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BEST Robotics competition's annual
Mall Day slated for Oct. 6

Sept. 28, 2007 -
- On Saturday, Oct. 6, robots are coming to the Mall at Turtle Creek.

These robots are part of the nationwide BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) Robotics, Inc. program, a robotics competition for middle school and high school students, and the robots at the Mall at Turtle Creek will have been designed and constructed by students from seven schools in the Jonesboro area and one school from southern Arkansas.

Participating schools are Buffalo Island Central High School, Annie Camp Junior High School, Jonesboro Area Technical Center, Ridgefield Christian School, Newport High School, Greene County Tech, the Jonesboro Math and Science Magnet School, and Crossett High School.

BEST’s mission is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science, technology, and math through participation in a sports-like science- and engineering-based robotics competition.

Dr. E. T. Hammerand, of the Department of Computer Science at Arkansas State University, and the Crowley’s Ridge BEST Hub director, says, "The mission of BEST is to introduce young people to educational and vocational opportunities in technology that they might not encounter until much later, if at all; this is accomplished through an annual six-week competition taking place in September and October. BEST is a non-profit program and is provided free of charge to participating schools by way of donations of money, materials, and labor from our sponsors. ASU's Department of Computer Science began hosting this competition locally in 2006; over 10,000 students participated nationally."

Area sponsors of the local effort include the Acxiom Corporation, Barton's of Arkansas and Missouri, Hytrol Conveyor Co., J. T. White Hardware & Lumber, and the Kays Foundation. ASU's College of Engineering also contributes substantial assistance, providing labor and professional expertise to construct this year’s game arena. Faculty members and students from the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, as well as members of various student organizations, also assist.

This year's participating schools convened in Jonesboro on Saturday, Sept. 8, to be introduced to this year's problem and to collect their materials; no other materials may be used in the construction of the robot. On Saturday, Oct. 6, the school teams will convene for the second time at the Mall at Turtle Creek to test drive their robots in the game arena and to spy on one another (a deliberate portion of the competition). Mall Day events begin at 10 a.m. and run through 12 p.m. Measurement equipment is allowed, as is photo or video equipment.

The 2007 contest theme is "Mars 2021: A Robot Odyssey" and involves the transportation of materials from a space vehicle's landing platform to storage containers nearby. The robots, which can have no dimension larger than 24 inches or weigh more than 24 pounds, must move quickly enough over the game arena (which measures 24 feet by 24 feet) to complete the pickup, transportation, and delivery within three minutes. The teams will return home with the experience of the Oct. 6 Mall Day to continue development for the next two weeks.

The teams will convene the final time on Game Day, Saturday, Oct. 20, at the ASU National Guard Armory. Teams will be judged on the basis of an engineering notebook detailing their efforts, a table display promoting the marketing of their robots to consumers; sportsmanship and spirit (up to and including bringing cheerleaders and bands); and finally the performance of the robot itself. Awards will be made in a number of different categories. Game Day setup begins at 10 a.m., the opening ceremony begins at 1 p.m., and the game ends at 6 p.m.

Information about BEST Robotics, Inc.’s nationwide effort is For local information, the contest is detailed at

For more information, contact ASU's contest director, Dr. E. T. Hammerand, at (870)972-3978 or


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