Homeschool robotics team preps for state competition

Charity James, left, and Rebekah Lane discuss strategy for the local competition.(Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

Team Eclipse is getting ready.

The team consists of 35 homeschool students from the Starkville Christian Home Educators (SCHE) and is competing in BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) robotics for the 10th year.

The team has had successes competing bot at the state and regional levels, and will tape part in the state competition held at Mississippi State University Sept. 30. If Team Eclipse places at the state competition, it will move on to regionals at Auburn University.

BEST Robotics is different from many other school robotics programs in the scope of the team, with importance placed not only on the robot itself, but also on business and marketing aspects.
Senior Shana Walker has been on the team for seven years and currently serves as the lead of the team’s outreach department.

“My main focus is to get the word out and promote BEST and our team, and try to get other homeschoolers involved in our team,” Walker said.

Walker also said she had gained a better understanding of STEM fields through her time on Team Eclipse.

“Even though I don’t necessarily use STEM as much as the build team, I have really learned the importance of it, and my interest towards the whole engineering process has definitely increased,” Walker said.

The challenge Eclipse and other BEST teams face is to design a robot capable of dragging a trapped firefighter model out of a simulated burning building. The robot will also have other firefighting capabilities.

Senior John Michael Lane serves as the team’s president and also leads the team’s computer-aided design (CAD) division.

I think doing robotics has definitely broadened my horizons in the whole engineering area,” Lane said.

Lane, who has been on the team for seven years, plans to study chemical engineering at MSU. Lane said he grew up around BEST even before he was on the team, with his father founding Team Eclipse in 2007.

He said he enjoyed being in his new leadership role, even with the additional responsibility it entails.

“I enjoy seeing the process of going from not knowing what the task will be to building a fully-functional robot that can complete everything in just six weeks,” said junior Adam Easley, who co-leads the build team. “It’s amazing what you can get done when you have a group of people giving all their time to accomplish a goal.”

BEST Robotics was founded by two engineers from Texas Instruments Inc. in 1993.