You're On FireOne of the least known but most successful programs in Abilene ISD is ATEMS Robotics coached by Larry Haney, Allison Stanley and Tracy Long.  Together, these three teachers volunteer countless hours mentoring their students in the mechanics, engineering, marketing, programming and strategy of putting together robots. Their tutelage has paid off with two state championship appearances this year, one in the fall and another this spring.

Organizations for Competition

ATEMS participates in two different organizations for robotics competitions.  BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, & Technology) Robotics begins in early September and finishes in early December, while VEX Robotics can start any time in the Fall semester and continues throughout the Spring semester.  The two competitions have some similarities but are different in a few key ways:

  • With BEST Robotics, each team in Texas has six weeks in which to build. With VEX Robotics, teams can take as long as they want throughout the year to build, perfect, and design their robot.
  • In VEX competitions, teams use the same material (purchased from the VEX Corporation), but can spend any amount of money to further enhance their robot. In BEST Robotics, each team is given the same building materials – wood, pvc, sheet metal, etc. – and all enhancements to the robot depends on the tools at the school’s disposal.
  • BEST Robotics is UIL sanctioned and an unlimited number of students may participate on each team. VEX competitions are not UIL sanctioned and are limited to five members per team.

BEST Robotics

On Nov. 30-Dec. 1, the ATEMS Robotic Team competed in the BEST State UIL Championships in Frisco. Competing against 75 other schools from around the state, ATEMS finished 25th overall, and had a strong showing with their robot designed to “clean the oceans.” Students Carrmin Ray and Nathaniel Bryce even won 1st place in the “Robotics Website” category. You can see their fantastic work at

VEX Robotics

On Feb. 23, the ATEMS Robotics Team competed in the VEX Robotics North Texas State Championships in Greenville.  Competing against the top 45 robotics teams in North Texas, the team from ATEMS finished a respectable 16th.   And even though the team did not come out on top, they received the Think Award which is presented to a team that has developed and effectively used quality programs as part of their strategy to solve the robotics gaming challenge. Key criteria for the award includes:

  • All programming is cleanly written, well documented, and easy to understand
  • Team has explained a clear programming strategy to solve the game challenge
  • Team demonstrates their programming management process, including version history
  • Team’s autonomous code (whereby the robot essentially drives itself) is consistent and reliable
  • Teamwork, interview quality, and team professionalism was high quality

We are very proud of these students and their accomplishments.   Next up . . . the Technical Student Association VEX competition!