Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Robotic Competition

I love robotic competitions. They always encourage innovative thinking, they are great spirited, plus it gives geeks and nerds such as me an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people.

NASA currently has a competition called the Lunabotics Mining Competition.

The purpose of the Lunabotics Mining Competition is to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, in a competitive environment that may result in innovative ideas and solutions, which could be applied to actual lunar excavation for NASA.
Unfortunately it’s open only to colleges and universities. I wish that there were a competitive arena for teams of adults to create Mindstorms robots. I would like it to be very much like FIRST Lego League but more advanced. 

One idea have thought about is a Mars Mission competition. My dream is to have a large table that is built from four 4x8 plywood sheets arranged in a square pattern with a 4x4 opening in the middle.

The competitors would be given some data about the mission but not all. The table would be set up with ten missions and each team would be given 15 minutes to accomplish as many missions as possible. It would be designed so it would be nearly impossible to do all 10 missions, so there would be points awarded for different missions based on difficulty.

Teams would be made up of 3-5 team members or even more. There would be no limit to how many NXTs, RCXs, sensors (including HiTechnic and MindSensors), motors and Lego pieces, but I would set it up so that the robot must initially fit into an eighteen inch cube to fit into the transport vehicle that will get it to Mars. All parts must be Lego, HiTechnic, or MindSensors parts.

The table would have different terrains, such as sandy, rocky, shallow water, elevated, slippery and so on. Each competitor would be given basic information about the terrain, but no information about where on the table the terrain would be located. This would create some challenges in creating a platform that could traverse all the terrains.

Missions would be varied throughout the table and would include challenges such as:

• “Locate the downed satellite,” where the robot would locate and mark or even pick up the HiTechnic Infrared Electronic Ball.

• “Locate liquid water,” where the robot would find water and measure the temperature and store the data correctly.

• “Correctly place a solar collector,” where the robot places a Lego solar cell correctly near a bright light so the motor that is connected runs.

• “Locate the rare mineral,” where the robot finds and marks a section of the terrain that has blue rocks or blue sand.

• “Identify possible future landing site,” where the robot would find smooth, firm ground that would be possible future landing sites.

• “Collect organic material,” where the robot would find something that is the color green, pick it up and carry it away.

• “Map the terrain,” where the robot does some basic mapping functions, such as identify features it has found, where it picked up the satellite, where it placed the solar collector, where it found water, etc.

• “Identify seismic activity,” where the robot finds sections of the terrain that are vibrating or making sounds.

These are just a few ideas, more could be added, the course could be changed, etc, etc.

Has anyone else had thoughts about this type of competition? Is there any adult interest in stuff like this, or am I the only one??

REMINDER. I have opened up my commenting so that you do not have to be signed in to comment, you can comment anonymously, or you can use a code name, whatever.  I would like to hear what you have to say, good, bad or indifferent.


  1. I think this is an awesome idea. I might built something for this, as even though this is "your dream", it provides ideas for quite a number of projects.

  2. I wish that there were some competitions out there other than FIRST, and the Lego competitions. Even if it were individuals and the competition were done thru YouTube or something.
    There was a big push in the Sumobots, but that wasn't my thing.
    Maybe I'll get some input over at the NXTStep.