Team Phoenix returned from the 2011 BEST Robotics kickoff at the Heartland BEST hub on the campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University on September 17th.  Never having been to Alva, OK, despite being a life-long resident of the Great State of Oklahoma, I was very impressed with the town of Alva and NWOSU in particular.  Having switched from the OKBEST hub at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond to Heartland BEST, it was interesting to note the differences.  I certainly don't mean to slight the good folks at OKBEST in any way, but we did feel decidedly more welcome on campus at NWOSU, and they also seemed to be a little more organized as well.

This year's competition is 'BUGS', and once again the team has to design, build, test, and compete with a robot built from the kit of materials provided by BEST and their sponsors.  This year's kit includes motor mounts (last year we all had to fabricate our own, so it's nice to have ones provided) and power adapters for the servoes, as the VEX Cortex controller, the 'brain' of the robot, tended to put out too much power for the Futaba servoes--burning them out. 

Essentially our robot will need to be able to navigate a course, pick up a variety of objects of differing shapes, sizes, and mass, and carry them over obstacles to deposit them in different scoring areas.  Each scoring area is protected by different obstacles, and the ones protected by the more difficult obstacles also offer a higher score multiplier for the objects placed inside them.  The robot will be remote controlled, autonomous robots requiring much more expensive sensors and equally complex programming.  The robot will compete in a series of matches against other similar robots from other teams, each mach lasting 3 minutes.  Further information can be found on the BEST website.