BEST Robotics Competition Gears Up for 2011 Program Growth

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Partnership with VEX Robotics, Inc. Sparks National and International Interest in Annual Fall Competition

BEST (“Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology”) Middle and High School Robotics Competition today announced its Fall 2010 workshop schedule for those interested in bringing the BEST program to their communities. BEST’s multi-year partnership with VEX Robotics, Inc. in concert with an increased national and international commitment to robotics education, has generated unprecedented interest in spurring licensed BEST competitions in cities across the U.S. and in Canada.

"Forming a partnership with VEX Robotics and integrating their state-of-the-art VEXnet control system into our competition has had a tremendous impact on our program,” said Dr. George Blanks, Executive Director of BEST Robotics. “We’re experiencing more widespread interest in BEST than ever before in our 18-year history, and much of it is a direct result of our partnership with VEX Robotics, because of the quality of its products, and its reputation among robotics enthusiasts. The exposure we’ve had as a result of VEX becoming a National Sponsor has exceeded our expectations.”

Also fueling interest in BEST is the urgent need expressed by government, educational institutions, and industry, to come up with innovative ways to boost interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers among middle and high school students.

“Manufacturers, in particular, have long been bemoaning the fact that the applicant pool of highly qualified, highly skilled potential employees is getting smaller,” added Blanks. “Likewise, STEM programs of study at community colleges and universities are largely suffering from flat-line enrollment. Both stakeholder groups are looking for fresh, innovative and high-tech ways to attract students, and are turning to BEST as one solution.”

Thousands of BEST students currently benefit from using the powerful VEX Cortex Microcontroller, and they are also learning how to program their robots utilizing advanced software provided with the VEX Cortex Microcontroller.

VEX’s programming software partners and BEST National Sponsors, intelitek, developer of easyC, and The Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University, developer of ROBOTC, both donated licenses of their software to every BEST team as has BEST’s newest National Sponsor, MathWorks, the world’s leading developer of mathematical computing software, and SolidWorks, which has been providing free Student Edition mechanical CAD design software since 2005.

These high-tech advancements make for a unique marriage with BEST’s founding philosophy of being a student-driven, student-built competition. “The fundamental principle of our program is that learning is optimized when students are given a hands-on, real world engineering challenge,” added BEST co-founder Ted Mahler, an engineer with Texas Instruments in Sherman, TX. “BEST kids get their hands dirty and learn how to work with tools. So not only do they have to build a robot from ‘scratch,’ they have to learn how to program it, as well.”

“As an educator, what attracted me to BEST ten years ago was the transformation I saw in the students,” Blanks shared. “They go into it just to have fun building a robot, but what happens across the six weeks of the design phase of the program is nothing short of amazing. They start thinking like problem solvers and troubleshooters. They discover competencies and abilities they didn’t know they had. BEST students are exactly what we need in our two-year technical programs, engineering schools, and the workforce.”

BEST hosts its annual fall training workshops for community colleges, universities, professional engineering and technology organizations, industries, or groups of individuals interested in starting a BEST “hub” (licensed, local competition host site). The workshops are held at each of BEST’s three regional championship host sites: the University of North Texas (Denton); University of Arkansas—Fort Smith; and Auburn University (AL). Details about the workshops can be found at http://www.bestinc.org.

About BEST Robotics, Inc.
BEST Robotics is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to engage, excite, and inspire middle and high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers through participation in a sports-like, six-week long, fall robotics competition. Started in 1993 as a competition for 14 area schools in rural Sherman, Texas, BEST has become the largest school-based robotics competition in the U.S. and the only one free to schools. This fall, over 850 schools, 12,500 students, and 4500 volunteers are participating at 39 licensed competition sites in 15 states. Over 40 community colleges, technical schools, and universities are actively involved each year. Visit http://www.bestinc.org or http://www.robotevents.com for more information.

About VEX Robotics, Inc. and Innovation First International:
VEX Robotics, Inc. is a subsidiary of Innovation First International, a privately held corporation, which was founded on the belief that innovation very early in the design process is necessary to produce simple and elegant product designs. Innovation First began producing electronics for unmanned mobile ground robots and is now an industry leader in the hobby, competition, education and toy markets.

The company’s three subsidiaries, VEX Robotics, Inc., Innovation First Labs, Inc. (makers of HEXBUG Micro Robotic Creatures), and RackSolutions, Inc. span the education, consumer and business-to-business markets. The VEX Robotics Competition was launched in 2007, designed to give a diverse group of students the chance to celebrate their accomplishments and share their passion for robotics with each other.

Leveraging the company’s core competency in electrical and mechanical engineering, the RackSolutions division works closely with all major computer OEMs to provide custom mounting solutions and industry-wide rack compatibility for data installations of all sizes.

In 2009 the company added offices in Hong Kong, China and the United Kingdom to better serve the global marketplace. This network was expanded to Canada in 2010 with the addition of an office, warehouse and distribution center located in Toronto. With an advanced in-house metal fabrication plant, distribution center and corporate office located together in a 13-acre complex in Greenville, Texas, the company is poised to continue on a rapid growth path. Please visit http://www.innovationfirst.com for additional information.

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Dr. George Blanks
BEST Robotics, Inc. / Auburn University
(334) 703-0077
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Lindsey Carlin
Cohn & Wolfe
(310) 967-2908
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