Which States Are Leading the Next Wave of American Robotics Champions?

Posted November 17, 2017 by Travis Pulver

A few years ago, ABC revived an old reality series that aired on Comedy Central over a decade ago, BattleBots. Why bring back a show after such a long hiatus? Well—technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the show last aired in 2002. The understanding of robotics and what can be accomplished through robotics has expanded greatly too.

But the main reason has nothing to do with the science involved or the technological advancements that have been made over the last decade or so. No, the main reason is that robotics has grown and it now is showing increasing signs of mass appeal. Robots are cool. But watching robots go at each other in combat inside a ring? Even cooler.

But amateur robotics enthusiasts don’t have to wait for Battlebots to be revived for a second time. Students that want to learn more about robotics and test their mastery in the field can enter contests like the VEX Robotics Competition.


America’s Next Top Robotics Champions

The VEX Robotics Competition is the largest robotics competition in the world with over 18,000 teams taking part in over 1,350 competitions across 40 countries. So, if you want to test your mettle against the best in the world, you’ve got a lot of competition.

To make it to the Vex World Championship, teams must get through the local, state, regional, and national competitions first. Teams are already competing at local and regional levels to secure their place in the 2018 international championship. So we wanted to check the data and see if we could get any information on who might be the next champions. We started by analyzing data from past TSA VEX Robotics Competitions - this is just one of the many competitions available to students interested in Robotics at the elite level. According to available data, 27 states have had teams place at national level competition over the last six years. Of those states, more of those teams have come from the following states:

  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Utah
  • California
  • Kentucky

Florida has been the most consistent at producing top teams having someone place in each of the last four years. Virginia is the next most consistent with top teams in each of the last three years. No team has placed from Utah, Kentucky, or California since 2015.

Last year the states with the most national finalists in the TSA Vex Robotics competition were Florida (4), Virginia (3), Oklahoma (2), Mississippi (2), and Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas (each with one).


Who are the Exceptional Robotics Schools?

There are of course many many exceptional schools in the elite robotics competitions. And a fair number of schools have placed in the top tiers of these challenges, so it is hard to define who the most exceptional are. For the TSA Vex Robotics competitions, when we break down the available data by school, there are a few that stand out as consistent performers in the TSA VEX Robotics Competitions over the last few years. Among high schools, there are only three that have had teams perform in the tops at nationals in more than one year:

  • High Technology High School (New Jersey): 2012, 2016, and 2017
  • Braden River High School (Florida): 2016 and 2017
  • Central Hardin High School (Kentucky): 2014 and 2015


So, if you want to be a robotics champion…

It doesn’t really matter where you live or which school you attend, but it does matter to know your competition! Research the other school's you'll be going up against and prepare your robots to be the best! One thing that can be said from analyzing the available data of VEX Robotics Competitions at the national level, anyone can win. The top teams have not been from any one dominant school consistently. Winning one year seldom has any correlation with winning in subsequent years, so get started early and prepare!

What matters for you, if you want to get your school into the top ranks is to prepare, because you will be up against thousands of teams (and students) taking part in hundreds of competitions in the United States every year. If you don't already have a team, find a science teacher - most are more than happy to encourage student interests in robotics and help get a team started. Worried about costs? There are also scholarships and grants available from the competition managers – the REC Foundation, and you can always keep up to date on new opportunities by signing up for a free account on ICS!