Starkville's robotics team makes name for itself

October 11, 2012 10:47:31 AM



STARKVILLE -- In only its second year, the Starkville High School BEST robotics team has attracted more than 40 students who commit their after-school time to designing, marketing and programming a practical robot, all in a span of six weeks. 


And it make sense that the robotics team boasts numbers equivalent to some of the sports teams on Starkville's campus. 


"The competition is electric," said team CEO Nick Kolbet. "It was like a giant arena, people cheering and everything." 


As CEO, Kolbet, a senior, oversees the entire project and was a member of the team last year.  


Last year, the theme of the competition, which took place at Starkville High School and hosted 20 teams from across the state, was capturing "mutated bugs," said Kelley Mazzola, the team's historian. The team was tasked with building a robot that moved across the ground. 


But this year's BEST theme has the team looking up -- literally. 


The assignment is to create a space elevator to transport cargo to a midway station in "outer space," which is really about 10 feet. 


"That's what really got us this year was the field shift," Kolbet said. "It's still Point A to Point B but you have to go into a third dimension." 


Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, may have been a logical acronym, but the BEST competition is so much more than that. 


The teams are judged in five categories. They must complete an engineering notebook, which entails all the plans and a research paper. They must do a marketing presentation. In addition to that, their exhibit and interviews are graded, as well as their spirit and sportsmanship. Of course, the performance of the robot is the most important component.  


Mazzola, as historian, is responsible for the team's engineering notebook. She was also on the team last year, when the team was named 2011 Rookie of the Year. 


"I think I am a little more relaxed this year," she said. "The most challenging thing is just getting the work done, there is just so much. 


"This competition really is training us for the business world. We build the robot from scratch, we use programs like CAD (Computer-Aided Design), we have to program the robot and then we have to actually build it, and that's just the engineering side." 


On the marketing side, the students are working just as hard, designing T-shirts, a website, brochures and also making calls to local businesses, looking for support. 


And the support is there, again and again, said Denise Adair, one of the team's coaches. 


"This year and last year Eurocopter gave us $1000," Adair said. "Aurora is onboard this year, I'm not sure how much they are going to give us, and there are so many other local companies that give $500 or $250. It's incredible. 


"They see the potential. It's not just a robotics thing, it's running a business." 


Adair even contacted the CEO of the LiftPort Group out of Washington, who is designing the technology this year's theme is based on, and he Skyped with the students for more than an hour. 


Raspet Flight Laboratory will host a preview day on Oct. 20 and the competition will be held on Oct. 26 at Armstrong Middle School. 


For more information visit