R4 team members and their families pose at the West Texas BEST competition Nov. 6 in Lubbock. Courtesy photo.

Rio Rancho students won top the award at robotics competition last month and advanced to the regional level.

They won the West Texas BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) hub competition Nov. 6 in Lubbock, according to online results and an R4 press release.

BEST teaches kids how to establish and run a business and is one of the largest free robotics competitions in the nation, according to the R4 release. This year, they had to build and program a robot to sort materials at a demolition and construction site, which would help keep property and people safe in the real world.

Local students from the nonprofit R4 Creating brought home the top awards, including BEST Overall, second place for the robot and first place for Engineering Notebook, Exhibit Booth and Critical Design Interview. They competed against 16 other teams.

Their success secures their advancement to a regional competition, with about 70 teams hosted by the University of North Texas this weekend.

The team has 35 members and has participated in the annual competition since 2005. Coming from Rio Rancho, students have been able to travel across the world for BEST competitions.

Student Victoria MacMillan, 17, said BEST enhanced the skills she would use in her future.

“I am now able to talk in front of groups of people without getting nervous,” MacMillan said. “I have also developed my technical writing skills, which is a critical communication skill, in addition to being able to present important information and uphold professionalism. Being in a leadership position has taught me to be empathetic to others in the organization.”

R4 is preparing students for a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) while supporting educators to grow the quality and number of STEM programs in New Mexico.

Derek Sanchez, an alumnus of the program and SolidWorks software company professional, said being part of R4 and competing in BEST prepared him in many ways for his career.

“BEST provides experiences that most other people won’t have until later in their life,” Sanchez said. “I am fortunate to be in a position where I could find my passion at a young age, and this could only happen because of the R4 program.

“Straight out of high school, I had the opportunity to work with engineers using SolidWorks. This gave me a launchpad for my career, a competitive advantage that the average 18-year-old doesn’t have. I learned how valuable teamwork is and the importance of collaboration. I don’t think I could experience this anywhere else but R4 and BEST. It was fun but hard.”

To learn more about the award-winning R4 program, visit R4Creating.org.