The Rice University - Texas Medical Center Chapter of Sigma Xi supports Hightower and Elkins High Schools in the BEST and FIRST robotics competitions, by providing mentors and modest cash sums to develop students' understanding of sensor physics. These competitions occur in both the fall semester (BEST) and spring semester (FIRST), and last for six weeks at a time. Each competition reveals the developmental goals of the new game at a group meeting, at which the many teams involved in the competition are present.  Each team then has six weeks to build a robot to meet the requirements expressed at the group meeting.


The BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) competition constrains competitors to build the robot using only the materials provided. Students must produce a robot that must fit into a 24” x 24” x 24” cube at the start of the competition, and the robot must weigh less than 24lbs.  Mentors must be able to help the students use the materials in unusual ways, in order that the robots may be able to reach seven feet into the air, pick up objects on the floor, or suspend them over the playing field.  In addition, the mentor helps the students learn engineering principles, through the writing of the notebooks, making the engineering diagrams and models, and describing how the team interacts and builds the robot. The robot is to be primarily student-built.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition requires the construction of a much larger robot, and many teams have professional machining capabilities. This robot can weigh up to 125lbs, and can move surprisingly quickly.  These robots require sensor physics to compete well, and must be able to work autonomously for part of the competition, in order to place well and win. Just as with BEST, these are national competitions, with regional, state, and national levels. They require a great deal of work, and are extremely fun. 

If there is a high school near you, they can use your help! Not all high schools have BEST and/or FIRST teams, but approximately 40 different teams are in the Greater Houston Area. Please consider starting a team in your neighborhood high school if one does not exist.