Falcon BEST

Falcon BEST

Falcon BEST Robotics is located in the rural town of Bowling Green, Ohio. Bowling Green is located just south of Toledo in the northern part of the state. Falcon BEST services teams from all over the state of Ohio and generally have between 12 to 18 teams participate each year. They occasionally have requests from teams as far as Indiana and Kentucky, but generally all the competing teams come from the state of Ohio. 

Falcon BEST receives their funding from a variety of sources including industrial partners such as First Solar, Robex, and Lathrup Construction Engineering. However, their greatest support comes from the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering at Bowling Green State University. The university president, Dr. Rodney Rogers, and the vice provost, Dr. Joe Whitehead, are very supportive of the program and help orchestrate a lot of what happens throughout the season. Falcon BEST is lead by Resmi KrishnankuttyRema, hub director, Kari Storm, program coordinator, and Lisa Schaller, the field and purchasing coordinator. Together, they constantly pursue ways to improve and strive to make Falcon BEST the premier robotics competition program in the area. Because of the close relationship with Bowling Green State University, there is a vast pool of volunteers from various fraternities and sorority organizations, Thompson Scholars, and the sponsors who also provide assistance. .

Similar to other BEST hubs across the country, Falcon BEST is making strides to return to the pre pandemic numbers and the impact BEST has on their community. In 2019, nearly 1800 team members, families, volunteers, and community leaders convened on the campus of Bowling Green State University for its annual competition. 2019 was the highlight of the Falcon BEST tenure as it  transitioned to become a university-wide focused event.  This event was live streamed, televised, the mayor was in attendance, and all the unique components of the city and university came together. “It’s a really great experience,” says Kari Storm. After going virtual in 2020 and having experienced reduced numbers, Falcon BEST Robotics made a great return to in-person competition and are looking forward to pre-pandemic participation in seasons yet to come.

One of the unique things Falcon BEST Robotics does is that they offer an all-day conference on the day of the season kick-off.  At this event, students are able to receive training on video recording & editing, coding, soldering, and much more. Tours are provided of their Mechatronics lab and students get the opportunity to speak with industry professionals. Food is provided and teams really get an appreciation for the game theme and everything they need to be successful that season.

Hub Spotlight submitted by:

Hutto High School (Hutto, TX) – Jordan Garcia, Riley Kerkering, Scott Shepard, Maxwell Manskie

Montgomery BEST

Montgomery BEST

Montgomery BEST is located in the capital city of Montgomery, Alabama. This thriving metropolis is located in the heart of Alabama and served as the backdrop to many of the nation’s most significant civil rights movements. Over the last 20 years, Montgomery BEST moved locations several times as it bounced among different universities who sponsored the program. Montgomery BEST began as Alabama BEST over 20 years ago, and it was hosted by Auburn University.

It later moved to Montgomery where Huntingdon College took it over, but the name remained Alabama BEST. In 2006, it moved back to Auburn University, and a few years later the name changed to War Eagle BEST, after the Auburn football team’s battle cry. In 2018, War Eagle BEST was going to be shut down. But Lee Sumner, along with his daughter and the assistance of Alabama State University, decided to take over as host and prevent this tragedy. It moved back to Montgomery, the name changed to Montgomery BEST, and the first competition under Alabama State University was in 2019.

Montgomery BEST is a testament of resilience as it adapted and changed over the years. In the process, Montgomery BEST has run things a little different than other hubs around the country. Most recently, Montgomery BEST was the only hub in the nation who held an In-Person BEST Robotics competition during the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020. That year, nine teams began the season and seven teams actually competed in the Hub tournament at the end of the season. After the hub returned back to Montgomery, the greatest difficulties came from raising money for kits and supplies and getting enough people to understand what BEST Robotics is all about so they could recruit volunteers. Sponsorships come from the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, Alabama State University, the City of Montgomery, the County of Montgomery, and several local businesses in the area. Many of the judges are virtual nowadays. They try to get about 50 judges to help. And, an additional 50 volunteers are needed to run the in-person events, like kick-off and competition day.  They seek volunteers from Alabama State University, neighboring hubs, and former participants.

Montgomery BEST is also proud of the way in which they host their practice day. Two weeks before competition, they create quite the spectacle when they have “Mall Day”. Teams convene at the local mall to practice on the competition field. Mr. Sumner, hub committee member, says they “do it out in public so the town can see and help get the word out.”

At competition, they bring in a DJ, have fun activities, and make a huge public event out of it. 25 teams took part in the 2019 competition when Alabama State University first took over. Due to the pandemic, only 7 teams finished the season in 2020 when they competed in-person. The numbers went back up in 2021 with 17 teams competing in last year’s event. Since the host university changed so much, the hub went through many different hub directors. Each time it was hosted by Auburn University, the hub director was Mary Lou Ewald. At Huntingdon college, Dr. Sid Stubbs was the hub director. In 2019 and 2020, Dr. Dean was the hub director, and in 2021, Dr. Jones was the hub director. Since Auburn University has so much experience with hosting a hub, they still help a lot with Montgomery BEST, and they host the South’s BEST regional championship for the area.

Even though the Montgomery hub had faced many challenges with the lack of funding and students, they still pushed through the 2020 season. One of Mr. Sumner’s most memorable moments is just being there with the kids, watching them grow, develop, succeed, and fail. Many of his students went on to start their own companies and create amazing inventions. With BEST Robotics, Mr. Sumner was able to provide students with the opportunity and the students continually surprise him with their ingenuity.

Hub Spotlight submitted by:

Hutto High School (Hutto, TX) – Gary Choice, Andrew Riggan, Ryan Postlewait, Steve Wiley

Capitol BEST

Capitol BEST

The Capitol BEST hub was founded in 2001 by Greg Young, an electrical engineer currently with Advanced Micro Devices in Austin, Texas. This hub was formed to cover Travis and Williamson county regions, however they also accept schools from other Central Texas areas. Capitol BEST is entirely volunteer run. Generous sponsors like Best Buy, Texas State University, Intel, Whataburger, Home Depot, and the Texas State History Museum help keep BEST Robotics free for any team who wishes to participate. Together, these partners and other contributors provide the hub with a budget of around 20,000 dollars every year.

Mr. Young had his start with BEST Robotics in 1995 with the Collin County Hub, located in the North Dallas/Plano area. In 2000, he moved to Austin and started Capitol BEST the next year. Also at this time, Mr. Young participated on the board of directors for BEST Robotics, Inc., and eventually became the Director of Operations for BEST Robotics nationally.

With the donations Capitol BEST receives, the goal is to host its annual competition with about 28 teams. However, when Mr. Young first moved to Austin, he had to start the program from scratch. In 2000, he worked at Motorola and told his coworkers about the great robotics competition program that BEST offers. Mr. Young’s coworkers jumped on board and helped get donors together for the competition. Some of the same volunteers (and former teachers and students) are still helping with Capitol BEST today (22 years later); Kenneth Burch, William Polanco, Chris O’quin, Tony Cacciola, Paul Ziegler, to name just a few . Over the years, many of the sponsors also provided volunteers to help make Capitol BEST what it is today.  “It’s a blessing every year just to be able to continue and to offer the program at no cost to schools.” 

William’s Opening Skit

Capitol BEST is proud of consistently offering the program to local high schools, middle schools and home schools. A large majority of the participating schools are from the suburban and rural areas surrounding Austin, Texas. The hub tries hard to provide a unique experience for the students and involve the community in unique ways. Kickoff and Game Days are held at local participating high schools, while the Practice Day event is held at the Texas History museum in Austin. They look for ways to get others involved; like having the host school’s drama team perform an opening skit for Game Day centered around the theme. Something that William Polanco always loved coordinating and participating in. His costumes were always hand-made and memorable. Or like inviting the local SPCA to bring pets for adoption during the 2007 Mars “Rover” game (2021: A Space Odyssey).

The Capitol BEST hub designed the 2010 BEST game, Total Recall, around an industry theme of Six Sigma Quality. It was a fun fast-paced game that put the spotter into the center of the action, literally.

“I loved all of the action in that game. And the fact that we implemented communication between the field and the robot, something new and unique that had not been done before”, said Mr. Young.

2010 Total Recall Game Day

When looking back at memorable moments, Mr. Young had many to share. However, when you have a philosophy of following through no matter what, you’ll come across obstacles many would shy away from. “Not a lot of people understand or realize that there is a lot of effort in setting up and preparing for the event.” Pulling all-nighters and hanging banners 30 feet in the air from a scissor-lift are just part of the story. One year in 2007, Mr. Young recalls a memory that sticks with him to this day. 

Imagine a stormy, Friday afternoon commute, during rush-hour traffic on Interstate 35. Mr. Young was driving a fully-loaded U Haul truck on his way from Georgetown to Akins High School in South Austin. He was in the left lane, going the posted speed limit when the transmission suddenly dropped from under his vehicle. Completely disabled, there was no other option than to pull along the concrete median (there was no shoulder) before help could arrive. To exit the vehicle, Mr. Young had to climb out the window onto the concrete barrier separating the traffic going the opposite direction. Fortunately, one of his volunteers was following and helped redirect traffic until the police arrived. Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see. Once help arrived, they managed to tow the fully-loaded U Haul truck the remaining 25 miles and the 2007 Capitol BEST Robotics Competition went off without a hitch.

Hub Spotlight provided by:

Hutto High School (Hutto, TX) – Robert Peller, Freddy Blok, Caleb Sterling, Andres De Lira

BEST Alumni – Call to Action

BEST Alumni – Call to Action

Did you enjoy your time on a BEST team? Was it a unique time in your education? What did being tasked with an overwhelming problem and then asked to solve that problem with, of all things, a robot that you must design, build and control, do for you? Did it point you in a future direction? Did it clarify paths for you? Did it show you a problem solving process? Did documenting and organizing it all for the BEST award help you? Did the BEST experience do any good for you at all?

If it did you can offer that experience to youth today. You can help them find their way. You can inspire their future and help BEST become even better. You can do all that simply by relating your time in BEST to the world. Later you may want to physically join in as a volunteer and enjoy the experience all over again.

By once being a BEST team member and now in a career, you have a unique perspective on the BEST process both for the student today and for the BEST organization. To continue, BEST must be relevant to today’s youth and how the experience relates to its own
purpose. It can only do that by knowing what works and what doesn’t. That information can only come from you. It all starts here. Share your time in BEST and share how it has carried you into your future.

Join the BEST Alumni Network and start paying it forward!

–Ted Mahler, BEST co-founder

Dallas BEST

Dallas BEST

Dallas Texas or “Big D” anchors the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States. Dallas is known for its competitive environment from professional sports leagues to Friday night football. Competitive sports are not the only activities sponsored by the UIL (University Interscholastic League) in Texas. UIL sponsors competitions for high schools in everything from band competition to debate. In 1993, BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics held their first game “PVC Insanity” just north of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex in Sherman, Texas.

Dallas BEST Robotics is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1996 and started with a demo in the Texas Instruments North Building of the 1995 game TOTALly AweSum. Over its 26-year history, Dallas BEST has had four hub directors and three hub co-directors. The current co-directors are Bill Rock and Joel Graber. Bill Rock has been with Dallas BEST since its inception and co-director for five years. He is a Texas BEST referee as well as lead developer of the 2002 game Warp X. Bill also helped develop the 2012 game Warp XX and has been a member of the national game design team since 2019. Co-director Joel Graber began as a team mentor for his daughter’s high school team with the 2006 game Laundry Quandary; he joined the core team the following year and has built game demonstration robots for several seasons. He was the lead designer of the 2012 Warp XX Space Elevator game.

Dallas BEST typically hosts 22-28 teams per year. These teams are made up of a very diverse group of students that come from middle, high, charter, and private schools as well as home school organizations.  Dallas’ teams are from both urban and rural communities and some teams travel as far as two hours away to compete in the hub each year. Jon Spangler is the school interface and venue coordinator in charge of recruiting teams for the hub. Jon stated that “generally half of the teams compete in UIL, and we have several teams each year move on to the UIL State Championship and Texas BEST State Championship.” “At most, about 20% of the teams are from middle schools and the rest are high school students” says Mary Helmick, hub financial manager and pit boss extraordinaire. Dallas BEST tries to host their hub competition in nearby colleges to expose students to the opportunity and atmosphere of a college campus. 

Sponsorship and volunteers are an important part of any nonprofit organization, and that includes Dallas BEST. Their primary sponsorship, funding, and main sources of volunteers have been Texas Instruments and Raytheon. Dallas BEST boasts some very talented volunteers filling key positions. Alison Brown is the volunteer coordinator and scorekeeping wrangler; Cissy St John is the Consumable Kit Maven and Timothy Chung and Kristen Graber help with returnable kits. Elisa Miller is Head Judge; Stephen Wynne does field construction and transport, and he also referees at Dallas and Texas BEST. Ann Balaban does event coordination and setup. Elisa Miller mentioned that “[Ann Balaban] certainly got her and a lot of others from the professional organization the Society for Technical Communication (STC) involved [with Dallas BEST] primarily in judging the engineering notebooks.” The hub has had many outstanding volunteers and teachers helping the program over the years. They recognize Pete Lohstreter, who was an outstanding BEST supporter at the Hockaday School for many years; by naming the Outstanding Teacher Award in his honor. Another exceptional long-time judge, Gary Suder always volunteered whenever anyone needed help.

There is a lot of sharing of resources between the hubs in the metroplex area. Bill Rock often supports Collin County (CoCo BEST) and Texas BEST competitions. Many Dallas BEST volunteers also serve in a wide variety of roles at the Texas BEST Regional. Working together benefits everyone in BEST Robotics. “A few years ago, we had misordered something on our kits and had a last-minute panic the night before our kickoff, and CoCo happened to have some stuff in stock, so we rushed up and got it and they kind of bailed us out,” said Mary Helmick.  CoCo volunteers frequently help at the Dallas Game Day, and field assembly has been a collaborative effort for several years.

One thing that sets apart Dallas BEST is their student and teacher awards. Students nominate their teachers and vote to choose the Pete Lohstreter Outstanding Teacher Award. The Graduating Senior Award is similar, but instead, teachers nominate their students. Dallas BEST is very proud of the diversity of the competing teams. “We’ve got amazing diversity, and the students are from just everywhere” says Elisa Miller. Jon Spangler adds “the team demographics run the full spectrum, there are country teams, city teams and everything in between.” Students are from many different backgrounds and at the competition, they all seamlessly unite to compete.

The Dallas BEST team works hard to produce a quality program, but sometimes unexpected things happen. You may not want to drive behind them. “One of the sections of the field fell out of my truck because I didn’t put the latch down or something like that, so the door slowly rolled up, and four miles down the road the door was all the way rolled up and then a piece falls out,” said Bill Rock.

Another time, Jon Spangler was hauling the game field on Interstate 635 when he looked in the mirror and saw the V-shaped windscreen on the trailer meant to protect the field suddenly start to rise up and float away.  He was slowing down as much as he could but couldn’t prevent the wind screen from blowing off the trailer. Fortunately, it landed on the side of the road and did not hit another vehicle.  Another time a base from a field piece fell out, and at game day the rebuilt base featured an automobile tire track across it.  Mary Helmick joked “lesson learned, don’t drive behind Dallas BEST people while they are hauling field materials.”

The Dallas BEST organization and all of the volunteers are committed to supporting all of the schools as they learn about designing, building, programming and driving their robots, as well as how to write an engineering notebook, give a marketing presentation and build an information booth. “One of the coolest things about BEST is that we get to see these kids grow into leaders with their continued participation,” said Elisa Miller. “Some of them come back as volunteers after they graduate from college,” added Bill Rock.

Hub Spotlight submitted by Trenton High School (Trenton, TX):

Abigail Casey             Class of 2024

Caleb Crittenden         Class of 2024

Georgia BEST

Georgia BEST

Georgia BEST Robotics is based in Atlanta, Georgia. They service the greater Atlanta Metro Area and the surrounding suburbs. When Georgia BEST started in 2003, its founder, Glenn Allen, was a professor at Southern Polytechnic State University.  He got hooked on everything that was BEST and sought to bring the community together. Driven by Mr. Allen’s energy, BEST Robotics was a huge hit and took the city of Atlanta by storm. Georgia BEST was a great success until 2012, when Mr. Allen passed away. Over the next three years, Georgia BEST continued to be run by Kennesaw State University, a local college,until a group of student alumni received news that KSU would no longer be able to oversee the competition and decided to take over the leadership roles to ensure Georgia BEST could live on. 

One of the unique characteristics of Georgia BEST is that it is almost entirely run and organized by BEST Alumni. They do not have any formal ties to any higher education institutions. BEST Robotics made such an impact on these former BEST participants, that they would do anything to ensure future generations of students would have the same experience they did. BEST Robotics was their motivation. “When there were gaps that needed to be filled, it was such a no-brainer for so many of the alumni who were still in town to say that this needs to happen,” explained Matt Barulic. As new directors, they were so excited about taking over Georgia BEST that they once covered the entire playing field in glitter. Also because they are younger and having played the game themselves, they are able to incorporate newer technology and look at the game from an insider’s perspective.

The core group of volunteers for Georgia BEST are Hub Director Matt Barulic, Hub Coordinator Jessie Liu, Hub Advisor Dr. Debi Huffman, and planning committee members Dennis Jin and Brenden Smothers.. Together, they ensure every team that wants to participate is able.  Georgia BEST has a total of 15 state sponsors that allow them to offer this robotics competition at no cost for participating teams. H.B. Fuller is one of their primary sponsors.

Matt Barulic spoke about one of his favorite Georgia BEST memories. During the 2017 game, “Crossfire,”  there was a small mannequin made from string and PVC that needed to be saved from a fire. During one of the matches, the mannequin became untied. Instead of stopping the game and pausing everything, they created a fun scene where they performed CPR, trying to save his life and got the whole crowd involved. They had a wireless camera with a live feed displaying what happened onto the video screens. Everyone cheered and had a great time.

Hub Spotlight submitted by:

Hutto High School – Ethan Carrington, Isaiah Neilson, Almamy Diaby, Brenda De Castro

Kansas BEST

Kansas BEST

Kansas BEST Robotics, which got its start in 1999, was founded by Larry Fruitinger and Bob Unschied. This hub is located in the Heartland of America, Wichita, Kansas. They organize competitions for teams all around the state. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, Kansas BEST would host about 28 to 30 teams. Since then, their numbers have dropped and they are slowly working their way to bring them back up. Given that Kansas is known to be the “Air Capital of the World,” many aviation companies such as Boeing, Cessna, Learjet, and others have called Kansas home. These companies sponsored the Kansas BEST’s events and provided many of their volunteers. Kansas BEST owes much of its success to its current sponsors, Army ROTC, Textron (Cessna & Beechcraft), Spirit Aerosystems, Evergy, AIAA, Ametek PDS, and SPEEA. Also, the College of Engineering and the Barton School of Business at Wichita State University have become critical partners in the Kansas BEST endeavor by providing venues, catering, print services, fundraising via their Foundation, and additional volunteers.

Kansas has several key volunteers, each with a special skill set. The responsibilities of hosting their competitions are divided up among several volunteers so that it is not left up to just one person running the entire event. Hub Director, Linda Manfull, has served as a volunteer for nearly 20 years, and has been director for the past few years.  She worked at Boeing in information technology and later moved to Spirit Aerosystems. Some other top volunteers are Lee Ann Youse, Brian Jaax, Jeremy Marshall, Don Brushwood, John Matthew, and others who have become invaluable to running a great competition each year. 

Kansas BEST helped create two highly successful games: “Just Plane Crazy” in 2008 and “Bet the Farm” in 2016. “Just Plane Crazy” was based on airplane manufacturing and “Bet the Farm” had an agricultural theme. Lee Ann and Linda both felt that “Just Plane Crazy” was their favorite, most memorable game. Lee Ann says that, “Wichita feels like they are the center of aviation, and they are. . . To have something to do with their theme here in this town, I’m sure that made them very, very excited.”

They feel that one of the greatest things to see each and every year is how it all somehow comes together. From a host perspective, the playing field, venue, judging, volunteers, kit distribution, and game day all begin with a thousand little tasks and somehow come together to work. From a team perspective, you have students and mentors who are given this monumental task, and even when things don’t work out as planned, other teams come together to offer assistance and guidance. There are times when opposing teams have to come together to make a product. “This is how it really is in the engineering world,” says Lee Ann.

Hub Spotlight submitted by:

Hutto High School (Hutto, TX) – Eddy Cruces, Isaiah Johnson, Gus Blomstrom, Brandon Gonzalez

Cowtown BEST

Cowtown BEST

Located at the end of the Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth, Texas is well known for its western heritage and its long association with the cattle trade. Fort Worth is also the home of the Cowtown BEST Robotics hub. Cowtown BEST has been sponsored by Lockheed Martin since its inaugural season of 2001. Hosting duties for Cowtown BEST are rotated through area schools and in 2019, Game Day was held at Martin High School in Arlington. More than sixty volunteers come together to make sure Cowtown BEST runs efficiently and to ensure all competitors have a great time.

Each year, Cowtown BEST draws robotics teams from all over the western Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and surrounding counties to compete for a chance to advance to the Texas BEST Regional Championship in Frisco, Texas. Teams come from high schools, middle schools, charter schools, and homeschool organizations. More than three hundred students participate in the hub each year. Most students plan to complete a STEM degree in college. These student’s experiences in Cowtown BEST give them a head start on their technical education and looks great on their college applications.

David Kwast has been the Cowtown BEST hub director since 2013. David’s first exposure to BEST Robotics was as a coach for his son’s high school team. Flying under the radar as a new team, this team went on to win 1st place at Cowtown BEST by a single point. He fondly recalls working with the students that season and how excited they were in competing. David is often asked by other parents how to get their children involved in robotics. He recommends BEST Robotics as well as FIRST and VEX. Many of his former students have gone on to earn technical degrees. One student became a Disney Imagineer before ultimately landing as a product development engineer. As a hub director, he is confident that the Cowtown BEST hub volunteers and competition inspire students to seek STEM degrees in college.

Cowtown BEST goes the extra mile to ensure the students competing have an exciting experience. The volunteers spend extra time on painting and decorating the game field for the participants. Cowtown boasts a large audiovisual team to enhance the game presentation. Led by Stephanie Tabije, Mark Tabije and Juan Martinez, this team makes the event rock! Cowtown BEST encourages the teams to highlight themselves with a video. All submitted videos are played during hub competition. The winning video entry earns a Video Showcase Award. During the Off the Grid competition, a crew from Oncor came out and gave an outdoor demonstration of power line safety that featured actual electrical current. This demonstration promoted downed power line safety in an exciting format for participants.

The Cowtown BEST volunteers have had to overcome many challenges over the years. The Covid epidemic was tackled by using the classroom format. This allowed students to compete online live from their school using their actual robot. Cowtown BEST was proud to offer the opportunity to compete live to its teams for two seasons. In 2010, the hub experienced scoring system problems.  The volunteers worked through lunch to redo all scores resulting in only a thirty-minute delay to the event.

Cowtown BEST supports their teams in a variety of ways. Mentors are assigned to first year teams to help them grow into the competition. These mentors are BEST Alumni or retirees with the time to help a team get on track. Team coaches are also provided with targeted training meant to help them compete at a high level.

Hub Spotlight submitted by Trenton High School:

Haley Boggess – High School Class of 2024

Kyle Osborne – High School Class of 2023

Emory Williams – High School Class of 2023

Collin County (CoCo) BEST

Collin County (CoCo) BEST

Collin County BEST Robotics, known locally as CoCo BEST, is a nonprofit organization based in McKinney, Texas.  Founded in 1995 by Ed Wheeler, Bruce Roever, Robert Begel, and Richard Phillips, among others, the hub’s mission is to inspire today’s students to study engineering, science, and technology.  CoCo BEST conducts fundraising, recruit teams, and hosts the CoCo BEST hub competition in the Northeast Texas area.  CoCo BEST teams may qualify to compete at the Texas BEST Regional Championship.

CoCo BEST currently hosts up to 32 student robotic teams each season.  These teams come from Middle School, High School and Home School Organizations all over North Texas.  Allen High School is the longest tenured team in CoCo BEST, beginning competition in 1995.  Ereckson Middle School will compete in their 20th season this year.  Other long term teams include SAIL Home School, Texoma Home Educators (THE), Legacy Christian Academy (LCA), Melissa High School and Denison High School.  Teams vary greatly in size, but most teams have about 20 students competing.  CoCo BEST draws teams from a very wide geographic area.  Teams come from as far north as Denison, as far south as Lindale, as far east as Sulphur Springs, and as far west as Iowa Park and Olney.

CoCo BEST 2016 Bet The Farm

The CoCo BEST Leadership Team boasts a great group of volunteers that are highly skilled in all aspects of staging the game each year.  In addition to acquiring sponsorship and managing hub resources, the leadership team must reserve kickoff and game sites, build the game field for each year’s individual competition, manage the returnable and consumable kits, and comply with all BEST policies and procedures while hosting the CoCo BEST hub competition.  The hub also provides mentors in engineering or marketing if a team requests assistance with a particular issue during the season.  A list of the CoCo BEST A Team and their roles follows this article.

It takes a great deal of work and passion to make CoCo BEST successful.  As many as 75 to 100 volunteers contribute to the hub each year.  For support, CoCo BEST relies heavily on Texas Instruments, Raytheon, and Intuit.  Many volunteers serve long term.  Some of the volunteers’ core and judging teams have been together for more than 15 years.  Volunteers list enjoying working together and interacting with students as a reason for returning each year.  CoCo BEST honors it’s legacy by naming several awards after volunteers who are sadly no longer with us.  Carl Takle was a long-time judge for BEST Robotics and has a Judge’s Choice Award named for him.  Nick Nickleberry was a huge supporter of BEST Robotics and has a sportsmanship award named for him.  Richard Phillips and Gary Sorensen are alumni that made significant contributions to CoCo BEST Robotics.

  CoCo BEST is always seeking new volunteers to step up as some board members and key volunteers get closer to the age of retirement.  Joining CoCo BEST can be very rewarding as they have had some amazing success with students.  For example, a specific student wasn’t sure of the direction they wanted to go until approached by a teacher and given the opportunity to join BEST Robotics.  Through this student’s experience in competing in BEST Robotics, they discovered a passion for engineering.  This student has gone on to become an engineer.

Janne Ackerman, CoCo BEST Hub Co-Director, has been with BEST Robotics since 2000.  Janne enjoys watching how teams tackle each year’s game challenges with student designed and built solutions.  Her favorite game “Transfusion Confusion” dealt with balloons that acted as blood and cancer cells.  A fan on the floor made the cells move around.  Student built robots had to select the good cells and leave the cancer cells on the game field.   When asked if there was anything a student had said that made a lasting impression with her, Janne responded, “At South’s BEST there was a luncheon for young women, when a girl said “I just want to be like you” after seeing all the different technology on display.  Another time she received a hand-written note about being thankful for the hub”.

2022 Collin County (CoCo) BEST A-Team

Name Since Role(s) Other Information
Janne Ackerman 2000 Co-Hub Director
President of the Board
Head Judge (prior)
Awards and Judging Committee
Treasurer (prior)
Founder and President, BEST of Texas Robotics (BTR) (2016 to present)
Garry Ackerman 2000 Emcee Mentor for iSchool STEM (prior)
Workshop instructor
Field Build
David Whitmire   Head Judge (Emeritus) Head Judge Texas BEST
Awards and Judging Committee
Otis Gorley   Co-Hub Director
Secretary of the Board
Head field build
Head referee
VEX Cortex prep for
returnable kit
Former Hub director for North Texas BEST since 2005
Robert Begel 1995 Returnable Kit Lead since the beginning Team mentor for Allen HS 1994 with NT BEST
Judy Patterson 2014 Consumable Kit Lead Former Hub director West Texas BEST
Founder and former Vice President of the Board for BTR
Susan Wingfield 2018 School Coordinator
Events Logistics
Works at Intuit
Mary Gorley 2015 Trophies and Awards
Volunteer Hospitality
Involved with NT BEST starting in 2007 until move to CoCo BEST
Stephen Hancock   Asst Head Judge
Referee (prior)
Treasurer of the Board
BEST Alumnus
Katherine Hancock 2019 Volunteer Coordinator  

Submitted by Trenton High School (Trenton, TX):

Lexington Williams     Class of 2025

Olivia Strickland          Class of 2025

Landon Schuster         Class of 2025

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