Skip directly to content

2013 BEST Robotics Championship

On Saturday and Sunday December 7-8, South’s BEST Robotics Championship once again took place at Auburn University. BEST Robotics Inc. (BRI) is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization headquartered at Auburn University since January 2009, whose mission is to engage and excite students about engineering, science, and technology, inspiring them to pursue careers in these fields. South’s BEST Robotics Championship is a middle and high school competition and the largest of BEST’s three regional championships. Participants of South’s BEST consist of the top 56 teams from the 18 BEST Hubs in 7 Southern and Eastern states.

For several years the School of Architecture’s first year Foundation Studio under Assistant Professor Margaret Fletcher (Coordinator of the First Year Program, Architecture) and Associate Professor Rusty Smith (Associate Chair, Architecture,) has been involved with BEST Robotics Inc. The students collaborate with the College of Science and Mathematics and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering for this event and are responsible for conceiving and creating a design to accommodate all the functions of the South’s BEST Championship. The students interview the client, research the BEST program, familiarize themselves with a designated site, and develop design presentations for the client to review, while preparing and managing a schedule and budget for the event. The students’ large scale concepts respond to BEST’s Robotics yearly theme; often the designs must not only accommodate competition floors, they must incorporate space for team work areas, special lighting and video equipment, circulation for the competitors and the public, as well as set the overall mood for Championship play.

This service project is seen as an opportunity to not only engage in service learning but to also extend the educational model outside of the classroom. It is one of the first, of many, opportunities at APLA to participate in such programs.

Each year students create drawings and construct detailed mock-ups to present to the client.  As design ideas are refined and reviewed, students begin to choose materials, revisit construction details, and coordinate staging of a final design scheme. Finally, after few weeks of preparation, the first year Foundation Studio has one evening to erect their design, the intent to surprise competitors as they arrive. In past years, the studio designed the physical atmo­sphere—a large-scale stage set for the two-day robotics competition focusing primarily on large-scale interventions. This year, the students felt that this outreach project would be better realized if they reduced the scale of installation and increased the scale of competitor participation.

The theme this year, GAMEKEEPER, revolves around the idea of the reassembly of a CPU. In preparation for this theme, under the pedagogical guidance of Professors Margaret Fletcher and Rusty Smith, the students worked on complex anamorphic projections. These projections are part of a series of four types of projected drawing constructions that the Foundation Unit students have been studying. The four types of projected drawings are orthographic projections, paraline projections, perspectival projections and anamorphic projections. The anamorphic projections seemed particularly appropriate as an area of study since these distorted projections require the viewer to occupy a specific vantage point in order to be able to reassemble the image in physical space.

This year’s BEST Robotics Championship was staged in the new Basketball Arena, which provides a new challenge as it effectively acts as a Theater in the Round. This year the design challenge was to create an atmosphere that reinforces the theme of the game while promoting the visually open nature of the Arena.  In past years the students focused only the floor of the event—this year the students have decided to take on not only the floor of the Arena, but to primarily focus on activities on the concourse level of the Arena.  The students this year also decided to create an activity for the teams participating in the event and designed a scavenger hunt called Code Talkers. The Code Talkers scavenger hunt pitted the student teams against one another in a race against the clock to be able to decipher anamorphic projections located throughout the Arena that were written in binary code. Once the projections and the binary codes were properly translated, the teams raced to the finish line to deliver the scrambled message.

The successful partnership between the School of Architecture’s first year Foundation Studio and BEST Robotics Inc. continues to offer many opportunities for first year students to immerse themselves in a valuable first hand experience in Architectural design, construction and practice. 

View the Gallery