The College of Engineering helps to prepare the next generation of engineers by bringing more than 300 middle and high school students to campus each year to kick-off the BEST Robotics competition. BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics is a national engineering competition for high school robotics teams from around the country.
At this year’s kick-off event, on September 17, teams from all over the Philadelphia area, as well as New Jersey, Harrisburg, and Maryland came to the Connelly Center. Villanova engineering students gave out kits to be used to meet this year’s challenge – to build a Mars rover. Each team across the country receives the same kit containing all the materials they can use to build a robot during the next six weeks. During that time, Villanova students will mentor the robotics teams. On October 13, in the Gallery in Center City, Villanova students will run a preview competition, and on October 27 the final competition will take place at the School of the Future in Philadelphia, with the winners going on to a national competition later this fall.
In addition to the receiving the kits at the Connelly Center, the teams heard from Dr. Cassandra W. Jones, Interim Chief Academic Officer for the School District of Philadelphia, and from Dr. Gary Gabriele, Dean of the College of Engineering. The kick-off, was covered by Channel 6 and Channel 10, as well as the Delaware County Daily Times.
Dr. Stephen Jones, associate dean of the College of Engineering, directs this and all of the many other engineering outreach programs to middle and high schools. Speaking about the potential of the competition, he said, “The BEST program is a great way to expose young people to the world of engineering. The lessons they carry away with them from this experience will plant a seed, and hopefully the excitement they feel from this project will take hold. Maybe a student who had never thought of engineering as a possibility will become one of tomorrow’s great inventors.”
Dr. Jones also noted that BEST Robotics complements the VESTED (Villanova Engineering, Science and Technology Enrichment and Development) program, which is a more intensive engineering mentoring program for high school students. VESTED brings students to the College on Saturdays in the spring and throughout the summer to learn more about engineering in a college environment.
BEST has succeeded because it is a partnership. It was begun by two engineers from Texas Instruments. Villanova collaborates with the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of College and Career Awareness (OCCA) and the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) to sponsor the competition for the Northeast region.