National Robotics Challenge

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The National Robotics Challenge is a yearly event in which the robot contestants compete in one or many of the contests in order to win. It has been running since 1986. The 2007 event will have 12 contests.


The National Robotics Challenge has evolved from one of the oldest robotics contests in America, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Robotic Technology and Engineering Challenge. The SME-RTEC competition was started in 1986, under the guidance and inspiration of Tom Meravi, Associate Professor from Northern Michigan University and the late Dr. James Hannemann, co-chairman of the event. Working behind the scenes, Professor Meravi and Dr. Hannemann volunteered their time and talents tirelessly for fifteen years to help the robotics competition grow, expand, and develop into one of the premier robotics and engineering events in the nation. From its humble beginning, with two work cells and two pick and place competitions, the 2002 competition offered a total of seventeen contests. Dr. Hannemann died suddenly in July 2001. Following his passing, SME announced that the organization was unable to continue its sponsorship of the event at the 2003 awards ceremony in Rochester, New York. Most of the competitors and advisors thought that this was the end, but as with all things, every end can be a new beginning. This new beginning was realized by three educators from Marion, Ohio. On the bus ride from Rochester to Marion, Ed Goodwin, Ritch Ramey, and Tad Douce discussed the possibilities and support that existed in their community for this type of event. When they arrived in Marion each started working on different aspects of a plan to keep the SME contest alive.

Recent events[edit]

The 2004 event held at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Marion was a success. With over 200 students and multiple states represented the committee knew that there was going to be more demand for this type of an event in the future. The 2005 event showed some growth both in participants and sponsors. The 2005 event also concluded with another very important development, the addition of a fourth committee member. Brad Pottkotter had just started his teaching career at Ridgedale High School near Marion, and had come to judge at the 2005 NRC. After the awards ceremony Brad decided that he not only wanted to start a team for next year's event but he also wanted to join the effort. “I was very excited when Brad offered to join the committee. I just knew that he would be a real asset to the planning of our event,” said Tad Douce. The 2006 National Robotics Challenge expanded to include 5 middle schools, 27 high schools, and 4 post-secondary schools from Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, South Carolina, Michigan and New York. In all, there were over 180 robots entered in 11 different contest categories. Over 300 students and advisors all in one place; all enthusiastic about robotics education. Even though the event has gone through a great deal of change in the last few years some of the same things that made the 1986 event great can still be found. In 2008 Mark Robinson of Marion Harding High School's [ Project Lead the Way] engineering program was also added to the team.

The 2009 event had college students compete from Iowa, Arkansas, New York, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. One of the high lights of the event was the Ohio Northern University automated Ice Cream Sundae machine. More than 1000 Sundaes were made for visitors and competitors alike. The largest field of entries to date competed in the three-day event. The Math Machine challenge was added in 2009 and had middle school and high school teams compete to complete a maze using their Ti-83/84 programmable calculators. A Vex Robotics regional contest was added to the contest in 2009. It will a separate contest in 2010. The AgBot contests was also added for elementary and middle school students. Venders from various robotic industry related businesses had booths and displays. Visitors were taken to RobotWorx for tours of the industrial robot integrator and distributor of new and used robots from top manufacturers such as Motoman, Panasonic, Fanuc, and ABB. The 2010 event will take place April 15,16 and 17th.

Differences with other competitions[edit]

The National Robotics Challenge is the only open-platform robotics competition available to middle school, high school and post-secondary students. The goal of the National Robotics Challenge is to create an interest and excitement around the field of engineering and design through robotics competitions.

List of 12 contests that will take place during the April 15th-17th, 2010 event[edit]

Links displayed are just a few of the previous suppliers and kits used to compete in the listed events.

  • In the Manufacturing Model contest, the participants design, construct, and operate a system that performs more than one manufacturing processes using lego or fischertechnik systems.
  • The AgBot Challenge contest challenges the student teams to design, construct, program

and operate a battery powered lego robot for use in an agricultural simulation

  • SUMO Robot: in which two robots (RC or autonomous) try to push each other out of the playing circle.
  • Mini-SUMO Robot: the same as SUMO Robot, but with a smaller mini sumo robots and playing circle.
  • Manufacturing Robotic Work Cell: in which contestants design, create and operate a system that can perform at least one manufacturing process.
  • Pick and Place Programming: in which contestants write programs that will allow an Intelitek robot to pick up and drop certain items.
  • Robot Construction - Open: in which contestants choose a task, then design, make and operate a robot that will do that task.
  • Robot Maze Contest: in which contestants navigate a maze using a tactile or non-tactile 'mouse'.
  • Top of the Hill: in which robots navigate a Moonscape with obstacles and try and retrieve ping pong balls.
  • Robotic Problem Solving: in which contestants use the materials and software provided to create a Robix robot that will solve a common problem which occurs in manufacturing plants.
  • Hockey Robot: in which two teams, each with two robots, go head to head in a hockey-like competition.
  • Math Machine Challenge - Students use Math Machine robots with Texas Instruments programmable Ti-83/84 graphing calculators to solve mathematics problems using geometry and Algebraic expressions.