History of the BEST Program
The idea for a BEST competition originated several years ago when two Texas Instruments engineers, Ted Mahler and Steve Marum, were serving as guides for Engineering Day at their company site in Sherman, TX. Together with a group of high school students, they watched a video of freshmen building a robot in Woody Flowers' class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The high school students were so interested that Ted and Steve said, "Why don't we do this?"
After correspondence with MIT, the idea was presented to TI management. With enthusiastic approval from Dwain Chaffin, then general purpose logic manager at Sherman, the North Texas BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) was born. After learning that a San Antonio group had formed a similar program, the two sites decided to meet the next year for a state playoff. In 1995, Texas BEST became an annual event sponsored by Texas Instruments and Texas A&M University.
In 1993, BEST began with one site, North Texas, and its 14 schools and 221 students. In 2002, BEST was organized at 19 sites (called hubs) in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, and involved more than 450 teams and thousands of students. The 60 top-placing teams from the hubs advanced to the Texas BEST Championship.
In 2003, a new playoff location - South's BEST - was added to the BEST family. The South's BEST is based at Auburn University in Alabama.
In 2004, the Texas BEST regional competition moved from A&M University to Southern Methodist University.
Texas BEST Games
- 1995 TOTALly aweSUM
- 1996 Block N' Load
- 1997 Dynamite Duel
- 1998 Toxic Troubles
- 1999 Rocket Race: The Alien Escape
- 2000 Pandemonium in the Smithsonian
- 2001 RAD to the CORE
- 2002 Warp X
- 2003 Transfusion Confusion
- 2004 BEST Fever
- 1996 Block N' Load
The BEST Process
In the BEST process, each team designs and builds a radio-controlled machine to accomplish a defined task. The teams start by gathering for game kickoff day at local hub sites (now organized as BEST Robotics Inc.) where the receive the following:
The game is limited to a six-week period to simulate a product time-to-market constraint. In the real world, a late product doesn't sell. In the game world, a late product means the team doesn't compete.
Each team receives an identical box of odd parts, fasteners, materials, and a radio controller for motors. In the real world, a new product must be built within a budget. In the game world, the machine can be built only with kit parts.
At kickoff, each team gets a detailed game task description. This description is a closely held secret, known only to a few BEST game designers. In the real world, a new product must meet customer requirements and specifications. In the game world, the machine must meet size and weight also complete the same game task.
Industry and academic coaches act as mentors for the students, encouraging and guiding them as they design and build their robots. In the BEST process, students remain the primary decision-makers and builders. Schools provide at least one teacher-coach, administration support, classroom and shop access after school hours, and transportation to the competition sites. Schools select their own teams.
Six weeks after kickoff, teams compete in local hub contests. The top finishers advance to the Texas BEST Championship a few weeks later.