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Botball - Should You Participate?

Botball is a team-oriented robotics competition for middle and high-schoolers. During the competition, Botball students are asked to design, build, and compete with their autonomous robots. As a participant, you should expect to create robots that must perform a series of tasks or challenges during the competition, with teams competing against each other to achieve specific objectives within a set time frame.


There are a wide variety of challenges the robot must complete, such as navigating a field, interacting with objects, or solving puzzles. Each year, thousands of students compete in the competition, making it one of the largest robotics competitions globally.


Prizes

The exact prizes and awards may vary each year and among the different levels of Botball competitions—regional, national, and international. Generally, the higher the level, the bigger the prize. Winning teams will often receive trophies or medals. Awards may also be given to top-performing teams in various categories, such as technical design, programming, or teamwork. In some cases, Botball competitions may offer scholarships or educational grants to exceptional participants.


Who is eligible to participate?

Any student in the 6th through 12th grade can participate in Botball. Participants will need access to a computer.


How can you enter Botball?

First, you must register on the Botball website to form a team. There is no restriction on team size, although the average is around 12 students, with one mentor. Keep in mind that there is a registration fee, with new teams paying $2,500.


After registration, each team will receive a Botball kit, which includes all the necessary components needed to build their robot.


Then, in January or February, the Botball Educator Workshops will provide team leaders and mentors with technology training before introducing the rules of that year’s game in a two-day workshop. Students build their robot over 7 weeks, before bringing their robots to their regional tournament to compete. In winning their regional tournament, students advance to the national-level.


Should you participate in Botball?

As a leading tournament in the STEM world, there are many reasons one might compete in Botball’s competition. In this guide, we’ve given a pro-con list to better help you make that decision.


How does Botball compare to other robotics competitions?

Botball is pretty high up there in terms of its prestige value. Other comparable competitions would be FIRST Robotics Competition and Vex Robotics Competition.


Pros

1. The competition is prestigious

Botball competitions are held in multiple regions across the United States, as well as internationally, attracting participation from all over the world. It's a high-level competition, drawing in talented students who are passionate about science and technology. Winning a Botball competition would add value to your resume, not to mention winning at the national or even international level. It shows that not only are you interested in STEM education, you’ve also tested your talents and come out on top.


2. You will learn valuable skills

Botball has a deeply educational focus: you’ll be asked to learn skills that you’ve never thought to explore before. Participants learn programming languages, such as C++ or Python, to control their robots. You’ll gain hands-on experience with mechanical design, electrical circuits, and engineering. You’ll be encouraged to explore different strategies, test hypotheses, and learn from trial and error. These are skills that will be essential to a future career in STEM, and there’s no better way to develop this skill base than through the hands-on learning that Botball promotes.


3. You will learn how to work on a team

By participating in the competition, you’ll build not only academic, hands-on skills, but also teamwork skills. Botball is a team-based competition, encouraging collaboration and effective teamwork. Participants will learn to work together, to delegate responsibilities, and to communicate and problem-solve effectively. This will definitely prepare you for any future collaborative work environments. Successfully working in a team is also something that colleges greatly value; you’ll be able to show that you have the necessary qualities to be a team-player.


4. It’s a great networking opportunity

teams may be invited to showcase their robots and present their projects at different exhibitions or fairs. This opportunity allows teams to gain further exposure and network with professionals in the technology field. It’s a step forward if you’re looking to pursue a career in that field. Botball organizations also often highlight winning teams on their websites and social media platforms, providing visibility within the robotics community. Even if you don’t end up winning, Botball connects all participants with mentors and professionals, leading to future learning opportunities and potential collaborations.


Overall costs of participation

1. Overall costs of participation

Don’t forget that there is a high fee that comes with registering for the competition. Each team must pay a fee of $2,500 to register, which means that the fewer team members you have, the more each of you will have to contribute towards the total fee. Participating in Botball may also involve additional expenses, such as travel costs, accommodation for tournaments, etc. Some families may not be able to afford this. While Botball offers some scholarships, these are not given to every student. Some other options are to seek community or school support to see if there are any funding options available to support Botball participation.


2. Time commitment

Preparing for Botball requires a significant time commitment. Students will need to dedicate time to researching, building, designing, and programming their robots. For a busy high-school student with other academic and extracurricular commitments, the struggle of balancing their schedule may not be worth it.


Tips to help you win BotBall

If you do decide to participate, the competition can be tough. Here, we’ve provided a few tips to better increase your chances of winning.


1. Understand the Rules and Challenges

The rules and challenges of Botball are different each year and will be released prior to the tournament on Botball’s website. For example, here are the rules for 2023. You want to make sure that you read the guidelines thoroughly and gain a clear understanding of the objectives and constraints, what each challenge will look like, and what the scoring criteria for each challenge will be.


This is the only way you’ll be able to effectively plan and strategize for each challenge and navigate any nuances. If there is a 15-minute time-limit to one of the tasks and you didn’t know that before going on, then you’re in trouble. If there’s a chance for bonus points and you didn’t know that going in, then that’s a lost opportunity. Knowing the rules inside and out will allow you to identify potential obstacles, maximize your robot’s performance, and optimize time management.


2. Thoroughly Test Your Robot

Test your robot over and over again before competition. This will ensure that it can consistently perform the required tasks. Give yourself time to debug and fine-tune all of your robot’s movements, sensors, and programming.


Practice efficient setup, calibration, and troubleshooting techniques to minimize time-wasting. Know what is most likely to go wrong and have a back-up plan in case something does go wrong. You want to go in with the best robot that you possibly can.


3. Collaborate with Your Team

The only way your team will succeed is if you all work together. This means good communication will be key. You’ll need to clearly define roles and responsibilities based on skill sets, establish communication channels, and feel comfortable sharing ideas and constructive criticism with each other. This is the best avenue for you to share ideas, get creative, and even make mistakes before getting to the best possible outcome.


If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!


Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 


The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas.


The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 


The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.


You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 


Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!


Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!


Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 


These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 


The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project.


Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here


Location: Virtual

Cost

  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 


Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about robotics or AI research, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online program for high school students, founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Amelia is a current junior at Harvard College studying art history with a minor in economics. She’s enthusiastic about music, movies, and writing, and is excited to help Lumiere’s students as much as she can!


Image Source: BotBall logo

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