This weekend at Grove City College, nearly two dozen student-built robots will face off in a life and death challenge.
Twenty-two teams from middle- and high-schools across the region will compete in Wolverine BEST presented by Elliott Group, a mashup of a science fair and a sporting event, complete with cheering crowds, team mascots, pep bands and all “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” moments that come with it.
Wolverine BEST is a regional robotics competition now in its eighth year at Grove City College, which is one of just two Pennsylvania colleges to serve as a hub for BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) Robotics, Inc., a nationwide non-profit, volunteer organization whose mission is to inspire middle through high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM.)
The teams have been working on their robots since September when they were presented with this year’s challenge – building a robot that can save lives and extinguish industrial fires – and materials to build their robots. Those materials were provided by Wolverine BEST’s lead sponsor, Elliott Group, a Jeannette, Pa.-based company that designs, manufacturers and services turbomachinery for a global clientele and is committed to advancing STEM education.
The action begins at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13 when the teams converge on campus to set up display booths and make engineering and marketing presentations about the robots they’ve built for the competition. These will take place in the Hall of Arts and Letters and the Physical Learning Center on campus.
Game day begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 in the Arena of the Physical Learning Center where an elaborate robot battlefield is set up. The field mimics a burning industrial site where human life, in the form of a fire test manikin, is in danger, containers of “dangerous” chemicals pose an environmental hazard and a simulated fire is burning.
The students were tasked with designing a robot that can rescue the manikin, contain the chemicals and extinguish the flames. Points are awarded based on how well their robots perform in the game, the quality of their project documentation, sales presentation, company exhibit and even their company culture and business ethics.
Schools participating in Wolverine BEST presented by Elliott Group are: Clarion Area High School; Cornerstone Prep; Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy; FINS (Family Instructors of the North Hills); Grove City High School; Mercer Area High School; Slippery Rock Middle School; Union Area High School; West Middlesex High School; Christian Life Academy; Commodore Perry High School; Grove City Area Homeschoolers; Kennedy Catholic High School; Franklin Junior-Senior High School; Holy Trinity School; Redeemer Lutheran School; Grove City Middle School; Glenoak High School; Eden Christian Academy; Mentor Christian Academy; Plum Senior High School; and New Castle High School.
Wolverine BEST serves as an opportunity for Grove City College to showcase its nationally ranked engineering program. Dr. Mike Bright, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Wolverine BEST at Grove City College and now serves as a board member of the national organization, which recently moved its headquarters to Pittsburgh from Texas.
Wolverine BEST’s game day coincides with Grove City College’s Discovery Day admissions event, which highlights academic departments in the College’s Hopeman School of Science, Engineering and Mathematics, including Computer and Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Exercise Science & Athletics.
Elliott Group became the competition’s lead sponsor last year. The company is committed to support BEST’s ultimate goal, which is to inspire students to pursue degrees and careers in critical STEM disciplines.
“Wolverine BEST would not be possible without the sponsorship of Elliott Group,” Grove City College Development Officer Tim Richart said. “Their support makes it possible for students to discover their talents and develop STEM-discipline knowledge and skills that are critical to advancing the common good. It says a lot about the company’s values and its commitment to helping the scientists, engineers and mathematicians of tomorrow.”
The event also enjoys support from Procter Fire Protection and Grove City College.