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.”
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.
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