Texas, New Mexico Teams Bring the Heat to BEST Robotics Competition

  • Seventh-graders from Smithson Valley Middle School in Spring Branch, (from left) Justin Bara, Santiago Retana and Kyle Peter, represented team Gearheads. "We built it to save firefighters and victims' lives," Bara said.

The top robotics teams from Texas and New Mexico converged on the UT Dallas campus for the recent Texas BEST & UIL State Robotics Championship, where they competed to create the ultimate firefighting robot.

The annual event is designed to give students in middle and high school hands-on experience in engineering, problem-solving and teamwork. Volunteers from industry and academia share their talents in an effort to engage and excite the students about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Competitors took part in exhibits and judging on campus Dec. 7-8. The practice rounds, competition and award presentations were held on Dec. 9 at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco.

For the competition, titled “Crossfire,” four teams at a time competed in a 3-minute match on a 24-by-24-foot playing field. They had to use their robots to extinguish fires, save civilians and collect hazardous waste.

The teams completed these tasks by designing features such as slingshots that propelled golf balls, representing water, at the fire; scoops that snatched a mannequin, representing a victim, and maneuvered it to safety; and claws that grasped cans, representing dangerous material, and moved them away from the scene. 

This year, Trenton High School defeated the 2015 and 2016 winner, Martin’s Mill ISD, to win the UIL Group 1 state championship for 1A-4A schools. The UIL Group 2 state champion for 5A-6A schools was Hutto High School, followed by runner-up Arlington Martin High School.

Trenton High School Principal Jeremy Strickland said the North Texas school’s robotics program is only 2 years old.

Trenton’s total student enrollment is about 150, and almost 50 comprise the Trenton robotics program. Strickland said the community support and involvement has been special.

He also lauded the time and effort put in by the team’s two coaches, Larry Williams, who teaches science, and Ronald Glaser, who teaches business and technology at the school.

“For a school our size to have this many kids involved in robotics speaks to the quality of the instructors and the program itself,” Strickland said.

Since 2011, UT Dallas’ Science and Engineering Education Center and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science have hosted the event. This year, the UT Dallas Office of Information Technology helped fund the event, along with Texas Instruments, State Farm, Lockheed Martin, Baker Botts, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Rockwell Collins and MathWorks. 

Trenton High School robotics team

Trenton High School’s robotics team won the UIL Group 1 state championship for 1A-4A schools at the Texas BEST & UIL State Robotics Championship. (Courtesy of Trenton High School)

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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