SBA ‘engineers’ their way to regional robotic competition

Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Robots invaded Frost Arena on the South Dakota State University campus Saturday, Oct. 20. It was all part of the Jackrabbit BEST Robotics Game Day competition.

SBA Robotics team.jpg

Teams at the first SDSU competition came from Brookings, Castlewood, the Fellowship of Christian Home Educated Students in Brookings, Kimball, Mitchell Christian, South Central in Bonesteel, Sunshine Bible Academy in Miller, Watertown, and Jackson County Central in Jackson, Minn.

The seven-member team from Sunshine Bible Academy included Zach Sybesma, Tucker Hamilton, Nathan Yost, Sergey Pretre, Mikeal Desta, Isaac Clark, and Noah Appel and Philip Seaman. Faculty member Todd Seaman coached them. This competition built on what students learned in SBA’s Introduction to Industrial Arts class, taught by Seaman, and which includes a robotics component.

The competition was of special interest to students who might not be involved with athletics, but who have an interest in science and technology.

The teams brought robots they created from special kits to the arena to compete in a scenario that called for the robots to complete a certain number of tasks around and on a “space elevator.” The elevators were 10-foot towers that the robots had to ascend to complete tasks that included transporting fuel bottles, cargo and solar panels.

The teams first came to campus on September 8 to get a look at the challenging course and receive the supplies they’d need to construct a robot. They returned once to practice on the course, brainstorm with engineering faculty to solve problems and check out the other teams.

Said Seaman, “They gave us a pile of parts six weeks ago to do the tasks. The robots have to take the parts up a 10-foot pole, and the concept is getting things out into space. The robot can climb the pole, and must use apparatus to carry some of the parts.”

Seaman said the SBA team spent six weeks perfecting the procedure. “The teams were all comprised of high school students. They planned, they built. It was a lot of work.”

The event started at 10 a.m. Saturday, with an opening ceremony. Seaman explained that there were a series of three-minute matches. “Four teams can play concurrently,” he explained. The competitions determined the semifinalists and, ultimately, four finalists. In addition to the robot competition, five schools chose to enter an extra series of challenges in which they were judged on a marketing presentation, booth, interview and spirit and sportsmanship.

Seaman said 12 teams originally took kits, and seven teams were present Saturday to participate. The team from Jackson, Minn. placed first, and the Watertown team placed second. SBA’s team came in third.

“We had 14 matches and placed third in the robotics competition. The team was one of five teams from our hub that will advance to the BEST Regional competition in Fargo. Four other hubs will be sending teams to the South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota regional being held December 6-8,” Seaman explained.

Four teams deemed the best in both competitions will go on to the regional finals at North Dakota State University in Fargo; winners at North Dakota will advance to Texas for national competition.

BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) Robotics Inc. was started in Texas in 1993 by two engineers from Texas Instruments. Since then, interest in the program has helped create 50 hubs (local competition sites) nationwide. This is the first time SDSU has held the competition, and the first time the South Dakota high school teams participated.

The mission of BEST Robotics Inc. is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science, and technology through participation in a sports-like, science- and engineering-based robotics competition.

In areas where BEST Robotics competition has been held previously, organizers say it isn’t uncommon for teams to bring pep bands, cheerleaders and mascots.

“We see outreach events like this as a way to keep that pipeline alive with students interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers,” said Dean Lewis Brown of the SDSU College of Engineering, which organized the event.

“It’s almost like an athletic event,” said Brown “There was music, noise, competition and fun.”

Seaman added, “A good crowd was present, and it was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see what the teams could come up with.”


WAY TO GO! Team members proudly display their trophy. L to r, Charlie Harkins, Sergey Pretre, Zach Sybesma, Philip Seaman, Mikeal Desta, Noah Appel, Nathan Yost, and instructor Todd Seaman.

“W e see outreach events like this as a way to keep that pipeline alive with students interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers.”

~Dean Lewis Brown,

SDSU College of Engineering