By Mary Elizabeth Dial, Staff Correspondent
On November 5, Intergalactic Robotics Inc. won multiple awards at the BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) Robotics Competition in Talladega. While it’s not a new experience to the team that took home trophies in 2012 and 2014, Episcopal Day School students were happy to earn first place in four different categories, including the overall BEST Award.
This was Intergalactic Robotics Inc.’s 10th year to compete in the BEST Robotics Competition, which has students build robots to solve real-world problems. The theme was “Bet the Farm” and teams were tasked with boosting efficiency and operations at small farms.
To accomplish these tasks, IGR built “the Kernel,” a small remote-controlled bot with a pulley arm and pincher claw for harvesting and a straight seeding mechanism for planting. The small student body at Episcopal Day School boasted 100 percent participation, which meant 15 team members working toward different goals. Team members included seniors down through to one student in the fifth grade.
Many of these goals were directly related to designing and building the Kernel, but the BEST Competition involves skills in various areas. To win big, Episcopal students built an entire company around their robotics program, and IGR was born. Each team member put his or her own skills toward a different aspect of the competition. For example, CFO Micah Brown headed up the exhibit and interview, as well as acting as head of spirit and sportsmanship; CEO Mary McCartney spearheaded the marketing presentation and the “engineering notebook” technical writing project; and R.J. Cothran acted as head of both fundraising and engineering. IGR built a robot and a company around it using various skills and technologies.
Episcopal’s robotics team is a proud tradition, and one that the students and faculty take seriously. The school has no sports teams, but robotics is a field in which even the smallest student body can excel. The students worked tirelessly to design and build their robot, company website, exhibit booth, marketing presentation and engineering notebook and still found time to exemplify good sportsmanship. They sent good luck cards and farm-themed goody boxes to other teams because, according to them, it’s more fun when teams can enjoy the competition together.
“Everybody came together and did what needed to be done,” said student Joseph Hale.
This teamwork and diversification of talents is what made IGR so successful at the BEST Competition. At the event, the students won first place for their engineering notebook, exhibit and interview and software design, in addition to winning the overall BEST Award. They also won second in the categories of robotics, spirit and sportsmanship, exhibit design and construction, most elegant robot, most robust robot and most creative design.
The IGR team will advance to the next round in December and compete against other regional winners.