No Rodney or Ratchet, But Robots Rule!

High-school students will compete in the third annual Bearcat BEST Robotics Competition on Saturday, Oct. 22, beginning at 10 a.m. at Summit Country Day School (2161 Grandin Rd.). Game Day is open to the public. Winners advance to the BEST regional competition in Auburn, Ala.

The national BEST program is designed to promote teamwork, problem solving, project management and pride in task completion within a short time with limited resources.

The resources became even more limited this year, with teams travelling as far as five hours to get to Cincinnati.

“We could barely scrape up enough money to pay for the gas and t-shirts,” says Pike Science and Engineering Academy AP physics instructor and Pike robotics team advisor Robert Steele.

“My students are extremely excited for the Saturday competition. The thing that they liked about the competition is that they were able to build something of their own design that worked,” says Elizabeth Sue Evans, of Loveland High School. “They are so proud of what they have done.”

“We wanted to do this project because we thought it would enhance our understanding about physics,” says Glen Este teacher Raymond Prueitt. “We enjoyed working on the project together and it helped to build our class relationship.”

“Our team is feeling cautiously optimistic. We have prepared a good robot and we have also had a few days to practice with it and get the kinks out,” says Steele. “Everyone is very excited to be coming to a new hub.”

The Pike team met every Monday through Thursday night from 5 until 9 and most Saturdays. Their hard work might pay off.

“Our robot and notebook and table displays are the best we have ever done,” says Steele.

For some schools, this year’s competition will build upon experiences from last year.

“In our second year, our strategy has not changed too much,” says Evans. “It was easier to organize and we knew what to expect, which has helped us.”

“We have a decidedly simpler and more flexible design,” says Sycamore teacher Marvin Hoffert. “We’ve learned from the complex (and often unwieldy) designs of previous years.”

Two of this year’s teams competed previously at another BEST site near Chicago.

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“We are first timers, but we have competed in Chicago for the last six years,” says teacher Brent Prim from Davison High School. “My kids wanted a new experience so we switched to Cincinnati.”

“We decided to compete in Cincinnati because it was closer to Indianapolis than Chicago and a smaller hub,” says Pike’s Steele. “Last year we felt that some of the Illinois teams treated us differently because we weren't from Illinois. The two non-Illinois teams (Davison and Pike) decided to switch to the Bearcat hub.”

UC’s Bearcat BEST will be a time for making new friends — and seeing old ones.

“We wanted to visit with one of our own team members from last year who attends UC,” says Steele. “We love robotics and are anxious to meet new friends in Cincinnati. We will enjoy meeting other students and seeing what they have done and helping them in any way we can so we can all have a great competition.”

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Here’s the complete list of schools, with numbers in parentheses denoting years competing in Bearcat BEST:

  • Davison (Mich.) High School (1)
  • Glen Este High School (2)
  • Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) High School (1)
  • Hughes High School (3)
  • Live Oaks CDC (1) 
  • Loveland High School (2)
  • Northwest Career Technology Center (2)
  • Pike Academy of Science and Engineering (Ind.) (1)
  • Purcell Marian High School (1)
  • Roger Bacon High School (3) 
  • Saint Xavier High School (1)
  • Scott County (Ky.) High School (2)
  • Sycamore High School (2) 
  • NTA Sycamore High School Black Student Union (1) 
  • Western Hills Design Tech High School (2)
  • Wyoming High School (1)

The competition is multifold: the robots are tested with a series of skilled tasks that had to be completed. The students also compete in presenting descriptions of their robots and the building process. Prizes are also awarded in such categories as most photogenic robot and best Web page.

At Mall Day, which took place this year at the Cincinnati Museum Center on Oct. 15, the students had the first opportunity to “test drive” the game floor. Then they have only one week to tweak their robots’ designs. 

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Not surprisingly, nerves are kicking into gear, along with the robots.

 “Having Saturday being so close, it is kind of nerve racking making sure that we have everything together and that we do a good job,” says Prueitt.

“My students are very excited about Saturday, but are a little nervous,” says Prim.

Wyoming High School is competing in Bearcat BEST for the first time. Their advisor, Andrew P. Felczan -- who bills himself as "Your Friendly Neighborhood Chemistry Instructor" -- says his students are feeling shaky, but relaxed for the most part. 

"We don't have a whole lot of expectations," says Felczan. "We'll just go in there and do our best."

“We’re in good shape for Saturday,” says Hoffert. “We’re testing our robot and making the appropriate modifications.”

“Our strategy has always been a competitive one but also a team that is willing to help other teams overcome their difficulties and compete,” Steele says. “We call this gracious professionalism and we learned it from other competitions we have attended. Play hard but help the other competitors if you can to make it a better day for every one!”

The week between Mall Day and Game Day can be a time for fiddling with the machines and checking strategies — or maybe not. Davison High School’s Chicago strategy will stay the same for Cincinnati, says Prim: “Score more points than the other guys.”

For more information about Bearcat BEST, call Cheryll Dunn at (513) 556-6561 or Ken Simonson at (513) 556-5437.

Read about last year’s Bearcat BEST or more about BEST, Inc.

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