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The Role Of A Middle/High School Engineering Design Contest In Student Preparation For Higher Education And Careers

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.641.1 - 5.641.8

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Paper Authors

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Peggy Samson

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Ken Vickers

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2586

The Role of a Middle/High School Engineering Design Contest in Student Preparation for Higher Education and Careers

Ken Vickers, Peggy Samson University of Arkansas/Texas A&M University


BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) is a non-profit, community-based volunteer organization started in 1993 by a group of technologists in Sherman, Texas to systematically address the lack of public peer acclaim for academically successful K-12 students. BEST provides public recognition of these students’ academic, technological, and problem solving skills by offering students a chance to compete in a sports-like engineering design contest, one that deliberately mimics a product design-to-market cycle. This paper will document the growth of the BEST local hub network from its inception in 1993 to its 1999 status of 14 local hubs in five states. Variations in local hub organizations will be discussed to illustrate the many ways that communities can implement a BEST contest. A detailed roadmap by which a new local hub can implement a BEST contest in its community will be presented, along with a description of the evolving nature of the BEST Robotics Inc. parent organization. The BEST program’s positive effect on individual students, schools, and communities will be discussed, with examples of some significant changes directly attributed to BEST implementation in their locales.

I. Introduction

The performance of American school children in science and mathematics is low compared to that of many other industrialized nations. Several theories have been proposed to account for this low performance, from ineffective schooling to lack of parental encouragement to over- selling of non-academic careers such as professional sports. But regardless of cause, it can be observed in almost all school systems that academically successful students in our schools receive much less peer recognition and acclaim than do athletically successful students.

In 1993 a group of concerned industrial technologists in the Texas Instruments facility in Sherman, Texas decided to combat this problem by creating an opportunity for academically successful students to receive the same type of public acclaim as the school’s athletic teams. Modeling their new effort after a Massachusetts Institute of Technology freshman design class,

Samson, P., & Vickers, K. (2000, June), The Role Of A Middle/High School Engineering Design Contest In Student Preparation For Higher Education And Careers Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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