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 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!
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!