The MCHS Botcats team competes at Mississippi Best at Mississippi State, a challenge where teams design a robot that must respond to specific challenges. According to their website, "Mississippi BEST is designed to inspire and interest students in engineering, science, and technology through participation in an exciting sports-like technology contest. The BEST competition motivates students by challenging them to build a remote-controlled robot that accomplishes a defined task within a competitive setting. Using only the materials provided, students have six weeks to design, develop, and test a robot that can outperform their competitors. During this time, the students experience the same problems, challenges, and breakthroughs that an engineering team encounters when it takes a product to market. In both cases, there are team dynamics, time constraints, material constraints, and pressure from other teams who are trying to solve the same problem. Placed in a real situation, with real problems, the students provide real (and surprisingly ingenious) solutions. The weeks of hard work culminate in a thrilling day long competition where one team achieves “BEST” performance. The inspiring even combines the excitement of a high school football game with the strategy of a chess match and the intellectual challenge of a science fair."
As it turns out, the project this year involved disaster relief. The team had the task of restoring power to an electrical grid in a neighborhood. Some of the objectives included installing residential power lines and transformers, and removing debris. The goal of the project was to make life easier on Linemen, the people who do the jobs the robots are trying to do.
The project that started out on September 10 just like any other year took on a whole new dimension for MCHS students this year. On October 26, a windstorm swept through McNairy County, leaving behind building damage, trees and other debris, and multiple power outages due to felled power lines. School was dismissed for a full week. At the peak, Pickwick Electric Cooperative (PEC) estimated more than 13,000 homes were without power. Crews began arriving from multiple outside agencies to help in restoring the power, giving the Botcats a firsthand account of the project they had been working on.
The team is composed of several smaller groups, and each group has a specific task, in addition to building the robot. Teams create a trade show booth, a marketing commercial, and a t-shirt all aimed at promoting their robot. The 2019 robot was given the name "Bumblebee". At the competition, the students participate in an interview, and demonstrate what their robot can do.
The team earned the following awards: 1st Place TradeShow Booth & Interview; 2nd Place Robot Head-To-Head; 2nd Place Team T-Shirt Design, 3rd Place Marketing Commercial, and 2nd Place Overall BEST Competition. Their 2nd place finish qualified them to move on to the next level at Auburn South's BEST on December 7.