Alabama Power Foundation, Southern Nuclear, Southern Company Generation And Energy Marketing Proud Sponsors of Alabama BEST Competition

A new program designed to inspire high school students to consider careers in science and engineering is getting a financial boost from Alabama Power and two other Southern Company subsidiaries.

Alabama BEST -- Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology -- will pit more than two dozen teams from high schools across the state. Each team will have six weeks to design and build a robot that will compete against other team robots in a game format. The top three teams in the tournament, scheduled for Oct. 26-27 at Auburn University, will head to Texas to participate in the national championship. A fourth team also will travel to Texas to compete in the BEST Award competition. The BEST Award winner will be chosen based on separate criteria, including overall presentation and community and school involvement in the project.

The competition kicks off Sept. 15, when teams learn the details about this year's game theme and collect a box of parts they must use to build their robots. Each team receives an identical box of supplies. How the teams tackle the theme -- this year's game theme is "RAD to the Core" -- is up to them.

The Alabama Power Foundation and two Alabama-based, Southern Company subsidiaries, Southern Nuclear and Southern Company Generation and Energy Marketing, are donating a combined $20,000 to help cover costs for the state competition. It is the largest financial contribution to date to the Alabama program.

Alabama Power and other Southern Company subsidiaries also are contributing to the program by providing mentors for some of the teams. In addition to the teachers who serve as team coaches, each team has a mentor who serves as a technical advisor. Neither the teacher nor the mentor, however, may help build the team's robot.

"We couldn't do this without Alabama Power and Southern Company's support," said Dr. George Blanks, director of Business and Engineering Continuing Education at Auburn University and Alabama BEST's co-director. He said the Alabama program, which still needs corporate sponsors, is inviting other universities around the state to become BEST "hubs" next year. The goal, he said, is to launch a series of regional playoffs, with the winners competing at Auburn for the state championship. Auburn University is the newest BEST hub among 19 now spread across eight states.

He said the BEST program, which was the brainchild of several engineers at Texas Instruments in Dallas, does more than simply encourage high schoolers to study engineering and science. He said the program could help boost flat enrollment rates at engineering schools and, in the long run, help U.S. companies meet their growing need for engineers and skilled workers.

"It's a partnership between business and industry and education," Blanks said.

Alabama BEST organizers will receive the $20,000 contribution at noon Friday (July 13) during a presentation at the Birmingham office of Susan Story, Southern Company's executive vice president of Engineering and Generation Services.

"We are pleased to help kick off the Alabama BEST program," Story said. "Already proven in other states, BEST demonstrates to young people the rewards and excitement that come with advanced technical careers. It teaches problem- solving, management skills and teamwork -- and promises plenty of fun, too."

For more information about the Alabama BEST program or to volunteer as a mentor, call Dr. George Blanks at 1-800-446-0382.

Alabama Power owns and operates 14 hydroelectric plants in Alabama, providing clean, low-cost energy. Alabama Power provides affordable, reliable electric service to 1.3 million customers in the lower two-thirds of Alabama. Alabama Power is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company , which operates more than 32,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Southeast. Southern Company is one of the largest producers of electricity in the United States.


SOURCE: Alabama Power

Contact: Michael Sznajderman of Alabama Power, 205-257-4155, or