Launching Dreams Into Space
NDSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture hosts 7th annual robotics competition
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 15:10
NDSU works to bring out the best in students, and not just college students.
NDSU hosted its 7th annual Bison BEST Robotics competition on Saturday.
Best Robotics is a platform for all those whiz kids in high school and middle schools to exhibit outstanding talent in the field of science. Students from North Dakota and Minnesota battled it out at one of the best robotics competitions in the northern Mid-West.
Students participating in the event ranged from seventh to 12th grade. These young stars made a variety of self-designed robots and put them to work.
The competition has a new theme each year. This year the theme was “space elevator.”
The idea behind this year’s theme was to build a cost efficient and faster mode of transportation between earth and space stations, without burning fossil fuel. The NDSU College of Engineering and Architecture organized the event at the Benston Bunker Fieldhouse.
BEST stands for Boosting Engineering Science and Technology.
“[The competition] is a chance to recognize talent amongst the high school kids early on,” said Nancy Rossland, assistant to the dean for the college of engineering and architecture. “They get a chance to work on a project right from the designing to the competition, with only moderate guidance from their mentors.”
The 8 teams that participated in the event comprised students ranging between ages 13 and 16.
Two of the participating teams also had home-schooled students.
Luke Kulkert, a home-schooled eighth-grader, was a member of the Reach Robotics team.
“It’s my first time here and I am very excited,” he said. “But I feel confident because members of our team have won here in 2011 and 2010 in the past.”
Reach Robotics has also won awards at various other robotic events in Orlando, Kulkert said.
For the competition, each team was given a kit that they were required to use. They could neither add nor omit parts from the kit. Each team came up with unique and innovative designs, even though they worked from the same kits.
The Benston Bunker Fieldhouse felt like a boiling pot of ideas as students were busy assembling, tweaking and testing their units and giving final touches to their robots. The students built their robots in merely six weeks.
Another unique aspect of this competition was the names the participants gave their designs. Names like Spock 1.0 and HECTOR (Highly Efficient Celestial Trans Orbiting Robot) reminded one of science fiction movies.
“We feel like working for a real company,” said 14-year-old Talia Dalzell, a 10th grader from West Fargo High School. “We have work division amongst different departments and Note Taker co-ordinates with all the departments to ensure that each is in sync.”
Jesse Linge, president of Khaotic Robots, believes that robotic space elevators are not too far into the future now.
“By 2070 we will have fully functional unmanned robotic space elevators that would replace the shuttles forever,” he said.
The mentors also played an important role in this competition.
Jim Walter, mentor of Reach Robotics and a member of forum for home-schooled kids, said, “My job was to lead them from behind. I or any other mentors did not intervene in the designing or manufacturing of the robots. We would ask them the right questions to lead them on. Besides that, it is all the students’ hard work and efforts.”
The competition resulted in awards for the best robots, as well as individual awards for excellence in marketing, programming, creative design, team t-shirts, team mascot and other categories. The overall concept of the competition was aimed at producing well-rounded students that can make it big in all spheres of life, not just in science and technology.