georgetown, Texas.

BEST Robotics reports an 88-percent increase in computer and technology aptitude among students who participate in the competition and a 77-percent increase in their interest in STEM. Long-term tracking of student participants shows that nearly 50 percent later chose STEM-related college majors.

Learn more about Electrical and Computer Engineering at Grove City College.

Move is BEST for area students, prof contends

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