Music City BEST makes school kids go Just Plane Crazy for math and science

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Where can you find a flight attendant handing out complementary barf bags, robot decorated like a dragon and a blue jay, T-shirts declaring “Nerds win!,” and cheerleaders building pyramids all in one place? Only at the Music City BEST Robotics Competition held in Allen Arena this past Saturday, Nov. 8.

Thirteen groups of middle- and high-schoolers from three states converged on the arena with their custom-designed robots, creative booth and presentation materials to impress the judges. While each groups robot was working away on the playing field in the “Just Plane Crazy” contest (where the robots must build a model airplane and launch it by hanging it from a suspended magnet), the students from each team were manning their booth, making a Powerpoint presentation to the judges and showing off their notebook of the six-week project.

The BEST program (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) is a 15-year-old, nationwide, hands-on engineering program challenging students to build a robot using specific materials such as plywood, PVC pipe, duct tape and this year a computerized control system called the BRAIN. The goal is to teach problem-solving, teamwork and leadership skills through math and science -- two highly valued skills in the education arena today.

Music City BEST, sponsored by Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones School of Engineering, has grown to 13 teams competing in the final event in just the past three years, with teams this year traveling from as far away as Chicago and Indiana.

“I have rarely seen kids as excited to be involved in a school program as the kids at Music City BEST are,” said Ben Hutchinson, dean of the Lipscomb College of Natural and Applied Sciences, which houses the engineering school. “Teachers can be more effective and enthusiastic when their students are excited about a project. So programs like BEST are desperately needed at this time when quality math and science teachers are in such demand. The BEST program’s growth from six to originally 16 teams this year is a testament to its success in making science education inspiring for both students and teachers.”

“I see students giving evidence of remarkable intellectual and emotional growth during a short six week time frame.  In many cases, I believe I see students growing more in this six-week window than their peers over the course of more than a typical school year!  They discover the power within that comes from focusing on a positive goal and working towards it without relent,” said Cliff Cockerham, seventh-grade science teacher at West End Middle School in Nashville.

The top four teams from Music City BEST are invited to participate in the regional BEST competition at Auburn University next month. This year, the four top teams headed to the South’s BEST are:

Manteno High School
Manteno, Ill.
McFadden School of Excellence
Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Dickson Area Robotics Team (DART)
Dickson, Tenn.
Mt. Juliet Middle School
Mt. Juliet, Tenn.


The top four teams that earned
the most points for robot performance on the
playing field were (in order of points earned):

McFadden School of Excellence
Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Manteno High School
Manteno, Ill.
Mt. Juliet Middle School
Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
Tennessee Robotics Engineering Group (TREG)
Williamson & Marshall counties, Tenn.

Additional Awards presented to the
participating BEST teams were:

Bellevue Home School
Best Home School Team

Brentwood High School
Rube Goldberg Award for Meritorious Achievement in Design Complexity

Dickson Area Robotics Team (DART)
Best Table Display and Interview

Dickson Middle School
Best Costume
Best Spirit and Sportsmanship

East Literature Magnet School
Blood, Sweat and Duct Tape Award

Manteno High School
Most Robust Machine
Best Oral Presentation
Best Team Web Page Design
Best Project Notebook

Merrol Hyde Magnet School
Billy Butterworth
Best Mentor Award

Mt. Juliet Middle School
Most Photogenic Machine
Teacher of the Year - Ms. Cathy Liddle
Lipscomb University Award
for Robotic Engineering Excellence

McFadden School of Excellence
Founder’s Award for Creative Design

South Spencer High School
Best Rookie Team

The Discovery School
Best T-Shirt Design

West End Middle School
Best Middle School Team