Home-School Robotics Team Aims For The Top

By Steven Nalley

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – For Michael Lane, one of the hardest parts of building a home-school robotics team was finding a place for all the students to work on the robots.

Lane, director of the Starkville Christian Home Educators Robotics team, said the team was small enough to meet at his house when it first formed. In the five years since, he said, the team has long outgrown his home, swelling to 35 students this year.

“By the second year, we had grown to 22 students,” Lane said. “Thankfully, the electrical and computer engineering department at Mississippi State University has graciously allowed us to meet in two of their classrooms.”

The SCHE Robotics team has become a perennial winner at the Mississippi Boosting Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) competition hosted each year by MSU. The team is gearing up to aim for the top again at this year’s competition Oct. 27 at Starkville High School.

The competition will kicked off Sept. 15 at Raspet Flight Laboratory, Lane said, giving the students six weeks to not only design and build a robot, but also create marketing material, build display booths, write oral presentations and spread word about the competition to the area.

Generally, there are two ways to advance from Mississippi BEST to a regional South’s BEST competition at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., he said. First, a team can place in the top two in the actual competition among robots, he said, and second, a team can place in the top two for the BEST Award, which measures a team’s performance in not only robotics, but all the team’s other activities.

“SCHE has been blessed to have done well over the past four years,” Lane said. “Last year, and three years ago, SCHE Robotics took first place for the BEST Award at Mississippi BEST. Two years ago, we came in third place for the BEST Award.

“Currently, there isn’t a national competition, so the regional competition is the final stop. The South’s BEST regional hub has schools from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and teams from local hubs out of the New England area.”

The types of robots BEST competitors build varies from year to year, Lane said, and the age range for members of SCHE Robotics is 9-18.

“Students have had to move Mars colony supplies (represented by bottles and boxes) from a landing site to the colony,” Lane said. “They have had to make a robot that could assemble a small model airplane. This past year, the students had to make a robot that could recapture genetic bugs that had escaped from a lab.”

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