Students are the Shining Stars at South’s BEST
On December 1 and 2, the stage was set at Auburn University’s Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Two robotic platforms with an array of sound effects and lighting options covered the floor. Cheering fans with custom signs filled the arena. Fog machines and scoreboards celebrated each team.
Usually reserved for a celebrity or noted speaker, the superstars on this stage were students in the sixth through 12th grades participating in the 25th anniversary of South’s BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics Championship.
For Manning Bowlin, a senior at Creekside High School in Fairburn, Georgia, this was his third time at South’s BEST. “More than eight weeks of incredible hard work will be put to the test,” Manning explained.
His friend and teammate Steven Angel, a junior at Creekside High, who also competed before, shared his favorite aspect of the championship.
“I really like the ability to communicate and meet other teams that are focused on the exact same goals,” Steven said.
Thousands of people walked through the doors of the Coliseum during these two days. However, months of hard work and competitions at regional events all lead up to South’s BEST.
Andy Cook, a senior from Lindsay Lane Christian Academy in Athens, Alabama, has participated in this event seven times. Andy, who has been proudly accepted into Auburn University, puts in more than 20 hours of time each week for this competition.
“Since the seventh grade, I have been passionate about being part of this robotics competition and pursuing my career in STEM,” Andy said.
Brady Metts and Zack Kelley, juniors from Blacksher High School in Monroe County, Alabama, enjoy the opportunity to learn from other teams in this competition and take back new ideas for future improvement.
Taneisha Huff, a junior from Fort Payne High School in Alabama, was at the competition for the first time.
“I am excited to see the different projects and understand how teams think to build their robots,” Taneisha said.
Students from rural areas look forward to this annual event for a real sense of comradery.
Brandon Motes, a ninth-grade student from Thomasville High School in Alabama, lives more than an hour away from Mobile.
“This robotics competition provides me with the chance to interact with other students my age and build friendships that I don’t normally have based on my geographic location,” Brandon shared.
However, the competition is not just on the robotics stage or in the pit area. Rachel Weeks, a junior and fifth-year participant from Covenant Christian School in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was the presenter in her team’s exhibition booth. Each team forms a company that is reflected in a marketing presentation and booth. Rachel spoke to judges, visitors, students and parents about her team’s purpose in the booth, which lines the halls of the entire floor around the inside of the Coliseum.
“I was inspired by our incredible teacher who brought out the best in each member of this team throughout weeks of hard work,” she explained. “I am interested in pursuing a career in teaching so that I can bring out the best in my future students.”
Staff and students from Auburn University volunteer for many roles of this event. Anthony Hall from the College of Sciences and Mathematics Department of Geosciences has been a judge for many years.
“I am always sincerely impressed by the quality of students that participate in this competition,” he said. “I have the opportunity to listen to these students share information about their companies, brand purpose, robots and role of teamwork. One student, a sophomore in high school, explained she was the CEO of her team’s company and gave an incredible presentation. The students are amazing and always bring me back wanting to be a judge each year.”
The real stars at the Coliseum are the students who not only develop a passion for STEM through this event, but are cheered on by a crowd of students from throughout the South. They shine for their dedication to learning and perseverance to reach their goals.
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