The idea for a BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) competition originated in 1993 when two Texas Instrument engineers, Ted Mahler and Steve Marum, were serving as guides for Engineering Day at their company site in Sherman. Together with a group of high school students, they watched a video of freshmen building a robot in Woodie Flowers’ class at MIT. The high school students were so interested that Ted and Steve said, “Why don’t we do this?”
With enthusiastic approval from TI management, North Texas BEST was born. The first competition was held in 1993 with 14 schools and 221 students (including one team from San Antonio).
After learning that a San Antonio group had formed a non-profit organization to support a BEST event, North Texas BEST mentored them in providing their own BEST competition. Thus, San Antonio BEST, the second BEST competition site (or “hub”), was started in 1994. The two groups – North Texas and San Antonio – decided to meet for Texas BEST, a state playoff at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX.
In 1995, more hubs were started as word spread: Collin County BEST (Frisco, TX); West Texas BEST (Texas Tech University in Lubbock); and Chicago BEST. Also, that year, Texas BEST – the “state championship” – became an annual event sponsored by Texas Instruments and Texas A&M University. BEST continued to grow, adding 3–4 hubs annually. In 1997, the 4-year old organization established itself as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the state of Texas as BEST Robotics, Inc. (BRI). The growth continued at a similar pace, spreading throughout Texas and neighboring states (Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico) and even further (Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky and even California).
In 2001 BEST held its first New Hub Workshop at Texas Instruments in Dallas. This sparked rapid growth in the next several years throughout Alabama and the south. In 2003, BEST’s second regional championship was born, South’s BEST, at Auburn University , Alabama. Thirty-six teams from nine hubs in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois competed. Texas BEST featured 60 teams from 17 hubs in five states.
BEST continued to grow as many colleges and universities began organizing hubs. The reach became wider with hubs as far apart as Fargo, N. Dakota and New Britain, Conneticut. Two additional championships were added as the program expanded across the US bringing the total to four. Frontier Trails BEST championship was established in Fort Smith, Arkansas and Northern Plains BEST championship in Fargo, North Dakota.
In 2009, the program started its bi-annual BEST National Conference for volunteers and teachers. The conference is held during the summer of odd years and provides a great place to share information. There are typically tracks regarding hub execution, technical training, design process, and other teacher training.
In 2010, BEST held its first BEST National Championship, taking the top finishers from each of the then 3 regional championships and pitting them head-to-head in a final nationwide competition to find the best team in the country.
BEST has continued to enjoy growth as a volunteer organization, while maintaining its core values of no entry fees, ties to the educational system and student-led design/construction.