GARLAND — The Tom Bean High School robotics team received a finalist plaque for finishing fourth at the Texas BEST Regional Championship earlier this month, as well as a second place for best team shirt.
BEST — which stands for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology — is a nationwide learning competition for high school students that was created by engineers at the Texas Instruments facility in Sherman 20 years ago. Robotics teams participating in the annual competition receive a box of parts and have six weeks to build a remote-controlled robot that can solve a problem on a game field.
The challenge for this year focused on a fictional company that built a space elevator and needed robots to transport materials to a space station. To simulate this, teams were asked to build a robot that could carry whiffle balls and empty two-liter soda bottles up and down a 10-foot pole.
The Tom Bean team, known as the Robocats, finished just shy of receiving a trophy in the game portion of the contest, which was held at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Curtis Culwell Center on Nov. 9-11. The game division covers the performance and durability of the robots, while the BEST award focuses on the marketing side of the competition. The Robocats also took home a second place plaque in the best team shirt category for their entry, designed by team member Bethany Davidson. The shirt depicts a space elevator starting in Tom Bean and heading up to the Coco BEST Space Station — a reference to the Collin County BEST tournament the team won to advance to the championship.
“I think it was her excellent letter of explanation that won the prize as much as the art design on the shirt,” team sponsor Diane Getrum said of Davidson.
After winning the Collin County hub in late October, the Tom Bean squad had two weeks to make adjustments and prepare for the regional championship against teams representing the rest of Texas and parts of New Mexico.
“Between the CoCo BEST competition and the Texas BEST competition, we made small tweaks to the (robot’s) design and focused on driver practice,” Getrum said. “When we met the competition we wished we had tweaked a little more and practiced lots more. Third place was in our grasp, but slipped away with a couple of driver errors. Still, fourth place in all of Texas is pretty sweet.”
The Robocats were made up of six veteran members and six members new to the BEST competition. Team members Stacy Welch, Jarrett Thrasher, Garrett Morris, Tucker Davidson and Nolan Peeples — with the help of Kaleb Patterson and Chance Walker — drove the robot through the 11 matches spread through the seeding, semifinals and finals rounds.
“Each time they stepped into the driver’s box these students stood before an audience of perhaps 500 noisy fans,” Getrum explained. “Kaleb drove a perfect round tying for the Top Gun award for most points scored in one match. All the drivers performed well under pressure, proving that their hours of practice were worthwhile.”
For the finals, Patterson and Walker ran the pit — setting the robot on the pole at the beginning of each match, managing the batteries and performing any needed repairs.
“Thanks to them, there were no loose wires during the championship,” Getrum said in reference to an issue that almost cost the team first place at the Collin County hub. “While other teams frantically remodeled and rebuilt their machines, the Tom Bean pit was quiet. No repairs were necessary.”
Bethany Davidson also served as team ambassador and spent the morning escorting representatives from a banking firm around the competition.
“Since she had worked on all aspects of the competition over the past two years she was able to describe how the construction side of the competition complimented the marketing side,” Getrum said.
BreeAnna Benson coordinated team efforts by text and Cheyenne Mobbs toured the exhibits gathering ideas for next year’s competition.
“Since the competition, we have been showing the robot off to rest of the school, hoping a few more students will join our team,” Getrum added.