Young Engineers Define Robotics

A single arm reaches out to grab a bright orange cone, tipping it over and snatching it off the floor. The arm rises. Cheers and horns sound as the cone is flipped and set in the holder. The driver can not cheer just yet although his partner jumps around excitedly. Thirty seconds still remain on the clock. More points can be garnered before the competition is complete and awards are given out. The robot reaches out to grab a Frisbee, but it is fumbled as the buzzer sounds. Referees swarm the field.

Competition’s purpose creates real-life and problem-solving situations

The Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) robotics competition aims to give high school and middle school students an opportunity to put their skills to the test. This year’s competition, Total Recall, focused on product distribution and packaging while improving the distribution rate of effective products and lowering the distribution of defective products. The model is known as Six Sigma. Students were asked to follow the Six Sigma process when designing their robotic strategy.

Total Recall field makes navigation tricky

Student competitors had three processing techniques to solve. “Gadgets” could be moved from one part of the field to another to be sorted by the student in the manual processing area who was also known as the spotter for the robotic control engineer or the robot’s driver. The robot could also process “gizmos” by carefully placing orange cones in a designated area and setting Easter eggs inside the cones. The gizmos could then be properly packaged by placing a Frisbee on top. Each section required the robot to have a unique set of attachments, some robots had claws, and others had detachable containers.

Points distributed among sections of business model

Because this year’s competition was designed after a business model, students from West Fargo STEM middle school divided the jobs between teams.

“It showed them how to run a company with the different roles and understand those roles,” said Holly Erickson, the team’s advisor. There was a president, a marketing team, the notebook team, an exhibition team, a spirit team as well as the website team and video production team. Each team was given points for its work, and then totaled to see who would win the coveted BEST award and a chance to go to the region competition.

Bison BEST competition went international

The Bison BEST competition had 24 teams participate. These teams came from across Minnesota, North and South Dakota as well as one team from Canada. The competition took place at the downtown Fargo Civic Center. Four years ago, North Dakota State University (NDSU) sponsored the regional BEST competition to give pre-college students a chance to work with real-life situations.


  1. Barnesville High School
  2. Breckenridge High School
  3. Clearbrook-Gonvik Schools
  4. Climax-Shelly Public School
  5. Detroit Lakes High School
  6. Drayton High School
  7. Fargo South High School
  8. Hatton-Northwood High Schools
  9. Hillcrest Luthern Academy
  10. Kittson Central High School
  11. Minneswaska Area High School
  12. New London-Spicer High School
  13. Norther Cass High School
  14. North Sargent High School
  15. North Valley Career & Tech Center
  16. Pelican Rapids High School
  17. REACH Homeschool
  18. Red River Area Learning Center
  19. Sawyer Public School
  20. Stephen/Argyle Central
  21. Watertown High School
  22. WC Miller Collegiate
  23. West Fargo STEM Middle School
  24. Wing Public School

BEST competition pushes students to work together

With six weeks to take the supplied materials and make a fully functioning robot, the teams put in long hours.

“(The students) worked mostly after school and somewhere around five of the weekends,” said Travis Larson, a parent of one Drayton student. “They had to problem solve and refine their skills as engineers to get the correct formula.”

Each project required different skill sets. The students worked not only on engineering and designing the robot but also the marketing plan, the notebook that detailed the engineering process, the exhibit and interview process and the team spirit.

“They learned how to delegate and use different people’s strengths for a common goal,” said Brenda Dahlgren.

School spirit not just for sports’ fans

Fans wait for the next round of competition to begin.

Gathered at the competition were students and parents but the noise was comparable to that of a football game. Teams received additional points for having pep bands, cheerleaders and chants. Mascots dotted the stands and competed by dancing to music for the mascot award. The teams chanted across the stands to one another, “We got spirit, yes, we do. We got spirit, how about you?”

Designed for the event, T-shirts made it easy to tell one group of kids and parents from another.  Some students even dyed their hair to show school spirit.

Awards were given to top teams and designs

Overall BEST Award

  1. Kittson Central High School
  2. Climax-Shelly Public School
  3. REACH Homeschool

Robotics Competition Award

  1. New London-Spicer High School
  2. REACH Homeschool
  3. Pelican Rapids High School
  4. Watertown High School

Spirit and Sportsman Award

REACH Homeschool

Team Exhibit and Interview Award

West Fargo STEM Middle School

Marketing Presentation Award

Kittson Central High School

Project Engineering Notebook Award

West Fargo STEM Middle School

Founder’s Award for Creative Design

Kittson Central High School

Most Robust Award

REACH Homeschool

BEST Rookie Team Award

New London-Spicer High School

Most Photogenic Robotic Award

Minnewaska Area High Schoole

Blood, Sweat, and Duct Tape Award

Stephen/Argyle Central

NDSU College of Architecture and Engineering Teamwork Award

Wing Public School

BEST Team T-shirt Award

  1. Minneswaska Area High School
  2. Drayton High School
  3. Climax-Shelly Public School

BEST Team Mascot Award

  1. Kittson Central High School
  2. West Fargo STEM Middle School
  3. Wing Public School

BEST Youtube Video Award

  1. West Fargo STEM Middle School
  2. Climax-Shelly Public School
  3. Wing Public School

BEST Team Website Award

  1. REACH Homeschool
  2. New London-Spicer High School
  3. Minnewaska Area High School

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