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Youth LEGO Robotics Competitions

There are several competitions for young people that specifically focus on the use of LEGO robots. The objective of all these competitions is to give children the opportunity to learn mechanical design and programming skills. This article provides an overview of a few of the well-know competitions. Click on the links and learn more about each competition.

FIRST LEGO League Challenge is for students aged 9-14 in North America and 9-16 elsewhere. There are no age-based divisions in general, although some regions do offer divisions for regional contests. The challenge details are released around August 1 of each year. Teams of 2-10 students must design a robot that completes approximately 15 missions on a themed game table made up of LEGO-based missions. For example, the 2022 theme was called SUPERPOWERED and all the missions were related to the production, storage, and transport of energy.  When you register a team, you will be allowed to purchase a Challenge kit that includes all the LEGO you need for the missions and a Challenge mat. This is shipped from LEGO. 

Robots can be built with SPIKE Prime/Essential, Robot Inventor, or any past MINDSTORMS set. Students decide which missions they want to tackle and how they want to solve them in the 2.5 minute time limit. In FIRST LEGO League Challenge, the robot can return to a "Home" area where students can touch the robot and change out its actuators/attachments. Students are also judged on the quality of the robot and their engineering design process. In addition to the score they obtain on the missions, students must also complete an Innovation Project and a Core Values component. The season runs from August to December/January in most areas. Teams who qualify for advancement may participate in World Festival in April of each year in the USA or one of the International Opens in May or June. You can visit this page to see past seasons and winning teams, including the winners of the Virtual Open Invitational held during COVID, an event that was organized by several ROBOTMAK3RS.

FIRST LEGO League Explore (formerly known as FLL Jr) is a program for children ages 6-10. Students research topics in the given theme (same theme as Challenge) and program a model to activate using SPIKE Essential or WeDo. At an Explore Celebration event, students will explain their project and model to reviewers (not judges). Explore is not a competitive program and every team wins a prize. In 2022, Explore did pilot a new version of the program that involved an autonomous robot solving missions on a smaller mat.

World Robot Olympiad is an international competition for students from Elementary through High School (ages 8-19). Students compete in divisions based on age groups in groups of 2-3. Students complete the missions on a challenge table in the allotted time. Many teams will compete all the tasks successfully and will differentiate themselves based on speed. There is an annual theme to the contest similar to FIRST LEGO League. However, the missions on the table tend to be more abstract designs built easily from a standard kit of parts that gets reused each year. The challenge mat provided also tends to have simpler graphics with lines at right angles going to important areas that all teams make use of. Regions also print/sell their own mats (for example, the US organizer provided the mat design as a PDF in past years). Another difference is that the robot is not handled once it is launched. In addition, students must build their robot at the event in 150 minutes. There is also a Surprise Rule introduced that requires the students to re-program their robot at the event. Students can elect to compete in a more project-oriented component of WRO called Future Innovators rather than the robot component. Here, students will have to research a problem and create a solution. Students are also required to create a model/prototype using LEGO robotics in some way. The international finals are held every fall in a different country. You can visit this page to learn more and see where all the previous finals were held. The final event has a very international feel to it as teams qualify through a national tournament. In contrast, in FIRST LEGO League, majority of teams at an international event tend to be from the United States because the country is split into various regions/states to begin with and each region can send a winner to Worlds. ROBOTMAK3RS have been invited to run Expert Zones at past international final events.

RoboCup Junior offers competitions for students up to age 19 with both regional and international opportunities. There are several different categories you can compete in including line following and completing a maze. Teams of 2-4 students compete and there are no age-based divisions. Although it may sound simple, even the task of following a line can have challenges as there are obstacles (broken lines, elevations, etc.). Robot can be constructed from any robotics kit but must be primarily the work of the students (not a commercially produced robot).

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