Eclipse Robotics team to compete in BEST Robotics Competition

By: 
DONNA SUMMERALL
Staff Writer

Across Mississippi, hundreds of high school age students are gearing up for the MS BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technologies) Robotics competition, Saturday, Sept. 30, at Humphrey Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi State University.
Local home-school students from the Starkville Christian Home Educators Eclipse Robotics, a veteran team who has been participating in the event for 11 years, has received the overall BEST award twice and first place in the robotics competition once.
Adam Easley of Cedar Bluff and Zach Miller of West Point lead the robot build team at Eclipse Robotics.
Easley said he enjoys seeing the process of going from not even knowing what the task will be to having a fully-functioning robot that can complete everything.
He said its amazing what can get done when you have a group of people giving all their time to accomplish a goal.
"According to the rules they have just six weeks to build a robot to accomplish specific tasks for competition day," Kim Miller, mentor for the SCHE Robotics Team said, "We have found out the tasks will be related to firefighting."
Miller said students are not just learning the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) basics. Using the hands-on method of putting what is taught into an actual working model helps students better understand the concepts.
"We have 42 students, eight of them are from West Point and Clay County," Miller said. "We have students from Mathiston, Steens, Artesia, Prairie and beyond. This SCHE isn't for Starkville students. We welcome anyone from the area."
Miller joined the Eclipse Robotics team five years ago.
“When I first started robotics, I didn’t even know what STEM was, but throughout the years, I have learned a lot about it," Zach Miller said. “I have really improved my brainstorming and problem solving skills, while also learning a lot about how math is used for engineering.”
Kim Miller said BEST not only focuses on STEM but also on marketing, public speaking, and graphic design.
Melanie Jennings, of Cedar Bluff, teaches at East Mississippi Community College and has a daughter involved in Eclipse Robotics.
“There’s a lot beside the STEM part that’s been really valuable to my daughter," Jennings said. "Just saying ‘robotics’ doesn’t begin to encompass all that the kids learn in BEST Robotics.”
Jennings said the students have taken on a wide range of intensive tasks on a short time clock.
"They have had to develop some problem-solving skills and project management skills," Jennings said. "That you honestly don’t see in an adult work place a lot of times."
Emily Jennings leads the photography team at Eclipse Robotics.
“What I like about robotics is that even if you aren't in a team that deals with STEM, you can't help but learn something about it due to the exposure you get," Emily Jennings said. "I have learned so much about STEM through robotics, and I feel like it will come in handy in future years.”
Those interested in finding out more about BEST Robotics and the Eclipse team is invited to the competition at the Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Eclipse Robotics team, which is part of the multi-county homeschool group named Starkville Christian Home Educators (SCHE), may be found on Facebook under “SCHE Robotics Team” and on Twitter at “schescience.”

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