For everyone who loves Transformers, building robots, and playing games, RoboRave is a perfect competition for you. Featuring robots, games, puzzles, and prizes, RoboRave is an internationally-recognized competition for people of all ages to compete to build the best robot for the given game, showcasing your skills in engineering, creativity, and problem-solving.
What is RoboRave?
RoboRave is an international robotics competition that encourages students of all ages to explore robotics, all the while, having fun and developing their engineering ability. RoboRave was founded in New Mexico in 2001, and has since grown to be an international competition, across countries like Mexico, China, Czech Republic, and more! The founders’ wanted to create an inclusive and fun environment for students to pursue robotic engineering and pursue STEM in their future academic and career aspirations.
RoboRave competitions are known for their challenging and diverse set of events, ranging from line-following robots to autonomous aerial vehicles. Participants are required to design, build, and program their robots to complete specific tasks within the given time limit. The competition emphasizes the development of technical skills such as coding, circuit design, mechanical engineering, and problem-solving. RoboRave has gained prestige in the robotics community due to its high standards, rigorous judging criteria, and the opportunity it provides for participants to showcase their talents on a global stage.
Is RoboRave Prestigious?
RoboRave is undoubtedly a prestigious competition, with sponsors such as Intel, and its expansive international reach. The competition combines a sense of fun and challenge, as while the puzzles may seem rudimentary, performing well is a difficult task.
A high performance exemplifies the engineer’s ability to solve problems in a quick manner, design experiments and iterate through different designs, create solutions to problems out of essentially nothing, and passion for robotics.
Alumni have gone on to attend top universities throughout the world, such as Charles University in Prague or National University of Colombia, and work at elite institutions such as national banks, Lockheed Martin, Intel, and more.
Who is Eligible to Participate?
The best part about RoboRave is that essentially anyone is able to participate! Many countries around the globe have their national RoboRave circuit, thus all it takes to participate is finding the national website, then joining the closest regional RoboRave group. The competition is split up into different age groups, from elementary to “Big Kids” who are 18+, thus regardless of age, location, or nationality, anyone is eligible to participate, as long as there is an accessible RoboRave location nearby. Events can all be found here!
Timeline and Structure of RoboRave
RoboRave is largely a delocalized competition, with each country deciding the format, rankings, challenges, times, and locations, thus this article will focus on a general overview, but be sure to do your individual research on your local RoboRave circuit.
The local RoboRave will release the challenge at the beginning of any year, with any given competition hosting 4-8 different challenges! These challenges include games like “Line-Following,” where a robot must be able to navigate a complex track without falling off, or duels such as “SumoBot,” where two robots duel it out in a ring until one falls outside. There are even challenges without guidelines, such as “InnovBot,” which only stipulates that a team must build a robot that has an innovative design and/or purpose, or even challenges without engineering, such as “RoboEthics,” where a team submits a presentation or paper about the future of robotics and the ethical guidelines society must comply by.
The competition is broken up into four age groups, Elementary with students ages 8-10, Middle with ages 11-13, High with ages 14-18, and Big Kids with ages 19+. Each age group will also have different sets of rules for every challenge, such as the Elementary “Line-Following” track being half the length of the High’s track. Teams must consist of 2 to 4 people, all competing under one robot and one coach. The team’s age category is dependent on the oldest member of the team, thus any age may play up divisions, but cannot participate downwards.
RoboRave also prides itself on being an Open Source competition, allowing teams to use any sort of materials, programs, software, etc., so teams are encouraged to be creative with their use of technology, but of course, there are often design constraints by size or weight for each competition. Also, if a software minimizes the main part of the challenge, it is often also banned, such as using an external scanner for the “a-MAZE-ing” challenge.
7 Things You Need to Know to Win
1. You must have an understanding of robotics fundamentals
It is absolutely crucial to have a solid understanding of robotics engineering. From mechanics to electronics to programming, you should have an understanding of the different things that are possible with robots and each material, what you can purchase and find online premade or things that you need to build yourself. Resources like the book "Robot Builder's Bonanza" by Gordon McComb can provide comprehensive knowledge on robotics fundamentals.
2. You must be proficient in different programming languages
Any robot, but especially those that are automated, which is a major part of many challenges in RoboRave, must be programmed to complete some task. Languages like Python, C++, or Arduino programming are essential for your robot's success and can be practiced on websites like Codecademy and platforms like Arduino. There are also plenty of other existing platforms that you can ask/answer questions on, and have pre-coded or prebuilt systems ready for you to use. Expanding past RoboRave specifically and looking at resources from other robotics competitions can serve to be extremely useful for your project!
3. You must also be proficient in circuit design and electronics
For all of the movement required throughout these challenges, learning the basics of and being advanced at circuit design and the usage of electronic components can serve your team well. There are online resources like All About Circuits that provide comprehensive guides, tutorials, and interactive tools for learning electronics.
4. You must be able to understand mechanical design
The last component of robotics is the mechanics itself, thus acquiring knowledge of mechanical engineering principles to build sturdy and efficient robots is absolutely essential. Having a robot be “technically” able to navigate a course, but unable to balance on the beam means your robot actually cannot do anything. Be sure to learn about gears, drivelines, wheels, and more, and the strengths and weaknesses of different materials! Also be sure to use any digital resources to stimulate your robot before moving onto the expensive physical design, such as Fusion 360.
5. You must be continuously learning and stay updated with new trends in robotics
By staying updated with the latest trends, technologies, and advancements in robotics, you will also be able to use these same advancements in your challenges! A simple weekly or even monthly read through robotics blogs, news, and forums, or watching and attending workshops about new trends in robotics can serve as a sneaky advantage for your team.
6. You must be able to experiment and iterate through designs
Your robot will likely not be perfect on the first design, or the second, or even the seventh. However, the important part is being able to test your robot, analyze what went right, what went wrong, and how to improve based on this. Having an expansive knowledge of mechanical design, electronics, and programming will help you out a lot here, as you will likely be able to see exactly what your team needs to change. Conducting experiments, running digital simulations, or just engaging your robot in different scenarios can all be ways to test your robot out to be able to withstand the challenge.
7. You must practice under game/competition conditions
While building, iterating, and planning is all great, you must practice the game itself to ensure that your team and your robot are up to par with what the competition needs. Hosting or attending a local competition/scrimmage can prove to be invaluable to test out your robot in competition, while having much lower stakes than a national competition.
Test your robot on a mock maze track, or invite another team to “fight it out” in a robot sumo competition. Doing this will ultimately provide the most useful feedback to continue to improve or to build confidence that all of the hard work you have put into your robot has come to fruition!
Conducting advanced research is another great way to build new skills, take charge and expose yourself to new perspectives. It can also boost your profile for scholarships and competitions! If you want an opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.
Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students to get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.