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. 

VEX Robotics Competition – Middle and high school teams from around the world compete in this innovative robot engineering challenge. The founding organization also hosts online competitions

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 findrather than buymaterials 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!

 

Each year, thousands and thousands of students challenge themselves in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic competitions. And each year it seems that more and more student competitions are coming out in science, technology, engineering, and math, but also writing, literature, critical thinking, problem solving, debate, and many other fields. This makes it more difficult to understand where to put your time in pursuing academic competitions. With limited time and limited resources it can be hard for parents, educators, and students to know which competitions to take on or even what educational competitions are out there!

At the Institute of Competition Sciences we try to make it easy for parents, educators, and students to navigate the world of academic competitions. We track competitions and try to stay up on their deadlines and information so you have a comprehensive source to understand what you want to do when. The list below describes many competitions in the STEM arena; however, even this massive list just touches on what’s actually available. For the best information, we recommend searching for competitions using our online database. This lets you filter competitions based on specific keywords or eligibility criteria to find just the ones you are interested in. This will be the best way to navigate the complex industry of academic competitions.

Also, make sure you get your own free ICS account so you can track and follow the competitions that are interesting to you! But, if you just want to do a quick read through some of the top competitions that are out there, check out our list below.

Groups of STEM competitions: Science Fairs and Research Competitions, Robotics and Engineering Competitions, Math Competitions, Coding and App Competitions, STEM Bees and Bowls, and general STEM related competitions.

 

Science Fairs and Research Competitions

 

Google Science Fair, This online science competition is open to students between the ages of 13 and 18 from anywhere in the world, working alone or in teams. Google is looking for extraordinary ideas, and they are eager to see what youth come up with. This is a great opportunity for teenagers to explore ideas they’re passionate about, learn about science, and maybe produce a world-changing idea.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/google-science-fair/

 

Regeneron Science Talent Search, The Regeneron Science Talent Search (formerly Intel STS) is the nation’s most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors. Since 1942, the Science Talent Search has provided a national stage for the country’s best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/regeneron-science-talent-search-sts/

 

Broadcom MASTERS, Targeted at middle school students in grades 6th-8th, the Broadcom MASTERS is a national science, technology, engineering, and math competition that encourages the nation’s young scientists, engineers and innovators.

Who: Middle school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/broadcom-masters/

 

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, High school students may apply to compete for scholarships and recognition by present­ing the results of their STEM projects before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Opportunities for hands-on workshops, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits and networking benefit participating students. JSHS regional symposia are held at 48 nationwide university campuses and serve students in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the DoD Dependents Schools, Europe and Pacific.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/junior-science-and-humanities-symposium/sw-region-junior-science-humanities-symposium-jshs/

 

Stockholm Junior Water Prize, This international competition, modeled after the adult Stockholm Water Prize, encourages enthusiasm in today’s youth about water issues and builds an international community of young scientists bonded together for the water environment. High school students who have conducted water-related science projects are encouraged to apply for the opportunity to share their research and win a $10,000 scholarship. Projects should be aimed at enhancing the quality of life through improvement of water quality, water resource management, or water and wastewater treatment. The projects may explore water issues on a local, regional, national, or global level using a research-oriented approach.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/stockholm-junior-water-prize/

 

iGEM, The iGEM competition is an annual, world-wide, synthetic biology event aimed at undergraduate university students, as well as high school and graduate students. Multidisciplinary teams work all summer long to build genetically engineered systems using standard biological parts called BioBricks. iGEM teams work inside and outside the lab, creating sophisticated projects that strive to create a positive contribution to their communities and the world.

Who: High School, Undergraduate, Graduate

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/igem-genetically-engineered-machines/

 

BioGENEius Challenges, compete on an international stage with some of the brightest scientific minds in the world. Students are challenged to develop scientific research projects in three overarching areas, Global Healthcare, Global Sustainability, and Global Environment. Then students present their work to industry innovators currently transforming the scientific landscape.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/biogeneius-challenges/

 

 

Robotics and Engineering Design Challenges

 

FIRST Competitions, unless you’ve been under a rock the last 10 years, you’ve probably heard of FIRST. Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Although the Robotics Competition is for high school students, FIRST also includes other competitions for elementary and middle school students.

Who: elementary, middle, and high school

Learn more and follow these competitions on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/first-robotics-competition/

 

Botball, The Botball® Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition, and serves as a perfect way to meet today’s new common core standards. In Botball, the robots are always autonomous! Botball gives students the tools to develop sophisticated strategies using artificial intelligence with embedded systems. Students will learn to program their robots in advance using C, C++, and Java and then compete in tournaments to see how their robots perform against others.

Who: Middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/botball/

 

Junior Solar Sprint, JSS is an educational program for 5th through 8th grade students with the goal of creating the fastest, most interesting, and best crafted solar-vehicle possible. Students will design, build and race solar powered cars using hands-on engineering skills and principles of science and math, develop teamwork and problem solving abilities, investigate environmental issues, and gain hands-on STEM skills.

 

Best Robotics Competition, The Best Robotics Competition challenges students to design robots that perform on a specially designed field with obstacles and tasks in a tournament style setting. New educational theme/challenge and field each year. The challenge and field are kept secret until Kick Off Day.

Who: Middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/best-robotics-challenge/

 

Vex Robotics Competition, the largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics program globally with more than 18,000 teams from 40 countries playing in over 1,350 competitions worldwide. Each year, an exciting engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build innovative robots and compete year-round.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow the Vex Competitions on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/vex-robotics-competition/

 

Zero Robotics, Zero Robotics is a robotics programming competition where the robots are SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) inside the International Space Station. The competition starts online, on this website, where teams program the SPHERES to solve an annual challenge. After several phases of virtual competition in a simulation environment that mimics the real SPHERES, finalists are selected to compete in a live championship aboard the ISS. An astronaut will conduct the championship competition in microgravity with a live broadcast!

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow Zero Robotics on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/zero-robotics/

 

 

Mathematics Competitions

 

Modeling the Future Challenge, The Modeling the Future Challenge asks high school students to use mathematics and real-world data to predict how a new technology could change the future! The Challenge helps students learn data analytics, mathematical modeling, and actuarial science. By competing in the MTF Challenge students learn to analyze data and create mathematical models to predict what will happen in the future based on that data. Each year a technology theme is selected in which students identify and characterize one way they think the technology will change the future.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow the Modeling the Future Challenge on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/2018-19-modeling-the-future-challenge/

 

American Mathematics Competitions, the Mathematics Association of America hosts a series of mathematics tournaments and competitions for middle and high school students that’s over 60 years old! There are three levels of competition: the AMC-8 (middle school students), AMC-10 (grades 9 and 10), AMC-12 (grades 11 and 12).

Who: middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/american-mathematics-competition-10/

 

American Regions Math League, ARML is the World Series of mathematics competitions. The contest is written for high school students, although some exceptional junior high students attend each year. The competition consists of several events, which include a team round, a power question (in which a team solves proof-oriented questions), an individual round, two relay rounds (in which a contestant solves a problem and passes his/her answer to another team member, who uses this answer to solve another problem), and a super relay.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/american-regions-mathematics-league/

 

AoCMM Math Modeling Competition,  The AoCMM math modeling competition for high school and college students provides the perfect opportunity to use your interest and skills in math modeling in a friendly competitive environment. Along with the development of skills in networking, communication, and teamwork,  there are plenty of prestigious prizes to be won! Additionally, constructive feedback from our judges is designed to help you continue to extend your skills personally and for potential careers. Furthermore, this competition is ideal for people with any level of math modeling experience!

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/aocmm-math-modeling-competition/

 

Caribou Mathematics Contest, The Caribou Mathematics Competition is a world-wide online contest that is held six times throughout the school year. Each of these days, five contests are offered, one for each of the grade levels 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 and 11/12 and each one in English, French and Persian. The Caribou Cup is the series of all Caribou Contests in one school year. Each student's ranking in the Caribou Cup is determined by their performance in their best 5 of 6 contests through the school year.

Who: elementary, middle, and high school students.

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/caribou-mathematics-competition/

 

Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament, one of the largest and most prestigious high school competitions in the world. Each tournament draws close to 1000 students from around the globe, including top scorers at national and international olympiads. HMMT is entirely student-organized, by students at Harvard, MIT, and nearby schools, many of whom are HMMT alumni themselves.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this tournament on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/harvard-mit-mathematics-tournament/

 

MathCounts Competition Series, the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series is a national program that provides students the opportunity to compete in live, in-person contests against and alongside their peers. The Competition Series has 4 levels of competition—school, chapter, state and national. Each level of competition is comprised of 4 rounds—Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Round. Altogether the rounds are designed to take about 3 hours to complete.

Who: Middle school students.

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/mathcounts-competition-series/

 

Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge, an Internet-based applied math competition for high school juniors and seniors known for inspiring them to pursue STEM majors and careers. Working in teams of three to five, participants solve an open-ended, math-modeling problem focused on a realistic issue – in 14 hours. The contest, organized by Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by leading software developer MathWorks, is free and open to all U.S. students and will award top teams this year with $100,000 in scholarships toward the pursuit of higher education.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this contest on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/mathworks-math-modeling-challenge/

 

COMAP High school Mathematics Contest in Modeling, work as team members in a contest that will stimulate and improve their problem solving and writing skills. This competition takes place with your teams-consisting of up to four students-working on a real-world problem for a consecutive thirty-six hour period. Teams are allowed to work on the contest problem at any available facility and then submit their Solution Papers to COMAP for centralized judging.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this contest on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/high-school-mathematics-contest-in-modeling/

 

 

Coding, Apps, and Video Game Development Challenges

 

STEM Video Game Challenge, This national competition motivates interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games.

Who: Middle and High School students.

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/national-stem-video-game-challenge/

 

Congressional App Challenge, high school students must code and build an app of their choice. The apps are judged in district-wide competitions hosted by Members of Congress.

Who: High school students.

 

American Computer Science League, ACSL organizes computer science contests and computer programming contests for elementary, junior, and senior high school students. Each year of the contest, ACSL will send each team advisor an ACSL Category Description Booklet. The booklet contains the rules for each category and some sample problems and solutions. Team advisors will use the booklet and other sample problems to prepare students for the short answer test.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/american-computer-science-league/

 

CyberPatriot, At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services.

Who: Middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/cyberpatriot/

 

 

Quiz Bowls, Bees, and Knowledge Competitions

 

Future Problem Solving Program Challenges, What is FPSPI? Future Problem Solving Program International provides the tools and strategies students need to face the challenges of today and the future. FPSPI is a dynamic international program involving thousands of students annually from around the world. Developed in 1974 by creativity pioneer Dr. E. Paul Torrance, Future Problem Solving (FPS) provides competitive and non-competitive components for today’s curriculum via a six-step model which teaches critical and creative thinking, problem solving, and decision making.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow the FPSPI Challenges on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/future-problem-solving-program-global-issues-problem-solving/

 

Genius Olympiad, an international high school project competition about environmental issues. It is founded and organized by the Terra Science and Education and hosted by the State University of New York at Oswego. GENIUS Olympiad will host projects in five general disciplines with an environmental focus: Science, Visual and Performance Arts, Business, Writing, and Robotics. Projects in each category take different forms, but all fall within the environmental issues themes.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/genius-olympiad/

 

Science Olympiad, Science Olympiad's ever-changing line-up of events in all STEM disciplines exposes students to practicing scientists and career choices, and energizes classroom teachers with a dynamic content experience.

Who: elementary, middle, and high school students

Learn more and follow science Olympiad on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/science-olympiad/

 

Physics Bowl, Each year, approximately 10,000 students take a 40-question, 45-minute timed, multiple-choice test under their school’s supervision. Exam questions are based on topics and concepts covered in a typical high school physics course.   To enhance the distribution of awards, Division I is for first-year physics students and Division II is for second-year physics students.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow the Physics Bowl on your ICS Account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/physicsbowl/

 

You Be the Chemist, The Challenge begins with students completing the Challenge Qualifier, a short multiple choice test provided by CEF and administered by educators and/or Organizers. Based on student participation in a Local Challenge site and/or state, a select number of students will advance to the next level of competition. Local and State Challenge competitions operate in a quiz bowl format with several rounds of multiple choice questions. Questions are displayed to both the participants and audience on a screen, then students use electronic response devices to indicate their answers. Students participate individually in the Challenge competitions.

Who: elementary and middle school students

Learn more and follow You be the Chemist on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/you-be-the-chemist-challenge/

 

National Science Bowl, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl® is a nationwide academic competition that tests students’ knowledge in all areas of science and mathematics. Middle and high school student teams from diverse backgrounds are comprised of four students, one alternate, and a teacher who serves as an advisor and coach. These teams face-off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format, being tested on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy, and math. Beginning in January 2018, more than 9,000 high school students and 4,500 middle school students will compete in 65 high school and 50 middle school regional Science Bowl tournaments.

Who: middle and high school students

Learn more and follow the Science Bowl on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/national-science-bowl-us-dept-of-energy/

 

National Ocean Sciences Bowl, an academic competition and program that addresses a national gap in environmental and earth sciences in public education by introducing high school students to and engaging them in ocean science, preparing them for ocean science-related and other STEM careers, and helping them become knowledgeable citizens and environmental stewards. The NOSB’s focus on ocean science education is important. Humans rely on a healthy ocean for oxygen, resources, jobs, and more. Our future leaders must be knowledgeable about ocean issues. The ocean is an ideal interdisciplinary teaching tool for science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) that puts study in a real world context.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow NOSB on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/national-ocean-sciences-bowl/

 

 

Other STEM Related Competitions

 

eCYBERMISSION, For sixth to ninth grade students, eCYBERMISSION is a web-based STEM competition that enables all students to recognize real-life applications of STEM. Teams of three or four students are instructed to ask questions (for science) or define problems (for engineering), and then construct explanations (for science) or design solutions (for engineering) based on identified problems in their community.

Who: middle school and high school freshmen

Learn more and follow this challenge on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/ecybermission/

 

ExploraVision, a science competition that encourages students to study a technology of interest and predict what it might look like 20 years from now. Students are encouraged to work in groups of 2-4 students and must be sponsored by a teacher.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/exploravision/

 

Destination Imagination, open to all kindergarten through university level students worldwide. Students form teams of up to 7 members, select their preferred Challenge and work together to develop a solution to the Challenge. Each team has at least one Team Manager (often a parent or teacher) who helps keep the team on track, but does not assist or interfere with the team’s project. Destination Imagination offers seven engaging Challenges in STEAM education: Technical, Scientific, Fine Arts, Improvisational, Engineering, Service Learning and Early Learning.

Who: elementary, middle, high school, and undergraduate students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: http://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/destination-imagination

 

Discovery 3M Young Scientist Challenge, students identify a solution to an everyday problem that directly impacts them, their families, their communities, and/or the global population. The idea must be a new innovation or solution, and cannot simply be a behavioral change or a new use for an existing product. The student must create a one- to two- minute video that explains the problem and how it impacts them, their families, their communities and/or the global population; describes a new innovation or solution that could impact or solve the problem; explains the science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics behind their innovation; and illustrates how their innovation could both address the everyday problem they've identified and have a broader impact locally or globally.

Who: Middle school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/discovery-education-3m-young-scientist-challenge/

 

DNA Day Essay Contest, This contest hosts a question each year that aims to cover a current topic in genetics that may not be covered in biology class. Students are encouraged to work with their science and language arts teachers. Essays should be 750 words maximum. Winners and honorable mentions are announced on DNA Day, April 25, 2019. This contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. Essays are expected to be well-reasoned arguments indicative of a depth of understanding of the concepts related to the essay question.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/dna-day-essay-contest/

 

Engineer Girl Essay Contest, Every year, the EngineerGirl website sponsors a contest dealing with engineering and its impact on our world.  Usually the announcement is posted in the fall with judging and winners announced in the spring or summer. Each year the topic of the contest changes.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/engineer-girl-essay-contest/

 

Future City Competition, this challenge asks students how can we make the world a better place? To answer it, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Past topics include stormwater management, urban agriculture, and green energy.

Who: Middle school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/future-city/

 

 

Even though this is a MASSIVE list of educational competitions in the STEM arenas, it is not complete. There are hundreds of STEM related competitions. Some in robotics and engineering, some taking the form of bees or bowls, some asking students to submit videos or essays about STEM, and some in just about every area of STEM you could be interested in. The Institute of Competition Sciences does the best we can to keep track of all of these competitions and their deadlines for you; but even we can miss some things. If you come across a competition that is not on our lists that you think should be, or if there is information that is incorrect, please let us know!

And make sure to get you ICS account so you can track and follow the competitions that are important to you!

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!

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.

BotBall

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!

This summer, the world of academic competitions was abuzz with what was perhaps the most buzzed about high school STEM competition ever. Not only was there a series of firsts in the competition itself, but there was a mix of politics, international intrigue, and yes even a President stepping in with a last minute game changer! The perfect makings for the next big J.J. Abrams hit movie!

When 6 teenage girls from Afghanistan wanted to come to the United States to participate in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge – a robotics competition geared towards promoting a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the leaders of tomorrow – they were stopped dead in their tracks when their visas were denied.

Even though their robot had made it to the competition, after several attempts to gain entry, the 6 young Afghan engineers were probably ready to give up as the competition date neared. Then something unexpected happened, something extraordinarily out of the ordinary (at least for this political cycle). President Donald J. Trump – the man who’s every word led us to believe he would be the last person to do so – intervened to permit the girls entry for the competition.

This news got our team at ICS thinking – since everything these days seems to be about politics – we needed to ask, why did President Trump choose to intervene on these girls’ behalf while attempting to ban millions of other Muslims from entry to the country? Was there ever a danger of letting them in to compete? And taking it a step further, this question quickly expands to the broader notion of, “How should the United States handle educating the next generation of scientists and engineers from foreign countries?” What if we know they are not going to be staying in the US and contributing to our economy? Does that matter in the long-run? 

We wanted to bring this up not to push our own opinions on what is right or wrong, but to attempt to have an open discussion on how academic competitions at the international stage like this can have an impact not only on the participants, but on the fundamental nature of our society. More so than sports and international athletic competitions, academic challenges have the potential to change the future because of their affect on who will be the next leaders in important technological areas such as science and engineering. With such amazing power to change the world, ICS is on a mission to bring out scientific knowledge about how can we maximize this power for good.

So, we decided to have a short thought experiment (admittedly a fairly surface-level experiment given the complexity of the topic) on this question by posing basic arguments from both sides. So here they are, our surface-level arguments for and against educating with our arms wide open. We would love to hear your input.

 

Bring them on!

On the one hand, we can say, “Yes, bring them on!” The United States should be positioning our country as the global leader in STEM by bringing future leaders here and showing them our American culture and expertise. Having a global challenge where our students compete against the best and brightest from other nations ultimately improves everyone’s skills, so we all win. There are innumerable accounts of foreign scientists, engineers, and mathematicians coming to the US and adding to our economy, not to mention global prosperity (we can attribute much of our technologies today to foreign immigrants).

So, what if we expand the question to where we know the foreign students will not be returning to the US and contributing to our economy? Is it the case that any knowledge they gain from their educational experiences here will be going back with them to their country? Well, we then might make the argument for allowing them to participate by stating how the issues and problems that many international competitions challenge students to solve are global in nature. In these cases, figuring out solutions doesn’t just make a participant’s home country a better place, but will make the world a better place. And we will all win.

Furthermore we could argue that these experiences in the US for foreign students are a great way to highlight American culture, and to help encourage students to bring American values back to their home countries, thereby indirectly helping us avert future conflicts. Unfortunately, we can never know for sure how the knowledge gained in these programs will be used, but there are many obvious benefits to allowing and encouraging these global opportunities to share knowledge. So this brings us to the other side of the coin.

 

Where's the wall?

On the other hand, the argument can be made that by encouraging students in other countries to embrace and excel in STEM we risk falling behind in those areas ourselves – areas critical to our national defense and economy. If we fall behind too much, we risk becoming dependent on other nations for new technologies, and risk having inferior technology for national defense and other economic drivers.

So should we shut the doors and focus on educating our own to be the best they can be? On this side of the argument, defenders of the wall may highlight examples of foreigners who were educated in the United States and went on to join terrorist groups – perhaps the most recent high profile example being “Lady Al-Queda” an MIT-trained neuroscientist from Pakistan who was convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder Americans and sentenced to 86 years in federal prison. We can never know what any individual will do with their education, so is it worth the risk bringing foreigners here to get trained through our programs? This is the ultimate question, do the benefits of global knowledge sharing and bringing people around the world together behind education outweigh the potential risks to our national economy or society? 

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This article is not an attempt to plant our flag and state which argument we believe is right. This article is an attempt to bring about open discussion to help understand the nuances of this very complex issue and to hopefully highlight some more specifics and detailed data from our community in the comments and social media. We always believe in open discussion and think that international competitions like FIRST’s Global Challenge (and many others) may benefit from better understanding on how to manage potentially sensitive situations on the international stage. Situations that do have long-term implications for the future stability of our country and society. Education is a powerful force – perhaps the most powerful change-maker we have over the long-term – and one thing we do believe at ICS is that we must work hard to maximize its value for global good.

So what do you think? Should we close the doors to bringing international students to the US for these kinds of competitions? What if we know they’re going back to their home countries rather than staying and contributing to our economy? Or should we open the gates in an understanding that the benefits of sharing our culture and values will outweigh the potential detriments?

We’d love to hear your comments on both sides of the argument!

And don’t forget to signup for a free account with ICS to stay up on all the action with these and other interesting topics in academic competitions. We treat academics like the rest of the world treats sports and are working hard to bring more of these programs to the public sphere.

Last month, robotics lovers and STEM enthusiasts from around the globe watched the CBS Sports Spectacular coverage of the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championships, where one small-town team made an inspiring run for the top.

Each year thousands of students from around the globe convene for the VEX Robotics World Championship, seeking to take the crown of top student roboticists.

This year, one small-town team stole everyone’s attention; the Trojan Knights. Made up of students from the modest, unassuming Cumby High School from the rural town of Cumby, Texas, USA, the Trojan Knights were at a disadvantage even before they started. With only 750 people in the entire town, Cumby High School was under-funded, under-staffed, and out-gunned in nearly every respect. However, despite their humble roots, this dedicated team gave even the top dogs a run for their money on the world stage!

A 7-3-0 win-loss-tie record in the qualifiers was enough to see the Trojan Knights move into the Divisional Finals. In the Divisional Finals, teams form a new alliance with two other teams for the remainder of the tournament. The Trojan Knights were now underdogs in more ways than one because they were up against newly formed alliances made up of some of the strongest teams.

One opposing alliance contained the “Trinity Dragons” and “Magic” in their line-up, who were the number one and number three ranked teams going into the divisional finals with win-loss-tie records of 10-0-0 and 9-1-0 respectively. But this was no deterrent to the Trojan Knights.

With a little bit of ingenuity and strategic planning, the Trojan Knights’ alliance defeated the top seated Trinity Dragon’s alliance in just two matches! They then went on to upset two more alliances on their way into the Finals – losing only one match throughout the entire process. Unassuming Cumby, Texas was now firmly on the map having taken the “Research” division top spot.

 

Match

Vs.

Result

Quarter Finals (Best of 3)

Alliance of ‘Chengdu NO.7 High A’, ‘Down Cellar Laboratories’ and ‘VARC High School’.

WON (28-19; 23-27; 28-14)

Semi Finals (Best of 3)

Alliance of ‘Hawaiian Kids’, ‘The Cavalry’ and ‘Stargazer’.

WON (40-6; 45-6; - )

Divisional Final (Best of 3)

Alliance of ‘Trinity Dragons’, ‘Magic’ and ‘Semiconductors’.

WON (24-21; 29-14; - )

 

A New Challenge in the Championship Finals

After taking out the division, the team from Cumby faced new challenges going into the Championship final round. The competition was becoming fierce, especially now that they were up against the winners of all the other five divisions, the cream of every divisional crop. Unfortunately, this was where the Trojan Knights ran into a wall. A wall made up of the stellar teams from the Engineering and Maths division champions.

The Trojan Knights ended their run in the finals with a win-loss-tie result of 3-2-0. This unfortunately, was not good enough to see them reach the Championship Grand Finale – the final round between the two alliances with the best records. That honour went to the Maths and Engineering division winners. However, the fact that the team from a town of just 750 people showed up in the World Championship at all, is quite a feat in its own right. This demonstrates that it’s not all money and size that contribute to success in robotic competitions.

 

The Final Upset

With the surging underdog Trojan Knights finally out of the way, the Championship Grand Finale came down to the top dog alliances from the ‘Maths’ and ‘Engineering’ division winners. This showdown left spectators absolutely stunned. Based on their performance in the lead up matches, the ‘Maths’ division champions, an alliance made up of ‘Phantom Robotics’, ‘X.Robo-Hefei No.1 HS-B’ and ‘Shocks’, were the heavy favorites to take the title.

However, it all seemed to be going wrong for them after the first match. Due to a poor strategic decision, and some driving errors, they were trounced in the first round, 47-0. Surely the favorites to win it all were not about to go down in two! But after an amazing performance and strategic masterclass from the ‘Engineering’ alliance, the second match saw the ‘Maths’ divisional champions go down 28-18. Clocking up that second win meant that it was the ‘Engineering’ division winning alliance who were crowned World Champions at the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championships! 

 

2017 VEX Robotics Engineering Division and World Champions

Team #

Team Name

Location

86868

THE RESISTANCE

 

Santa Clara, California, United States

 

7258A

High School Beijing Tec A

Beijing, China

8192D

Shanghai Huangpu D

Shanghai, Shanghai, China

So, even though team ‘Trojan Knights’ didn’t make it all the way through to the Grand Finale, their performance lifted them to a Divisional Championship; which was an incredible accomplishment and a testament to their determination. Their run for the title only ended when they went up against the two first place alliances from the Divisions ultimately in the finals themselves.

It’s not very often that a school from a town with a population of a little over 750 people can compete on the world stage and triumph over much bigger, well-funded schools. Remember, there are no size divisions in Robotics Competitions like there are in high school sports.

After reflecting on the action in Louisville and licking their wounds, many of the teams that competed in this year’s World Finals will undoubtedly be back again next year. Armed with experience, fresh strategies and vastly improved robots, they are sure to be ready again for their shot at the 2017-18 VEX Robotics World Championship. We can’t wait to see if Cumby High School will again take aim at championship glory next year! And maybe this time, they’ll be able to take it all the way.

The start of the Robotics season is just a few months away! Stay tuned to ICS for more news and analysis.

 

From time to time, there have been sports teams that dominated their game so much they were called dynasties. Over the years, the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys have all been referred to as NFL ‘dynasties.’ The New York Yankees have certainly fit the bill in the MLB. In the NBA, it was the Boston Celtics in the 60’s, Los Angeles Lakers in the 80’s, and when Michael Jordan was playing, the Chicago Bulls in the 90’s.

With the way the Golden State Warriors dominated the competition toward the end of the 2017 season and steamrolled their way through the post-season, they could very well be on the way to becoming the next NBA dynasty.

When it comes to academia though, the word ‘dynasty’ is not typically used. However, here at ICS, we think it’s very interesting to look at the academic performance of various schools, regions, or even countries in the same terms as we do with sports. Luckily, academic competitions provide a great way of quantifying the level of excellence achieved just like we do with sports.

With this in mind, one question has been nagging us ever since the 2017 competition seasons started winding down: Is China on its way to becoming the Golden State Warriors of robotics?

 

The Question.

We hear a lot about China’s increasing dominance on the world stage of technology. So, is the US doomed to future mediocrity in the budding field of robotics, while we let China step up and become the next big robotic dynasty?

In recent years, China has become the leader in industrial robotics, buying more than any other country in the world. It’s all a part of a government-backed, industrial revolution centered on robotics that China has been promoting.

“Our country will be the biggest market for robots,” President Xi Jinping said in a speech to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2014, “but can our technology and manufacturing capacity cope with the competition?”

While China as a country has embraced the value of robotics in manufacturing, the vast majority of the industrial robots purchased by Chinese companies are still made outside of the country. So is China producing the educated workforce needed to actually design and manufacture the high tech robots that will drive the economy in the coming decades? To answer this question, we can turn to the world of academic competitions.

For China to become the leader in developing robotics and not just using them, a focus needs to be put on education. To be the best, one first has to learn how to be—well, the best. The right minds must be taught and the knowledge they acquire put into practice.

There happen to be a number of great academic competitions focused on robotics that give the best and brightest young minds a chance to test their skills—and their robots—against the top challengers the world has to offer. We’ve analyzed a few of the top robotics competitions to find the answer to our question – is China becoming a dynasty in robotics competitions?

 

The Competitions.

The Vex Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, refers to itself as the largest and fastest growing robotics competition in the world. In 2017, over 18,000 teams (elementary school, middle school, high school, and college) from 40 countries took part in over 1300 competitions. The season culminated in the 10th Annual World Championships held in Louisville, Kentucky, as 1400 teams from over 30 countries competed for the chance to be the best.

Teams are split up into five different competitive levels—the middle school, high school, and university competitions and the elementary school and middle school IQ challenges--with each being comprised of several divisions.

 

How did teams from China fair this year?

  • 1 team - from Xi'an Jiao Tong University - was the only team from China to win an Excellence Award, which is given to the team with the most well-rounded VEX Robotics program.
  • 2 of the 3 high school world champions were Chinese teams this year.
  • 2 of the 3 middle school world champions were Chinese, along with 3 other finalists.
  • Both world champions for the IQ elementary challenge were from China
  • The middle school IQ challenge had 1 team from China (Hong Kong), in 2nd place.

 

So, China did well, but did they dominate?

China definitely did well, with a bigger showing in the final rounds than most countries. And in the younger grades China seems to be even more dominant. However, if you factor in the performance in other Robotics Competitions — the answer is a bit fuzzier. Both the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Challenge are international competitions whose seasons culminate in the World Championship competition. Unfortunately for China’s dynastic aspirations, neither competition has a history of teams from China winning the top awards.

In the FIRST Robotics competition, the Chairman’s Award is the highest honor a team can receive. Last season’s team was from West Virginia. In fact, the winners of the Chairman’s Award dating back to 2003 were teams based inside the United States.

For the FIRST Tech Challenge, the top team is named the Inspire Award winner. In the Houston World Championship competition, a team from Canada won. The St. Louis competition winner was a team from Iowa. Between the two, there was only one team from China that was recognized in the finals.  A list of past winners dating back to the 2005-06 season included a few teams from Mexico, but otherwise, the Inspire Award winners have all been teams from the United States.

Does this mean we should write off China’s chances at a future dynasty? Have teams from China just not done well? Of course not. There very well may be other factors that have limited how many teams from China showed up in the top spots. For one, not as many teams compete from China as they do from the United States. Perhaps as more schools begin to enter the competitions, China’s teams will begin to show up in the top spots more dominantly.

 

In Conclusion…

So—back to the original question. Is China the Golden State Warriors of robotics? Are they the dominant force in the world of academic Robotics Competitions? No. At least not yet. The Golden State Warriors took 2 of the last 3 NBA Championships and were in contention for the one they didn’t win. They have dominated either all of the competition or most of it for the last three seasons.

China has done very well in the robotics competitions, but not so well that they can be called a dynasty on par with the Warriors. They have done well, but the same could be said for teams from the United States and Canada. But don’t count them out for the future. China’s dominance in robotic competitions may not be far away - as we’ve seen from their strong performances at the younger grade level competitions. And as more schools begin to compete, it’s going to lead to very interesting show-downs for the next few years of robotic competition for sure.

The Golden State Warriors they are not. Cleveland Cavaliers--maybe. But the future is wide open. The 2017-2018 robotics competitions begin this fall. So stay tuned for more!