Week 8: The Science Behind Plastic

The Science behind Plastic– Week 8

We have learned about recycling and the amount of plastic garbage in our oceans, as well as some ways to clean up this mess. Last week we took a look at how plastic is killing some of our aquatic friends, especially turtles. Let’s take a step back and look at the science behind plastic and why plastic is so bad for our environment.

Let’s take a look at how plastic is made.

Watch this video From Gas to Plastic

For all you chemistry Brainiacs, this one is for you. It’s also for anyone that wants to try wrapping their brain around this, but don’t let the plastic hurt you.

Polymers and plastics, Chemistry 101


Now let’s answer some questions. We want you to come up with the answers either by researching or discussing as a group. Write them down for later discussions.

  1. Can we live without plastic?
  2. How important is plastic in our lives?
  3. Is there an alternative to plastic?

Now that you have had some type of discussion, let’s get a little more detailed.

  1. What are the different types or categories of plastics?
  2. Make a list of companies, industries, business, or any place that uses plastic. This is very open so you can be as general or as specific asyou want. Make a list of the business and what they use plastic for,
  3. How are these plastics recycled?

Would you sail on this boat? Read this article.

After reading the article maybe you have an idea on how to use recyclable plastic bottles.


Science of plastics

The Dirty Dozen

Green Facts

Life without plastic

Plastic alternatives

Baby Steps

The Economics of Change

WOW! Very interesting

Friends of the Earth

BEST kit 2017

BEST Consumable Kit 2017

A Little Competition:

Here is how it works.

  • Start collecting any type of plastic that can be recycled. Weigh the plastic, take a picture of the plastic and record the weight. Let us know how you are recycling it.
  • You can submit multiple pictures.
  • There will a prize for the school that recycles the most.

Here is what you need to submit:

  1. School Name and HUB
  2. Picture of the weight
  3. Picture of the recycled materials
  4. Amount of recycled materials
  5. Where are you recycling it

Submit to bestology@bestinc.org

Community Connection:

Maybe there IS a solution –  VIDEO

The problem of plastic killing our marine friends is not something new. Companies out there are finding solutions to make their products more environmentally friendlier and less harmful. The video above gives one solution. Are there more?

See if you can find companies that are making products that are helping and not killing our marine friends.

List the company, the product and the science behind their product that makes it less harmful.

 BEST Connection:

This was last week’s BEST connection – Look at the BEST kit. Is there anything in there that can cause damage to marine life if not disposed of correctly?

If there are items you found that can cause damage to marine life, then do you have an alternative product you can suggest?

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing

Week 7: Turtles are friends not Foe

These turtles are amazing. Watch this video first.

We wish this was the truth about turtles, but we know it isn’t.

Below is a picture of what is really happening to sea turtles. They are in danger, endangered, and some species are becoming extinct. Let’s take a dive into the ocean and see what is happening to our sea turtles and other sea creatures.

“You See the Difference. A Turtle Does Not” –


Infographic: Sea Turtles

What is a Gyre?

Threats from marine debris

Marine species dying from plastic trash

See How It Feels to Be an Ocean Animal Stuck in a Plastic Bag 

Ocean Crusaders

Ocean plastic pollution

BEST kit 2017

BEST Consumable Kit 2017


Make a table similar to the one below. You can use this table or create your own. You are going to be researching sea creatures that are harmed by man-made materials in the ocean. We want to see your research findings. Send your table, chart or graph to bestology@bestinc.org.

We have only given you a few suggested titles in the table; you are free to add your own title headings. 

Type of sea creature

Location Material harming them “your research topic”

“your research topic”


Math and Science: Variables and Graphing

Let’s connect a little bit to math and science. Variables and graphing is a large weakness in middle and high school math and science. Students have a tough time understanding the difference between dependent and independent variables in an experiment. Take a minute to get familiar with the difference between these two types of variables.

Once you have made your table above we want you to make a graph representing your data.

Make sure you show the following:

  • Title
  • Labels on the x and y axis
  • List the dependent and independent variables

Community Connection:

View this website. Warning, it might be too upsetting for some people

Discuss as a group what you can do to help this huge problem.

It seems simple and most of us don’t live near the ocean, so what can we as a community do to help save these animals from this huge plastic garbage epidemic.

 BEST Connection:

Look at the BEST kit. Is there anything in the kit that can cause damage to marine life if not disposed of correctly?


Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing

Week 6: Robots in Motion in the Ocean

About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans yet so much of it hasn’t been explored. This lesson is going to introduce you to the robots of the ocean. You will need to do a lot of research and become familiar with the types of robots and the jobs they are set out to do. At the end of the lesson you will try to design your own robot to do a job you learned about or even a job no one has thought about. Who knows, you might invent a new robot or maybe use this robot in the BEST competition of Current Events.

What can an oceanic robot do?

First – Brainstorm all the things a robot in the ocean could do. List any kind of work it could perform.

Then watch this video on WHAT ARE OCEAN ROBOTS

Now time for some Research. Use the internet and find as many different ways robots can be used in our oceans.


The Liquid Grid

Ocean Floor Mining

Liquid Robots

Ocean Exploration

Navy’s Sea Hunter

Ocean Depths

An ambitious startup

BEST kit 2017

BEST Consumable Kit 2017

A Blast from the Past:    Exploring the Titanic

“Hi, my name is Angus and I was one of the robots used in 1985 and 1986 on the sunken Titanic expedition”

Learn more about ANGUS and the Titanic expedition.

Now watch this video

Make your own introduction to Ocean exploration. Time to get creative. If you want to make a video you can and send it to  bestology@bestinc.org. It could get published on the BEST YouTube site!

Getting more specific about the Pacific

Lesson 5 was all about plastic in the ocean. We focused on one man and his project to clean up plastic in the Pacific Ocean. Let’s take a look at other robots and companies that are getting involved.

We need to clean up the Pacific garbage patch. Let’s look at how robots are involved in this project.

1.   World’s Largest Ocean Plastic Garbage Cleaning System – “The Ocean Cleanup”

2.   Sea Vax

3.     Underwater robot cleans ocean trash

4.   NOAA – Marine Debris Program

Community Connection:

Now that you are more aware of the Great Pacific garbage patch and how robots are involved in the cleanup, sit down and discuss ways how you as a robotics cub can contribute to this awareness and even help in the project locally. Make it real by contacting your local council and tell them you want to help.

 BEST Connection:

Look at your BEST kit, find a robot that you were interested in while doing your research, see if you can match parts of the BEST kit to parts that could be used on the robot you found.

Now try this extended challenge:

  1. Design a robot on paper, as neat or as rough as you want and explain what this robot will be doing. What its function will be.
  2. Now consider only items from the BEST kit to build your robot. Do you think it could be possible to build this robot?

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing


Week 5: The Plastic Ocean

Most of us use plastic every day in some way or another. Some of us recycle the plastic, BUT some of us just throw it away. This week we will see just how devastating plastic in the ocean really is.

Watch the video below as an introduction to this eye opening topic.

A Plastic Ocean – Video

Myth VS Reality

WATCH – Plastic in the ocean: A graphic overview

In the graphic overview you will find several myths and the truths behind each these myths.

To Do – Make a list of the myth and describe its reality.


World Ocean Day

 Fact Sheet: Plastics in the Ocean

TRASH TALK: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

How Much Trash Is In Our Ocean?

For Animals, Plastic Is Turning the Ocean Into a Minefield

BEST kit 2017

BEST Consumable Kit 2017

Become an expert, make a difference, do something about it……


The Oceans Are Drowning in Plastic — And No One’s Paying Attention

Click on this link and become the expert on how plastic is ruining our oceans.

There are several great, yet scary articles in this link that will show you what bad shape our oceans are in.  After reading some of these articles, make a poster that outlines the most devastating facts you can find. Take a picture of your poster and send it to bestology@bestinc.org.  The BEST posters will be displayed on the BEST Robotics website and at the regional championships.

Design and innovation

Can These Inventions Save Oceans From Our Plastic Habit?

Here are some very interesting innovations that we are trying in order to clean up the plastic in our oceans.

Go to this link, and learn about these inventions.

See if you can come up with an idea on how to collect plastics from the ocean. Brainstorm ideas and see if you can come up with a machine that can clean up plastic in the ocean. This is a great practice for brainstorming as you will be doing a lot of this during the BEST competition.

Foreign Help – Let’s bring it local

Click on this name, BOYAN SLAT, and read about this incredibly smart young engineer and see how he is participating in THE OCEAN CLEANUP

  1. What are we as Americans doing to contribute to the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean?
  2. What can we do to help prevent this?

Discuss ways that you as an individual, you as a group of students at your school or in your community can work together to prevent this from getting worse.


Below is a poem that Brian Lieu wrote about the devastation of plastic

Brian Lieu

It never goes away…
It kills, but can’t be killed…
The albatross was full…
What’s stopping us from being full
one day…?
(We’re already fool…)
Our greatest phobia should be of it and of what it can do…
My greatest phobia should be of it and of the fact that I contributed…
Number 1 Polyethylene terephthalate Number 2 high-density polyethylene Number 3 polyvinyl chloride
Number 4 Low-density polyethylene Number 5 polypropylene Number 6 polystyrene
Number 7 Other…
What more lurks behind the darkness of Other…?
A new phobia in the development…
What more will be killed by Other…?
Fish are friends, not recycle bins…
Birds look better in the air than in the ground…
How much of the ocean will be inherited by Other…?
Underwater real estate is in demand…
How much more of Earth will be inherited by Other…?

Now it’s time for you to become the poet.

Write a small poem about the problem of plastic in the ocean.

BEST Connection

Look at your BEST kit, consumables and returnables and determine which of these could possibly land up as plastic garbage in our oceans. Once you have made your list then discuss how you can avoid this from happening.

Community Connection:  Making the difference

  1. What is the next step in plastic waste reduction? Do you think it starts with you? Us? Or does it need to come from higher up?
  2. What is your city, community, school district, neighborhood, or city doing to help with waste reduction?

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing

Week 4: Currents

This week’s lesson takes us on a learning journey through currents. Let’s explore how these three topics above are all linked.

Let’s Begin…

What do these three topics have in common?

Take a few minutes and think about how these three topics are linked then discuss with your group.

Hopefully you came up with the idea that these topics all deal with power, or energy.

Current events tell us about what is going on around the world; these topics are powerful ideas or hot topics for discussion. It’s what drives us currently. Whether it is about politics, entertainment, technology, or science, we are always watching the news to find what is happening now around the world.

Ocean currents can be extremely powerful; they can turn over boats, destroy houses close to the ocean shore, and cause plenty of erosion. Some of these currents have a lot of potential energy that can cause a lot of damage or just carry garbage or debris all over the place and pollute our oceans.

Electrical Current is the flowing of the electrons or the electricity in motion. Current is the amount of electrons that can flow through certain material. The electrical current is measured in Amperes or AMPS.

The electrical wire is a conductor and it allows the electricity to pass through it. When the current flows through the wire it creates heat which is energy. Therefore the more current or AMPS, the more heat is associated with the wire.


Understanding Ocean Currents

Motion in the Ocean

Perpetual Ocean Video by NASA

What is Electric Current?


Going Green

Electrical Grid

BEST kit 2017

BEST Consumable Kit 2017

Making a connection – GOING EXTREME

We know that electricity gives energy to power our homes, and cities. We covered recycling in lesson 3 and learned all about alternative energy. Let’s focus on electricity and how countries around the world are finding really extreme and outrageous ways to generate electricity.

Start off by reading the article YOU JUST WONT BELIEVE THIS!   See how extreme you can be and find the most outrageous ways countries, cities, or towns around the world are converting junk into electricity.


Is it possible to use ocean current to provide us with electricity? According to BOEM (Beaureau of Ocean Energy Management)

The relatively constant flow of ocean currents carries large amounts of water across the earth’s oceans. Technologies are being developed so that energy that can be extracted from ocean currents and converted to usable power. Read this article Ocean Current Energy , and see what is been done to harness the energy from the ocean currents. What are some of the barriers? What has been accomplished? See if you can solve what needs to be done to make this all happen.


  1. Find a current event that deals with CURRENTS, or any topic discussed in this lesson. Please don’t use a current event listed in the resource list.
  2. Summarize the problem, the solution, and steps taken to fix the problem. If there is no solution write down what you think could be the solution.
  3. If there is a student with an article and no solution, consider having a discussion about it.

BEST Connection:

Look at your BEST kit and determine the size of the battery in Volts, the rating of the wire used, how much current is flowing through the wires to the motors and servos.

Community Connection: THE POWER GRID

  1. What is the POWER GRID? Most cities have several choices to make when choosing an electrical company. What choices do you have in your community? Find the electrical companies and see how they contribute to the power grid and what impact do they have on our economy.
  2. Is the power grid successful, or is it ancient? Are people trying to find a solution to improve it?

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing


Week 3: All About Recycling

Recycle Icon

Are you ready to get dirty? Put on your work gloves as we dive deep into the world of RECYCLING!

Let’s Begin…

Take a look at the graph below. This was in 2017 and shows the Recycling rate for major countries around the world. Look where the United States is compared to other countries.

What are countries like Germany, Singapore, Wales, South Korea, and others doing to make them the top recycling countries?

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Why is recycling even important?
  • Why should we recycle?
  • What are the benefits of recycling?

In order to answer these question we need to understand more about recycling and the problems we face.

Watch this short video to get started


The Poop on Diaper Recycling

Recycling Fun Facts

Where did the yellow duck go in the teaser video

What’s in our Landfills?

BEST Kit 2017


What are you doing for this planet in regards to recycling? Use the three R’s and reflect on how you are reusing, reducing and recycling? Maybe you are involved in a school recycling program, a club that recycles, or just in your home.

Try this little experiment at home; all about landfills.

Materials you will need:

  1. Soil
  2. 4 Garbage Samples (one must be a piece from a plastic bottle)
  3. 2-Liter Bottle
  4. Water
  5. Plastic Spoon


  1. Use the resources provided and do a little research about landfills.
  2. Cut a 2-Liter bottle in half. Place the top portion of the 2-liter bottle upside down in the cut off bottom half of the bottle.  (The bottom serves as a stand that will help keep the model upright.
  3. Place 2 cups of soil inside the bottle.
  4. Draw a large “X” on top of the soil so that you have 4 equal areas outlined in your landfill. Place the “garbage” samples in each section on top of the soil.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining soil on top of the “garbage”.
  6. Sprinkle ¾ cup water over the landfill (this simulates rainfall).
  7. Write down your predictions about which items in the landfill will break down first and which will break down last. Give your reasoning.
  8. Place the landfills in direct sunlight.
  9. On day 3 or 4, sprinkle ¾ cup water over the landfill.
  10. After another 4 days, use a spoon to gently scrape back the top layer of dirt to expose the samples and make observations.

Which items started to biodegrade, and which items did not?

Research and Connection:

Look back at the graph earlier in this lesson and find what these top recycling countries are doing.

Try to make a connection with week one and week two and see if there is recycling being done with our natural resources, or recycling being done to enhance or convert recycling to energy, or what role does water play in the role of recycling.


Divide into groups of four or five. Decide on a topic of recycling that you want to write about. You are going to write a fictional story; each student will write one paragraph and then put the story together. Share your stories with other groups and see which is the most creative.

BEST Connection:

Your BEST kit is divided into two parts; the return kit and the consumable kit. How does BEST robotics incorporate the 3 R’s of recycling into its program? You might have to ask your school robotics sponsor to help you on this one, or if you have been in the BEST program for a long time you might know how this works.

Community Connection:

Get in touch with your city waste department. You can probably find the information you need by visiting your city’s website. Most cities have an environmental waste department. Find out what your city does to recycle and what recycling plans they have in place? What resources do the residents in your city have in order to recycle?

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing, practical application

Week 2: Natural resources, our ENERGY source

This week’s lesson will look at our natural resources and how we are using them for energy.

Let’s Begin…

So what are our natural resources, and why are they so important? Natural resources are materials from the Earth that are used to support life and meet people’s needs. Any natural substance that humans use can be considered a natural resource. Oil, coal, natural gas, metals, stone and sand are natural resources. Other natural resources are air, sunlight, soil and water. Animals, birds, fish and plants are natural resources as well. Take a look around you. You will probably see some of the earth’s natural resources right in front of your eyes. Natural resources provide us with everything we need to survive. We can’t study natural resources without learning about energy, because after all our natural resources provide us with energy. So, get ENERGIZED to learn about natural resources and energy.

BUT, will these resources be around forever? We need to stop and think about what we are doing to preserve our natural resources.


Renewable Energy 101

Clean Energy

Electric Cars

Renewable Energy

Apple or Android – I really don’t care

Non-renewable energy

Even the CIA is involved

Energy Transformations

BEST kit 2017


Look around you; make a list of all the things you see in your home that are made from natural resources. Keep this list close by because we will add to this list throughout this lesson.

As we navigate through CURRENT EVENTS, generate a chart and list words associated with the topics over the next several weeks. Be sure to add new words to your list each week.


Get clued on Natural Resources

Refer to the “Get Clued on Natural Resources” to get some background information and widen your knowledge before you move on.

Part 1 – Now that you know a little more about natural resources we can divide these resources into two main groups; Renewable and Non-Renewable.

Use this  Natural Resources page  to make a list of your natural resources and put them into the two different groups.

Part 2 – Alternative energy – we can’t survive without energy. Energy that we use for our homes, our cars, electricity, etc. comes from our natural resources. If some of our resources are running out then we need to find an alternative to provide us with the energy we need.

Make a chart listing all the types of energy we use and what is an alternative form of energy.


Try one of these topics below. If you are feeling ENERGIZED, then try both.

  1. If you could move to another country, what country would that be? Based on the Natural resources from that country, write a short essay describing why you would move there. Your essay must be based on the natural resources for that country. HINT ( the CIA is involved)
  2. Pick an alternative energy that would help your community thrive. You are the CEO of a company that provides that alternative energy. Write a speech that you will deliver to the city convincing them why they should use your company.

BEST Connection:

Your BEST kit contains many parts. Some of those parts are used to power the robot. That power is a form of energy. Look inside your kit and find the parts that are used to power the robot, directly or indirectly. Write down these parts and what type of energy they provide.

Community Connection:

In today’s modern world we use all types of energy to function. Some energy makes our lives more efficient, some energy is making our planet cleaner, and some energy is disappearing. What type of energy are you using in your homes or community? Look at how your city is taking care of our natural resources? Are there any special programs in place? Are they working with any organizations?


Think and Share (great for Middle School)

You have learned a lot about natural resources, types of resources, and all about energy. Now let’s look and see if we can find how energy is being converted from one form to another. Have a discussion and talk about the different ways, and even give examples that are around you. You can also then look at the BEST connection and talk about energy transformation in the BEST kit.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing

Download a PDF version of this week’s lesson here

Week 1: Water, Water, Water

Our 2018 bESTology journey will shower you with information about water, and recycling, and get you ready for this year’s BEST robotics competition. So take a deep breath as we dive deep into the wonderful world of CURRENT EVENTS 2018!

Note: Each week of bESTology contains hints of the upcoming game CURRENT EVENTS. Happy searching!

Let’s Begin…

Do you ever wonder where the water you drink or the water you use to brush your teeth comes from? Do you ever think how much water it takes to fill a swimming pool or water our yards?

I think we take it for granted that when we open a faucet water will come out, or that when we come home from school we can take a nice warm shower. However, it is not like this all over the world. There are countries in Africa, where people living in small villages need to walk many miles just to fill up a few containers to bring back to their village. They must walk to the river just to wash their clothes or wash themselves. They have to boil the water they drink before they can drink it because it has so many contaminants in it. Some of these people have never had a glass of cold water, or water from a bottle.


WATER our most precious resource

Water Scarcity


The CDC knows about water

Cape Town – City in trouble


Over the past 24 hours you have used water. Create a list of all the water you have used and try to estimate the amount in gallons that you used. Then think about how you could have saved some of this water and maybe not wasted so much.

As we navigate through CURRENT EVENTS, generate a chart and list words associated with the topics over the next several weeks. Be sure to add new words to your list each week.


Cape Town, South Africa is having a terrible drought. All their water reserves are running out. Cape Town is a modern city, just like any city in the United States. But they have no water. The city is located on the ocean. Write a story where you either live in a city like Cape Town, or a village in Africa that has no water, or a water shortage and imagine what your daily life would be like.

BEST Connection:

BEST robotics has always created their projects around real world problems. Find a real world water problem besides the ones listed above and discuss this with your group.

Community Connection:

Go to your local city’s website or other local website and research where the water source for your city comes from. Get a map of your city and draw where the water comes from and where it goes to after it is used. Write down if there are any water restrictions for your area. Find out how much water your household or even your neighborhood uses. You will find this on a utility bill.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: add, create, explore, evaluate, generate, include, identify, list, observe, reflect, review, subdivide, use, and write

Workforce Skills: critical thinking, materials evaluation, reading comprehension, science, writing

Download a PDF version of this week’s lesson here