What does it take to build and operate a competitive robot? Students in robotics competitions have been discovering the answer to that question for decades. There’s a reason that robotics competitions like FIRST and BattleBots were the first STEM competitions to go “mainstream.” Beyond the engineering and programming skills that they foster, robotics competitions encourage teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, and determination. Just as important, though, the competitions are really, undeniably fun.
If you’re interested in engineering, design, tech, or team sports, then you’ll love robotics competitions. Even students as young as 5 and as advanced as graduate school can participate. With most robotics competitions requiring mentors, teachers and parents also have an opportunity to join in on the excitement. After reviewing many robotics competitions for students of all ages, we’ve boiled our recommendations for how to win down to just one overarching tip: practice!
Robots don’t just do what you want them to right out the gate (unless you are a genius robot yourself). To get the robots to do what you want takes many iterations. Try something out, if it doesn’t work, learn from it. Learning from these small failures during your practice runs will make your team better prepared for the real tournaments! Take some time every week to think about a certain task or need for your robot in the challenge you’re participating it. Then practice that from many different angles again and again. Try different strategies to get it to do what you want, and when you get frustrated that its not working, learn from that, and try something new! Practicing the many different strategies you can use to get your robots to do what you want them to is – in our opinion – the single best way to win more robotics competitions.
If you want to expand your participation in robotics competitions check out some of the lesser known programs in our list below:
Popular Robotic Competitions
FIRST Robotics Competition – The gold standard of robotics competitions, FIRST challenges teams of high school students to design, build, and program robots that will compete with others on the international stage.
Botball – In Botball, middle and high school teams build autonomous bots. Students learn artificial intelligence and advanced coding to prepare their bot for battle.
BEST Robotics Challenge – Middle and high school student teams design and build task-performing robots that will compete in secret challenges revealed on competition day.
Robotics For All
Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Tournament – Participants program drones to complete tasks. The tournament is open to robotics enthusiasts of all ages.
Cyber Robotics Coding Competition – Virtual 3D robotics tournament open to grade 6-8
MakeX Spark Online Competition – Online coding and robotics competition for students age 6-13
MATE Underwater Robotics Competition – Students from kindergarten to grad school will design and build remotely operated vehicles to take on ocean missions
National Robotics Challenge – Students grade 6 to grad school find—rather than buy—materials to build a competitive robot
World Robot Olympiad – Global themed robotics competition open to students ages 6 – 25
Find other exciting robotics competitions in the ICS database which allows you to search competitions by theme and grade level. With an upgraded account, you can track and manage your participation in the competitions, making sure you don’t miss a minute of the action! Don’t forget to get your own Premium account to help you manage your participation and get special updates and discounts on ICS competitions!
For some students, spring is when they start day dreaming about their summer break, and thinking about what to do with their time away from school. But for many of the leading robotics students, to put it shortly, spring is when it get's real. At ICS we track 15 different national robotics competitions available for high school students. We consider a handful of these competitions to be the "Big 5" in high school student robotics, including: FIRST Robotics Competition, Vex Robotics Competition, Best Robotics, BotBall, and the National Robotics Challenge. Of course there are many other great robotics competitions too, with different rules, specialized themes, or specific areas of focus (for example, the MATE Underwater ROV competition).
Within the Big 5 competitions, three National or International championships happen in April! And one of the others has its season of regional qualifiers happening March through May with its finals in July. Only one of the Big 5 robotics competitions has their final tournaments in the fall (Botball with all the main tournaments happening in December).
So we're expecting some big changes in the Robotics leaderboards after the end of April. Want to follow the action? Here's what's coming up:
- April 12-14: National Robotics Challenge Championship
- April 18 - 21: FIRST Robotics Houston Championship
- April 25 - 28: FIRST Robotics Detroit Championship
- April 25 - May 1: Vex Robotics Global Finals
- March - May: Botball Regional Qualifier Tournaments
We'll be keeping an eye on all of these tournaments to explore which schools and states have been taking the lead in student robotics for this year! So stay tuned as we review the best student robotics performances of this season!
The school year is well underway in the US and that means its also time to make sure your students are registered for the 2017-2018 academic competitions season! Unfortunately, there is no standard registration system for all competitions, nor is there a standard set of registration deadlines, but we’re going to try to make it a little easier for all those schools looking to get engaged in these programs. In this post we’re specifically looking at the Robotics Competitions, so if you and your students want to get your robot gears turning, pay attention to the information below to not miss out on some important deadlines.
For high school robot enthusiasts, there are 6 major national robotic competitions in the US. These are, in no particular order: (1) The FIRST Robotics Challenge, (2) Vex Robotics Competition, (3) National Robotics Competition, (4) Botball, and (5) Best Robotics Competition.
Lets take a look at the upcoming schedules and deadlines for each to help prep for the 2017-2018 seasons. Don’t forget to check in on each competition’s website to make sure you get the latest updates from them. We’ll try to provide as much detail as possible through the ICS updates, but we can’t guarantee we won’t miss something. So without further ado, here are some of the important dates from the robotic competition seasons coming up!
Vex Robotics Competition
The Vex Robotic Competition culminates in an international final event usually held in late April each year. In order to make it to that event, teams have to compete in local or regional qualifiers to get in. You will have to register for those events through the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation’s site. Here they list the series of regional events and which are currently open for registration. Register early to make sure you don’t miss out on the closest events for you! There are only a limited number of spots at each program. We pulled out two key deadlines from the VRC websites that you might want to note:
- September 13, 2017 – online challenges open for submissions – part of what VRC includes is a series of online challenges, separate from the main structure leading to the Global Finals, but nevertheless, they are a fun set of games you can win awards through. Submission to these challenges opens in mid-September.
- November 1, 2017 – All official VEX Robotics Competition events are posted and open for registration on November 1st. Teams should prepare to register and compete in their regional event to qualify for the Global Finals, but don’t wait until then, many programs already have their information posted.
First Robotics Challenge
The FIRST robotics program has a series of competitions for students of all ages. The FIRST Robotics Challenge is their high school program. As with other national/international robotics competitions, there are many different regional events that teams should register for based on their location. The full list of upcoming milestones and deadlines is online now for the 2017-2018 season. Each regional will then qualify teams to make it to the national or international final competition. Here are two important dates we pulled out from the FRC website:
- October 5, 2017 – Pre-qualified Team Registration Opens
- November 20, 2017 – All District Events and All Regional Events registration closes!
National Robotics Challenge
The National Robotics Challenge is composed of thirteen contest categories with divisions for students from elementary through college. Although specific details on the upcoming season have not yet been released for the National Robotics Challenge, we do know that the final competition will be hosted April 12-14, 2018 in Marion, Ohio. Make sure to check back in with the NRC as the fall semester moves forward so you don’t miss an important registration deadline.
Registration for the 2018 Botball season is already underway! Although Botball is one of the more expensive competitions (requiring a $2500 registration fee for each team!) it does provide a lot of resources and value to the students. Like other competitions, Botball has a series of regional programs, so each team will want to register for competitions based on their location. Most regional competitions for Botball occur in early 2018 – from January through April. Make sure to get registered early though so you can get the materials and start practicing ahead of time!
- Team Registration is currently open! Check it out to get your team signed up for the 2018 season.
Best Robotics Challenge
The Best Robotics season is probably the earliest of the major robotics competitions. Most of the Best Robotics Challenge regional competitions happen between October and November each year. For the 2017-2018 season, the first regional competition is being held September 29th! That’s right around the corner, but there’s still time to get registered. Check out the website for the full list of regional event dates to see how your team can get into the right programs!
- September 29, 2017 – First of the fall Regional Competitions! Check the BEST listing for your regions competition and make sure you are registered!
We hope this run down of the current deadlines and information on the 2017-2018 Robotics Competition seasons helps you plan for your next programs. This of course isn’t comprehensive. There are many other challenges that you might want to get involved with. Make sure you keep up on all the competitions by checking out the database at www.competitionsciences.org and track the competitions you’re interested in by registering for your free account!