Driving the Future, part 2: Good Hope Middle School takes top middle school honors at Auburn

Jena Mayo

GHMS Robotics team with its robot and recent awards.

GOOD HOPE – While high school robotics is becoming all the rage, some areas of the field are open to middle schoolers with enough nerve to play with the big kids. The BEST program, outlined in part 1 of this series, has a competition category for middle schools, and Good Hope Middle School (GHMS) has taken full advantage of it.  The school's team just returned from Auburn with one of the highest honors a middle school can win in BEST competition.

Jena Mayo is in her third year as team sponsor, while the GHMS program has been around one year longer.  In each of her three years, she has seen her team advance beyond the local hub competition at Wallace State to receive an invitation to "South's BEST" in Auburn.

Mayo describes the competition: "South's BEST at Auburn is a southeastern regional where all of the local hub winners from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi come together for a championship.  All teams, high school and middle schools, magnet, career tech, public and private schools all compete together with no separate divisions. There is an individual head to head robotics competition on the game field and then there is also a competition for the BEST award.  This combines the results of the robots with four other categories including engineering notebooks, marketing presentations, marketing booths and interviews, and spirit and sportsmanship."

Without divisions, a middle school faces a truly daunting task against teams who have had years more training in mathematics and other fields.

Mayo continued, "At South's BEST, they recognize the difficulty of a middle school team competing at such a high level when they have not even covered in class most of the material required to complete the project.  They give a special award to the middle school team that ranks the highest in both sides of the competition, robot and BEST award.  GHMS was the highest ranking middle school team for the overall BEST award."

All this is to say that in BEST Robotics, GHMS currently sits as the top middle school in the five-state southeast region!

The GHMS team is a large group of students with several mentors, adult volunteers who assist the team in various ways.  Team members are: Sophie Davis, Charli Overton, Bryant Childs, Elijah Anderson, Alyson Williams, Zachary Hall, Taylor Brown, Sara Owens, Wyatt Creel, Tripp Taylor, Lily Williams, Hailey Harris, Preston Seymore, Landon Holmes, Adam McCluskey, Juliana Sprayberry, Matt Self, Logan Self, Josh Ponder, Jeb Jarrett, Jessica Costello, Paydon Bagwell, Braxton Marshall, Chloe Glover, Maddie McKenney, Rudi Derrick, Morgan Martin, Grant Seymore and Charlie O'Neil.

Four mentors help out the team.  Nathan McCluskey, John McKenney and Eric Martin help the students construct their robots, doing some of the power tool work that might be a little out of reach for some middle schoolers.  Shannon Self helps with engineering, teaching students how to design robots on computers using CAD (computer-aided drafting) software.

The South's BEST competition marks the conclusion of the season for GHMS robotics, but their break will be brief.  Next year's competition theme was revealed at the end of the tournament, so members and mentors already have some idea of the task ahead of them.  Preparations for the next competition will begin right after students return from Christmas break, along with the start of recruiting the next crop of team members.

Mayo explained, "We spend the off season learning skills that will improve our team members’ skills, including programming, critical thinking, and marketing skills and strategies.  We also prepare for an outreach program with the fifth-grade students at GHE (Good Hope Elementary School)."

The sponsor is happy about all her team has accomplished, and ecstatic about this year's award.  She said, "This is a huge accomplishment, and I could not be prouder of my team!"


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