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

Posted in Hub

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