MTS students compete in BEST competition

Boaz senior, Jacob Hudgins, controls “The X-tinguisher” as it puts out the “flames.” Another student keeps a timer, while another jots down notes.

The Marshall County Technical School robotics team is using their craft to show how robots can be used to save lives and help first responders.

The 2017 North Alabama BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics Competition at Wallace State Community College starts Thursday, giving each school participating in the event an opportunity to showcase their skills — this year’s theme is, “Crossfire.”

“The robot is designed to move a manikin representing an injured person, move dangerous chemicals and extinguish flames,” said Counselor Patrick Smith. “The whole idea is for it to be used at a scene that is too dangerous for humans. It’s a neat concept, something that you could actually send in there to remove people and dangerous chemicals.”

Of course the school’s robot won’t actually move a human or extinguish a fire, but their hope is that it could lead to better safety conditions for first responders.

This year’s robot, “the X-tinguisher,” has robotic arms that pick up paint cans labeled “chemicals”, a bucket that picks up a tiny manikin and separate catapult arms that toss ping pong balls at red solo cops, signifying water and fire.

Smith said the BEST Robotics Competition is a multi-faceted event, allowing schools to utilize multiple departments throughout the school to give themselves a better chance at winning.

It is truly all hands on deck. Students in the building construction department, cosmetology department, collision department, public safety department and even the welding department, have all had a part in this year’s competition.

MTS will be judged on the robots performance, a project engineering notebook complete with a research paper, a team exhibit, a marketing presentation and spirit and performance.

The building construction class built a fire truck complete with lights, the cosmetology department is working on a marketing strategy, the public safety department wired the lights, the welding instructor used his skills to put together a few odds and ends and the nursing department has served has hecklers, imitating the large crowd expected to be at the competition.

Team President Logan Edmonds is responsible for organizing the entire campaign. He said they haven’t had any problems, but getting everyone to stay focused has proved difficult.

“I have to say that it has been great,” he said. “I’m mainly the shepherd to the sheep, but it’s coming along great so far. It’s just around the corner.”

Instructor Glenn Bruce said there are 14 teams competing, from Holly Pond High School to Spain Park High School in Birmingham.

“We are really looking forward to this year’s completion,” Bruce said. “The students have all been working really hard to put it all together, and I couldn’t be more proud. We hope there’s a good showing at the completion. The students deserve the support of their friends, family and community.”

According to the organization’s website, BEST originated in 1993 when two Texas Instruments engineers, Ted Mahler and Steve Marum, were amazed at a group of student’s effort in building a robot in a Massachusetts classroom.

Since beginning in 1993, BEST has grown to represent over 1,000 schools in over 50 hubs throughout the country.

The competition begins Thursday and ends on Friday.

The winner will advance to the national completion at Auburn University, Dec. 2–3.

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