In 2001, Auburn University became part of the BEST family. Mary Lou Ewald (college of science and mathematics) and George Blanks (college of engineering) became co hub-directors of the new War Eagle BEST hub, hosted at Auburn University, the first hub in Alabama. Most people don’t know but the hub was actually initially named “Alabama BEST” but changed its name in 2009 to “War Eagle BEST” as the push to create hubs all across Alabama was climbing rapidly. Early on they realized what BEST Robotics had to offer as a workforce development program; as a result they recruited and helped to start 20 new hubs in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Florida over the next several years, while still running their own War Eagle hub. It was an explosion of BEST Robotics in the South!
But that was not enough. With all of the excitement early on, Mary Lou and George wanted to offer a regional championship to Alabama hubs like what existed in Texas with Texas BEST. So, in 2003, only two years after starting the War Eagle hub, they organized and hosted the first Souths BEST Regional Championship at Auburn University, which is still one of the most incredible experiences within the program today.
That first championship year brought in teams from 6 hubs from the region including Alabama BEST, Florida BEST, Georgia BEST, Illinois BEST, Kentucky BEST, and Tennessee Valley BEST. The championship grew as the BEST region grew and was covering a whopping 19 hubs by 2013.
Getting Noticed Further
BEST Robotics got noticed in the South due to the efforts of Mary Lou, George and all of the many volunteers that helped build the Souths region and its championship. BEST teams from Alabama were even invited to the White House in 2013 and 2015 for the Whitehouse Science Fair and students demonstrated their BEST robots for the President!