BEST Robotics Program hosts kickoff celebration

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John Durkin

Villanova recently hosted the Kickoff Celebration for the Fourth Annual BEST Robotics Program for the Philadelphia region. This program, which gives both middle and high school students the opportunity to create an engineering project throughout the semester, is slated to enjoy its year of highest involvement from over two dozen participating schools.

The School District of Philadelphia is the host organization for the local chapter of BEST Robotics and includes involvement from 25 different schools throughout the Delaware Valley Region.

The Kickoff Celebration, which took place in Villanova’s Connelly Center on the morning of Sept. 17, brought all local participating schools together as a way to begin the semester’s events.

According to Velda Morris, the director of Philadelphia BEST, the Kickoff is a means to “bring teams together to learn the rules and theme of this year’s program and to see the playing field by which they are to create their projects.”

Opening remarks for the BEST Robotics Kickoff Celebration were made by the University’s Dr. Stephen Jones, who serves as the associate dean for the College of Engineering.  Dr. Cassandra Jones, who works as an academic officer for the School District of Philadelphia, also welcomed the eager students. Morris and Linda Coleman, who is an assistant director for Villanova’s Center of Multicultural Affairs, also made welcoming remarks.

The Kickoff Celebration ended with each school learning the specifications of the 2007 program, as well as receiving the necessary materials to build their projects.

The University’s involvement with Philadelphia BEST goes beyond just being a site for the Kickoff Celebration. In fact, numerous Villanova students are responsible for taking weekly trips to the different schools in order to facilitate and mentor the younger students as they create their projects.

For this year’s program, there are 16 Villanova sophomores, juniors and graduate students who work directly with five different schools in order to accomplish this year’s goals.

The Villanova students involved with this program are either engineering or science majors bring the knowledge from their majors and to the Philadelphia students whom they advise.

The semester-long work will culminate at “Game Day,” which will be held on Oct. 27 at the Philadelphia School of the Future. 

Industry professionals from businesses such as IBM and Lockheed Martin will join faculty from local universities to judge the projects that were created by each of the 25 schools. The final projects will be evaluated according to five distinct categories, which deal with the projects themselves as well as how effectively the students can present their work.

BEST Robotics, which stands for “Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology,” is a nation-wide campaign that seeks to promote the values of science-based learning to school children.

Started in 1993, BEST Robotics has been a volunteer organization that provides students the opportunity to gain insight into technological fields such as engineering and has encouraged careers in such areas.

Although it began with only 14 participating schools, BEST Robotics today includes over 700 institutions and 10,000 students all over the country.

The program challenges students to design and create an engineering project that accomplishes specific tasks. These tasks are determined by various industry and university-level professionals.

According to the BEST Robotics Web site, one of the primary goals of the national program is to promote the growth of “future engineers, scientists, and technological professionals.”

The Web site for the national BEST Robotics program is www.bestinc.org. Questions concerning the Philadelphia BEST chapter should be directed to Morris, at (215) 400-4130 or at [email protected] For further information concerning Villanova’s involvement with Philadelphia BEST, contact Rebecca Stein, a first-year graduate student in the engineering department, at [email protected]