Explore Robotics with Competitions and Camps!
by Robin Hegg
There are a number of local and national robotics competitions with which you can get involved. The BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) robotics competitions take place each fall, with over 850 middle and high schools participating. Students are challenged to build a functioning machine in six weeks that can perform specific tasks in three minutes. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions have programs and competitions for grades K-12. Student teams all receive a common kit of parts and are given six weeks to construct their robot. The VEX Robotics Competitions challenges middle and high school students, along with their teachers and mentors, to build innovative robots that can earn them points in an annual game. Some student chapters of IEEE also sponsor robotics competitions. Penn State’s IEEE chapter hosts an annual robotics competition that is open to students in grades K-12 across the state of Pennsylvania.
A more advanced type of robotics competition is the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). DARPA is the United States Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which works to develop new technologies for the military. The DARPA Robotics Challenge aims to develop robotic technology that can aid in disaster relief where human relief workers may not be able to help. Competitors work to develop ground robots that can execute complex tasks and use standard tools and equipment in a dangerous environment. The DARPA Robotics Challenge runs for approximately 27 months, with three separate competitions.
In addition to competitions, there are also robotics summer camps throughout the country. Digital Media Academy camps offer courses in robotics and engineering, as well as game design, programming, and more. RoboTech Center offers summer camps and after school programs in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. CyberCamp Robotics Academy hosts summer robotics camps in Ontario, Canada. A number of museums, like the American Museum of Natural History and the Tech Museum of Innovation also frequently offer summer robotics programs.
Want to learn more about robots at home? IEEE’s free Robots iPad app is a great way to learn more about robots and robotics. The app features 158 robots from 19 countries and allows you to examine them with 360-degree views, interact with them, watch videos of the robots in action, and learn how they work.