Derby High School junior Jordan Mar was at the controls as his team stationed their robot at center stage at Hartman Arena on Saturday. As the round began, Mar pressed a button on the remote that opened the robot’s claw and then … nothing.
As competitors from three other high schools maneuvered their homemade robots through the course gathering and distributing simulated computer parts, the Derby machine remained motionless as the three-minute clock expired.
“We had it in the staging area and it worked fine,” Mar said. He said he wasn’t sure what caused the malfunction other than that “This,” he said pointing to the remote control, “wasn’t talking to the battery.”
As the Derby crew worked to figure out the source of the malfunction, students from 24 other schools were practicing and fine-tuning their robots as they competed in the 15th annual BEST – Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology – competition. The event drew several hundred students, teachers and parents from across Kansas to the arena.
During each match, one person on the team operated a boom that moved the robot back and forth, while a teammate used a remote control to maneuver the machine’s arm and claws.
The competition is designed to motivate high school students toward careers in engineering and related fields.
“One purpose is to get kids interested in science and technology,” event co-director Larry Frutiger said. “The other purpose is to bring kids to Wichita State.”
More than 12,000 students from 800 schools in 18 states are taking part in this year’s competition, Frutiger said. Each team starts with a kit that includes the same set of motors, batteries, remote controls, plywood and PVC pipe. It’s up to each team to decide how to build its robot.
The Andale High School team this year consists of “very diverse personalities,” according to sophomore Monica Weber. She said fellow sophomore Matt Jackson’s strength was bringing ideas into reality.
Unlike last year’s model, Jackson said, this year’s Andale entry has two claws at the end of its robot arm.
“This claw is practically my baby,” he said.
Andale was one of six teams that will move on to the regional competition in Fort Smith, Ark., on Dec. 6 and 7. Other teams going to the regionals are Campus, Rose Hill, Wichita Home School, Circle and Ambassadors for Christ Academy of Bentonville, Ark.