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Fort Smith, Fayetteville students move on in robotics event

A competition among young boosters of engineering, science and technology on Nov. 3 at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith paid off for Chaffin Junior High of Fort Smith with top honors in the annual River Valley BEST Robotics Competition.

High school and middle school students from 11 schools in two states tested their engineering and technological skills in the competitions in the Stubblefield Center, according to John Martini of Fort Smith, a UAFS assistant professor of electronics technology and director of River Valley BEST and Frontier Trails BEST.

Chaffin Junior High won first place in the BEST Award category, given to the team that most embodies the concept of boosting engineering, science and technology. Taking second place was Muldrow/Gans, with the Fayetteville Public Schools in a third place tie with the Western Arkansas Technical Center at UAFS, a program for high school students.

Muldrow/Gans took first place in the separate Robot Competition, with Chaffin taking second, third going to the Western Arkansas Technical Center and fourth to Southside High School of Fort Smith.

Elements of the “BEST Award” include a project summary notebook, oral presentation, table display and spirit and sportsmanship, according to Martini.
 
The other competition is a robotics game that features teams competing in a series of three-minute, round-robin matches.
 
Martini said this year’s robotics game was named "WARP XX" and is based on the concept of re-supplying a space station using a space elevator.
 
“There were a number of scoring strategies for teams to consider,” Martini said. “Scoring was based on removing depleted cargo, fuel and solar panels at a ‘midway station,’ and placing habitation modules and T-structures at the midway station for ongoing space exploration.”
 
“We had some ‘first year’ competitors this year,” Martini said. “They did a real impressive job. Muldrow, Mansfield and Webster Middle School of Oklahoma City are either new or have a new coach, and they all did a superior job.”
 
Martini said the competition was intense with teams only a tenth of a point apart.

Muldrow/Gans, Chaffin Junior High, Western Arkansas Technical Center (WATC) and Fayetteville will advance to the next level of competition, Frontier Trails Regional BEST Championship. It will be at the Fort Smith Convention Center on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Additional winners were:
Founders Award: FIRE (Friends in Robotics Exploration, a home school group) Claremore, Okla.

Most Robust: Chaffin Junior High

Most Elegant: Muldrow/Gans

Most Photogenic: Muldrow Gans

Best T-Shirt: Northside High School of Fort Smith

Web Page: Waldron Middle School

Best Project Notebook: Chaffin Junior High

Best Marketing Presentation: Fayetteville Public Schools

Best Exhibit: Waldron Middle School

Best Spirit and Sportsmanship: Chaffin Junior High

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BEST is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology through participation in sports-like, science and engineering-based competitions, according to UAFS Chancellor Paul Beran. BEST features two parallel competitions.
 
“This is my 12th year promoting BEST in two different states, and I still say it’s the most cost effective and exciting way for school districts to teach and engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Beran said. “I hope we pick up more school districts in the future.”

BEST competitions have been held nationwide, beginning in Texas in 1994. UAFS has been participating since 2003, according to Martini. Student teams design and build a robot which operates on a wireless network and is capable of completing a specific task. The teams are given kits and have six weeks to prepare for the first competition.

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