As an introduction to our program, please browse the information below. To make the information on this page more manageable, it has been organized like a FAQ page.
|1.||What is BEST?|
|2.||Why have a BEST hub in rural Oklahoma?|
|3.||Where is Heartland BEST?|
|4.||I know nothing of robotics, but I think my students might be interested in forming a team. What does it take on my part as a teacher?|
|5.||What are Heartland BEST's workshops?|
|6.||How is Heartland BEST funded?|
What is BEST?
The BEST program is a non-profit operation that offers an impressionable "high-tech" robotics competition to middle school and high school students at no cost to the students or schools. BEST Robotics Inc. (BRI) is the official national non-profit organization to which local hubs are a party of. Many but not all local hubs are run and operated through colleges and universities by volunteering faculty and community members.
As a local hub, we provide equipment needed to for each team to construct a robot as well as the equipment required to operate and power the robot. This equipment is categorized into two types: kit parts we expect to be consumed (the consumable kit), and kit parts that are recycled each year (the returnable kit).
We also construct the playing field for demonstration on our "Kickoff Day" and for use by teams for practice on "Mall Day" and competition on "Game Day." The playing field is new each year, so teams must essentially start from scratch to accomplish new tasks every year. As a local BEST hub, we advance our winning teams to regional competition where our BEST teams compete with other teams in surrounding states. There is not currently a national competition.
There are two titles BEST robotics teams compete for. The Game Award goes to the team whose robot out performs the other robots in round-robin competition. The more prestigious BEST Award is awarded to the team whose documented efforts, design process, and oral presentations best exemplify engineering and scientific endeavors. The winner of the BEST Award is not necessarily the winner of the Game Award. In each category, teamwork and sportsmanship are integral; unsportsmanlike activities will greatly reduce a team's ability to win the competition.
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Why have a BEST hub in rural Oklahoma?
We at Heartland BEST are very enthusiastic about the opportunities a BEST hub in northwestern Oklahoma presents to area students, school districts, industries, and sponsors. Both middle school and high school students benefit directly from participating in a process very similar to what engineering teams experience worldwide as they design, prototype, and test their work. School districts supporting BEST teams get the chance to see their students gain experiences which otherwise might not be available to them due to cost and availability of materials. Industries and sponsors can take advantage of BEST to become more involved with their community's youth by providing mentors to work with area BEST teams and/or by making donations for the required equipment. Whatever the level of participation, the net result is an increased interest in engineering, science, and technology among students through an intense experience no one involved will likely forget.
What makes Heartland BEST's location especially poignant is that this "high-tech" opportunity (more typical of school districts of larger cities like Houston, Dallas, Cincinnati, Wichita, Philadelphia, Ft. Smith, Auburn, to name a few) are now available to school districts in some of the smallest and most rural of townships of Oklahoma and Kansas. And the best of all, it's free.
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Where is Heartland BEST?
Kickoff and Game Day are held on the campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, OK. Mall Day is held at Oakwood Mall in Enid, OK. Alva, OK is located in northwestern Oklahoma; about 1 hour west of I-35 along route 11. The two nearest local BEST hubs to Heartland BEST are Kansas BEST (Wichita, KS) and OK BEST (Edmond, OK). For a map of the two BEST hubs in Oklahoma, see our OK map.
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I know nothing of robotics, but I think my students might be interested in forming a team. What does it take on my part as a teacher?
Teachers sponsoring a team become the coach for that team. As the team coach you could best serve your team as an extra-curricular sponsor would manage a club after regular school hours. The students should be the ones brainstorming, designing, and working on the robot. Alternatively, some schools have developed a fall robotics course as a means of incorporating the program into the curriculum. Either way, your role would primarily be to help seek out resources.
To assist your team's engineering process, it is strongly recommended teams work with at least one mentor (preferably two or three). Ideally, mentors are practicing engineers who can donate their time and expertise to guide the team in the engineering process and help students build their robot by teaching them how to operate any necessary tools or machinery. Often, parents of team members, volunteers from the community, or team coaches are experienced enough to fill this role. If you are a Heartland BEST team and need assistance finding a mentor, do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.
What's so interesting about the BEST robotics competition (especially if competing for the BEST Award) is that you will soon discover that often times those who know little to nothing of robotics may have as much to offer the team as those who do. In other words, do not let yourself be intimidated by not knowing much of robotics. At its core, robotics is really just applied physical science.
If you are interested in starting a team but have questions, don't hesitate to contact us!
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What are Heartland BEST's workshops?
To help teams get started in the BEST program, Heartland BEST has offered optional workshops following kit pickup on Kickoff since 2003. Teams participating in the workshops receive free tools to help them construct their robot along with a robotics book (the robotics book given away is different each year). Volunteers from the community lead 30-minute workshops relevant to the BEST competition. Past workshop titles have included:
R/C's & Batteries
Torque & Gears
Drills & Taps
Game Scoring Considerations
BEST Award Tips
Kit Material Considerations
Feedback from coaches on the workshops has been positive and we are continually working to improve their content, structure, and relevance to team members. And of course, there is no cost to the teams for participation in the workshops.
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How is Heartland BEST funded?
As you may have already determined, maintaining the required equipment for teams year after year adds up to a significant cost. In addition, Heartland BEST also obtains funds for awards, team travel funds for regional competition, facility rentals, office supplies, and yearly BRI copyright/insurance costs for hosting successful Heartland BEST competitions.
For perspective, in our first year of operation (2002) the projected cost of hosting 12 teams was $25,000 to fund all of the start up costs. Although following years have had reduced operating costs resulting from re-use of much of the returnable kits, our hub size has grown to host 25 high school and middle school teams. The net result an annual projected budget of $20,000 to $25,000.
In short, the answer to the above question is that our funding comes from generous monetary and in-kind donations of our sponsors. Local hubs do not receive funding from the national organization, BRI. As a local hub, Heartland BEST actively seeks out sponsorship from entities in the immediate area and beyond. Please see our "Thank You" page for a history of all of our sponsors and for an idea of sponsorship levels.
To summarize, we at Heartland BEST truly feel this is a great opportunity for companies and industries to give back to the community and inspire interest in engineering, science, and technology among our youth. One can hardly argue with the notion that we all share a collective responsibility for promoting quality engineers for the future. With new and continued support of future sponsors, we only see Heartland BEST's efforts to these ends improving.
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