My favorite Martians…success at BEST Robotics, Inc.

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For 8 hours of screaming fans, pounding drums, whistle-blowing referees, chanting spirit teams and tumbling cheerleaders, the Gunter High School gymnasium resembled an intense sports tournament…but not a single “athlete” on the field was human.  They were all robots. 

Welcome to Game Day 2007 of BEST Robotics, Inc.  In the North Texas BEST hub, 16 high school and middle school teams have managed to builda remote controlled robot similar to the Mars rovers which could theoretically operate on Mars to unload cargo and bring it inside a base.

 I’ve never seen a “science fair” anything like this.  It was loud and exciting and intense…not at all quiet and nerdy. LOL

That’s my team…the Maniacs Attempting Robot Science, or MARS.  We’re homeschoolers and this is our first year in robotics.  The kids were amazing.

We made it to the semifinals in the robot game, placing right in the middle of the pack.

We brought home first in a side competition for the Most Photogenic Robot.

And, most impressivly, we took 4th overall for the BEST award, which encompasses the robot’s performance, a multi-media oral presentation, our efforts to promote science and technology in our community, our spirit and sportsmanship, an extensive engingeering notebook documenting the process, a research essay on the real-life applications of the robotics competition, and student-built display chronicling the entire project.  Science, writing, public speaking, marketing, art, and a whole lot of fun.  Wow!  We were thrilled with 4th place since we were competing against teams with up to 14 years experience in the tournament.  (BTW 1st place for the BEST award went to the only other homeschool team.  Congratulations Texoma Home Educators!)

Next year…watch out!

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Jordi and her daddy after a fun day collecting spirit buttons from the other robot teams.

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Mall Day rocks!

I spent the whole day hanging out at the mall with teenagers and didn’t do any shopping.  Crazy, huh?  The racks of shoes on clearance stood neglected, and the beckons of the department store stayed unheeded.  Our attention was elsewhere.  We had robots.

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If you’ve never been to a BEST Robotics, Inc. Mall Day, you’re missing some serious fun.  We were surrounded by school teams from all over North Texas.  We’re all preparing for a big tournament next weekend when we compete to see who has the best B.E.S.T. robot. Fun, huh?  In only 5 weeks, these junior high and high school kids have designed and built a robot that can be controlled remotely to drive up a ramp, around a platform, pick up boxes and bottles, drive down the ramp, and unload without being touched by human hands.  And no…we didn’t use a kit or pre-made set.  These parts are original designs, drawn by kids and fabricated from raw materials by kids (with constant guidance from mentors).  They’re all excited about it. 

 Can’t say that I blame them.

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Jordi is driving in the first picture, and Cameron in the second.  The team t-shirts say MARS – Maniacs Attempting Robot Science.  It’s the first year for our homeschool group Home Educators Around Texoma (HEAT) to participate.  We’ve already got big plans for next year, too. 🙂

Supermom

Apparently, I have super powers.  Who knew?

I learned this a few days ago by accident.  I walked into my bedroom late in the evening where all 3 kids were engrossed in their newest PS2 game purchased with birthday gift money. 

“Mom!  I can freeze people and turn them into ice cubes!” called one excitedly.

“Mom!  I can make ants appear and attack people!” boasted a second.

Not to be outdone, the third piped in, “I can walk through electricity and not be harmed!”

I smiled.  Must be nice to have supernatural powers, I thought.  So, just to join in the conversation, I said casually, “Oh, yeah?  Well, I can make pancakes.”

I fully expected this to be ignored in the video-game induced frenzy.  Imagine my surprise when all three dropped their controllers and stared at me with real admiration in their eyes. “Really???”  Sean actually leaped off the bed, ready to dart for the kitchen on the spot.  I commanded their respect and (momentarily) their full attention.  Talk about power!

Guess what we had for breakfast the next morning? A little extra work from our usual scrambled eggs or cereal, but definitely worth it for the return.  They sang my praises and gave me lots of hugs.  Every now and then, I feel like I’ve inched just a smidge closer the the Proverbs 31 lady.

Pr 31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed.

If that verse went on to say that after calling her blessed, they returned to their bickering and forgot to put away their toothbrushes and pajamas, we’d be spot on. If I could keep them in the sweet and blessed state all day, THAT would be a super power.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to remember to make pancakes more often.

After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

Girl Power!

The high-pitched whine died away suddenly as the petite brunette flipped the off switch on the left side of the bandsaw.  She scooped up the freshly carved wooden disc, tapped it on the table to knock off sawdust, and smiled slightly.

“Cool,” she stated matter of factly, and walked to a worktable littered with odd shapes of wood, plastic, metal and pvc pipe.

Just for a moment, Jordi looked like a veteran of the workshop, at home with power tools.  But two weeks ago she didn’t even know what the “black thingy” did…much less use one.

Jordi is one of 5 girls participating in the Home Educators Around Texoma’s inaugural robot building team, Maniacs Attempting Robot Science (MARS).  The other girls, Megan, Anna, Emma, and Katie  are starting to look quite at home with power tools, hand tools, and technical sketches.  Some came to the team with more tool experience, and others, like Jordi, are delving into new territotory.  One of the goal’s of the upcoming competition is to encourage girls to get excited about traditionally male areas, such as science, engineering, and tools.

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