By Caleb Slinkard
When the Greenville Christian School entered the B.E.S.T. robotics competition in 2011, they stunned everyone (including themselves) by winning first place.
The next year, things didn’t go so well. But the school turned disappointment into a learning experience, according to teacher/sponsor Tom Witt, and again placed first at the Lion Pride B.E.S.T. regional, hosted by Texas A&M University-Commerce.
“Last year we were overconfident, and it was good to be humbled,” Witt said. “Our unofficial motto this year was ‘Not Last.’”
And the team wasn’t last. On Oct. 26, GCS and their robot, Black Talon, competed against 21 other teams in the A&M-Commerce Field House and won first place. They will be competing in the state championships in Garland Nov. 8-9.
With 15 new team members, team president Alicia Guthrie is the only one with competition experience. The new members were impressed with the competition.
“Once you see all the teams and realize how serious people are, you get hooked,” Parker Blue said.
B.E.S.T. is a national robotics competition that challenges high school teams to come up with solutions to game problems using only materials provided by the competition organizers. The robot must fit in a 24x24x24 inch box at the beginning of the match. But the game is only a portion of the competition.
Teams also accumulate points by submitting a detailed engineering notebook, making a presentation, exhibiting school spirit and portraying good sportsmanship. Teams that excel in these areas win the more prestigious B.E.S.T. award., as GCS did on Oct. 26.
The team is working on upgrading their robot between competitions, a decision Witt said was necessary if they hoped to perform well in Garland.
“I challenged them to try and make the semi-finals,” he said. “I think it’s a good goal.”
The team held a presentation at Crossroads Mall on Nov. 2 and will continue to practice leading up to Nov. 8. But finishing well at the competition is not the sole goal of the robotics class.
“I want them to learn problem solving skills through the class,” Witt said. “I want them to know how to approach a problem, brainstorm, come up with multiple different options and analyze them, instead of jumping feet first.”
The team also learns physics, mathematics, and even utilizes computer programs to engineer parts.
“I learned AutoCAD over the summer,” Dalton Griffis said, adding that the gears for the robot were designed using the program.
Team members are: Timothy Allen, Parker Blue, Lynsie Brown, Tiffany Buchanan, Emily Dawson, Elisabeth Erickson, Dalton Griffis, Alicia Guthrie, Morgan Henry, Chance McManus, Molly Money, Anna Scott, Samuel Scott, Brooklyn Seward, Austin Thomas and Katie Wittmer. To keep up with the team, visit gcsteamtalon.webs.com.