PCS to participate in Blazer BEST

Riverchase Middle School and Pelham High School will participate in the Blazer BEST robotics program this fall, a new program at Pelham City Schools. (Contributed)

Riverchase Middle School and Pelham High School will participate in the Blazer BEST robotics program this fall, a new program at Pelham City Schools. (Contributed)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—The Pelham City School System is partnering with UAB to bring the 2014 Blazer Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology Program to Riverchase Middle School and Pelham High School this fall.

Blazer BEST is a six week long program during which students “design, build, test and compete” robots, Pelham Board of Education member Angie Hester wrote.

According to the BEST Robotics, Inc. website, the mission of the program is to “engage excite and inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology through participation in a sports-like science and engineering based robotics competition.”

“We’re trying to foster an appreciation of the sciences and mathematics,” RMS robotics program faculty sponsor Patrick McDonald said. “They’re learning life skills… they’re learning coding, computer processing, they’re putting things together that they’ve never had to do before.”

Students will work together to design and build a robot. They will then face off in a competition against 24 other area schools at Birmingham’s Bartow Arena on Oct. 4. Robots must navigate and complete a challenge on a 24-foot by 24-foot playing field. Each challenge is different, and challenges are not revealed until six weeks before the competition, McDonald explained.

“Six weeks prior to the competition, they give us the rules,” McDonald said. “All we know is that is going to involve wind energy.”

The program enhances engineering, science and technology skills along with many other skills such as graphic design, public speaking and web design. Teams are not only judged on their robot’s performance in competition, they are also judged on a variety of categories including a booth display, oral presentation, a paper and the process to build the robot, McDonald explained.

“Three to four students will give a presentation in front of the college professors telling them about their process over the six weeks,” McDonald said of the public speaking portion of the challenge. “It’s a little bit of everything.”

The program will be offered as an elective class at RMS, co-sponsored by McDonald and fellow teacher Trish Bogdanchik. At PHS, the program will be offered through the Robotics Team, led by teacher Tim Cobb.

“It’s a very unique and intriguing addition to our schools,” McDonald said.