OC hosts students for 6th-annual OKBEST contest

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - Oct. 21, 2003 - It's all about blood and nuts . . . and bolts and screws . . . at this Saturday's sixth-annual OKBEST robotics competition, held at Oklahoma Christian University.

The OKBEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) contest, featuring 400 student competitors on 25 high school and junior high teams from around the state, requires the teams to build a working robot that can travel a course and complete specific tasks in head-to-head competition.

The event begins at noon in the Payne Athletic Center on the OC campus. A preliminary round precedes the finals, which run from 4:20 p.m. to 7 p.m. Winning teams will advance to the TexasBEST regional competition Nov. 21-22 at Texas A&M University.

For this year's contest, themed "Transfusion Confusion," the students were required to build a robot exclusively from a big box of "stuff" (including wood, plastic, nuts, bolts, screws, rods, etc.) and a box full of electric motors and remote-control equipment. During the competition, teams will have three minutes for their robots to navigate the course, capture balloons representing blood cells, then sort and store the balloons while trying to defend against other robots attempting to perform the same tasks.

"The whole purpose of the contest is to help junior high and high school kids learn technical and design aspects of science and engineering, realize they can be a lot of fun, and maybe decide to go on to college and study those areas," said Jim Cutbirth, OC professor of mechanical engineering and co-chair of the event. "I've had a number of teachers tell me that their students have made decisions to go into science or engineering fields after participating in the contest."

The teams competing in this year's event include: Bishop Kelley High School, Bowlegs High School, Bristow High School, Dimensions Academy High School, Inola High School, John Marshall High School, Mannford High School, Mustang High School, Norman North High School, Oklahoma Christian School, Piedmont High School, Putnam City West High School, Shawnee High School, Southwest Covenant School, Strother High School, Tulsa High School for Science and Technology, Tulsa Memorial High School, Warner High School, Waurika High School, Wayne High School, Western Heights High School, Hefner Middle School, Mayfield Middle School, Meeker Middle School, Shidler Public School and Western Oaks Middle School.

At last year's competition, Norman North won the OKBEST award for the third time in five years while Western Heights earned top honors in the robotics division.

OKBEST is the central hub location for Best Robotics, Inc. Oklahoma Christian University and ConocoPhillips provide corporate sponsorship, with The Boeing Company and Seagate Technologies serving as platinum sponsors. Other sponsors include the Federal Aviation Administration, Ford Audio/Video, Home Depot, JTS Engineering, Tinker Air Force Base and the Engineering Club of Oklahoma City.

There is no cost to the schools or students to participate in the competition. The sponsorships allow each school to be provided all the supplies necessary to design and build their robots. The School of Engineering at Oklahoma Christian has coordinated and hosted OKBEST all six years, and helped launch another hub in northern Oklahoma that will host a separate contest for 20 additional teams in Alva next weekend.

"Our eventual goal is to have three regions in the state," Cutbirth said. "We're excited because we have more teams in Oklahoma than ever before. Teams from both contests will advance to TexasBEST so our state will be represented in greater numbers."

For more information about OKBEST, contact Cutbirth at jim.cutbirth@oc.edu or at 405.425.5410, or visit www.okbest.org.

- OC -