Student Robotics

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Student Robotics
TypeEducational Charity
Registration no.1163168
FocusRobotics, Engineering and Computer Science
Area served
United Kingdom
ServicesCharitable services
MethodRobotics Competition
Key people
Diane Dowling (Trustee), David Massey (Trustee), Jimmy Thompson (Trustee)

Student Robotics is a registered charity that runs an annual robotics competition for teams of 16 to 19 year-olds.[1] The charity aims to foster a world where engineering and artificial intelligence is accessible to young people with a stated mission "to bring the excitement of engineering and the challenge of coding to young people through robotics".[2] The competition is free to enter and teams are provided with all of the core electronics that they need to build a robot. To encourage creative and ingenious solutions to problems, constraints on design (other than overall size) are kept to a minimum, and the students can build and fashion their robots with any materials they choose; this results in a wide range of quirky, original robots. The robots must operate autonomously; once they are switched on to compete no interference from the team is allowed.[3]

The organisation was founded at the University of Southampton in 2006 by Robert Spanton and Stephen English. Students at the University of Bristol[4] and Grenoble INP[5] joined the project in 2010. In 2016 the organisation became a registered charity.

Student Robotics competition[edit]

The competition is designed, organised and managed by a team of volunteers ("Blueshirts"). Most volunteers have previously competed in an annual competition and many have gone on to study robotics, computer science or engineering at university. The competition takes place over a weekend in April/May. There are a series of league matches, spread over two half days, where each team competes against 3 other robots, to score points. On the afternoon of the second day, the points from the league table determine the rounds for the knockout stage, which eventually determines the winners of the competition.

Teams are introduced to the competition, and provided with their kit, at a "KickStart" event at the beginning of the academic year in October. Kickstart involves briefings on the competition challenge, and its rules, by Student Robotics volunteers. There is also a mini-game to introduce the teams to the kit. During the competition cycle, "Tech Days" held at various locations where teams are encouraged to work on their robot under the supervision of Student Robotics' Volunteers.

Historically the competition has been hosted on the Highfield Campus of the University of Southampton, however the 2014 and 2015 competitions were held at Newbury Racecourse Grandstand. Kickstart is also held on the Highfield Campus of the University of Southampton, but for the 2014 competition there were Kickstarts at the University of Bristol and Gresham's School, and for the 2015 competition there were Kickstarts at the University of Bristol, Facebook's office in London, and Technische Universität München. In 2017, two Kickstart events were held, at the University of Southampton and at the offices of Thread in London.

The competition rules mandate that the robots are autonomous, rather than remote controlled. The competitors may program their robot in Python via an IDE provided by Student Robotics. Student Robotics does not ban, nor support other methods than the IDE for programming their robots.

The competition is free to enter although schools have to make their own travel arrangements and provide the materials to build a chassis and fashion their robot. In some years a small budget has been given to schools.[6]

Robotics kit[edit]

Another group of volunteers (the Kit Team) develops and maintains a modular "robotics kit" that is provided to every team.[7] The current revision of the kit uses an Odroid U3 as its central controller; previously a BeagleBoard was used. Most competitors use the Python programming language and teams are given access to a software library to ease interaction with the kit. However, it is not a requirement that they use Python or the library.

The main contents of the kit are:[8]

  • A Power Board (Central control and power distribution)
  • Two Motor Boards (Boards for controlling brushed DC motors)
  • A Ruggeduino Board (General purpose digital I/O and analogue input)
  • A Servo Board (Board for controlling up to eight servos)
  • A USB Webcam
  • Two 11.1V 2200mAh Lithium Polymer batteries

The software library includes a vision system based on libkoki. This allows for markers, placed in the arena, on other robots and on game objects/obstacles, to be seen by the robot. These provide information such as distance, position and rotation.[9]

As the competition is free to enter, Student Robotics requires that the kit is returned post-competition.[10]


2019: "Caldera"[edit]

This task involved moving cardboard boxes (tokens) around the arena in order to capture zones. A central "volcano" was placed at the centre of the arena to act as an obstacle; zones on the volcano were worth more points.[11]

37 teams attended the competition that was held at the University of Southampton on 6 and 7 April 2019.[12]

First Place The Ladies' College Guernsey
Second Place Hills Road Sixth Form College
Third Place Hampton School and Lady Eleanor Holles School
Rookie Award Eltham College
Committee Award South Wilts Grammar School
Robot and Team Image Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School
Online Presence The College of Richard Collyer

2018: No Competition Held[edit]

There was no Student Robotics competition in 2018. Due to some organisational issues within the charity, it was decided to take a year off to reorganise and ensure the longevity of the charity.[13]

Two alternate competitions were held with very similar characteristics, and involved many of the original volunteers.

  • SourceBots - A ten team competition was held at the University of Southampton on 21 and 22 April.[14]
  • Hills Road Robocon - A twelve team competition was held at Hills Road Sixth Form College.[15]

2017: "Easy as ABC"[edit]

The task involved picking up cardboard cubes labelled A, B or C, and placing them in the team's allocated zone, scoring additional points by collecting cubes in the order ABC.

The competition was held on 31 March to 1 April 2017 at The Racecourse, Newbury.

Prize Team
First Place CATS College Cambridge
Second Place Hills Road Sixth Form College
Third Place The College of Richard Collyer
Rookie Award Dr Challoner's Grammar School
Committee Award Lawrence Sheriff School
Robot and Team Image Hills Road Sixth Form College
Online Presence "MAI" - Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf, Germany

2016: "Sunny side Up"[edit]

The task involved rotating cardboard cubes to the colour of the respective teams, and scoring additional points by picking up the cubes and placing them in the corners.

The competition was held on 30 April to 1 May 2016 at The Racecourse, Newbury.

Prize Team
First Place Royal Grammar School, Guildford
Second Place The Ladies' College
Third Place Gordano School
Rookie Award The Ladies' College
Committee Award Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys
Robot and Team Image "MAI" - Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf, Germany
Online Presence Queen Mary's College

2015: "Capture the Flag"[edit]

The task involved "capturing" small wooden cubes ("Flags") from their starting positions by moving them into the team's scoring area.

The competition was held on 25–26 April 2015 at The Racecourse, Newbury.

Prize Team
First Place Bishop Wordsworth's School
Second Place Gordano School (team 2)
Third Place King Edward VI Grammar School
Rookie Award King Edward VI Grammar School
Committee Award Cranbrook School
Robot and Team Image "MAI" - Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf, Germany
Online Presence Peter Symonds College
First Robot Movement CATS College Cambridge

Details on the 2015 competition and awards can be found in the 2015 rulebook

2014: "Slots"[edit]

The task involved moving 20 cm3 cubes from their start positions into slots in the centre on the arena. Points where awarded for occupying slots. Another main factor was that the tokens could be flipped 180 degrees in order to score extra points.

The competition was held on 26–27 April 2014 at The Racecourse, Newbury.

Prize Team
First Place Headington School, Oxford
Second Place Gordano School
Third Place Clifton High School, Runshaw College
Rookie Award Torquay Boys Grammar School
Committee Award "MAI (senior)" - Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf, Germany
Robot and Team Image Hills Road Sixth Form College
Online Presence Peter Symonds College
First Robot Movement Torquay Boys Grammar School

Details on the 2014 competition and awards can be found in the 2014 rulebook

2013: "A Strange game"[edit]

The task involved moving large tokens into squares situated on the floor to take ownership of that square. The zone was owned by the team which had the most tokens in it. Points are awarded dependent of how many squares are owned by a team. In each zone there is a "pedestal" which if a robot gets to put their token on, they own that zone no matter on the number of other tokens in the square. Multipliers are awarded for getting zones in a row or column.

The 2013 competition final ended in a three-way tie, so a tie breaker round was played.

This tie breaker has been said to be the most tense match in Student Robotics history as it was won 3 seconds before the end. The video of this can be found here.

Prize Team
First Place "MAI" - Gymnasium Markt Indersdorf, Germany
Second Place "CLF" - Clifton High School
Third Place Queen Mary's College (QMC)
Rookie Award Headington School, Oxford (HSO2)
Committee Award "Grey Matter Robotics"
Robot and Team Image "Team Sky Crane" - Peter Symonds College, Winchester
Online Presence "Grey Matter Robotics"
First Robot Movement Headington School, Oxford (HSO1 & HSO2)

Details on the competition and awards can be found in the 2013 rulebook.

2012: "Pirate plunder"[edit]

The task involved robots having to collect randomly located tokens from the arena, and depositing it in their zone of the arena. Bonus points were added for any token that was placed into a bucket in that zone.

This was the first year that used the latest vision system: libkoki.

The winners of the 2012 Competition were:[16]

Prize Team
First Place "The Hitchhikers" - Peter Symmond's College, Winchester
Second Place "Systemetric" - Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge
Third Place Brockenhurst College, Brockenhurst
Committee Award Queen Mary's College, Basingstoke
Outstanding Team "Aslan" - Peter Symmond's College, Winchester
Online Presence MFG Robotics - Mirfield Free Grammar, Huddersfield
First Robot Movement "MFG Robotics" - Mirfield Free Grammar, Huddersfield

Details on the awards can be found in the 2012 Rulebook

2011: "Tin can rally"[edit]

The task was to go around the arena, gaining points for each corner passed. Multipliers were applied to the points gained related to the number of baked bean tins that the robot had picked up en route.

This was the first year that used the latest revision of kit.

The winners of the 2011 Competition were:[17]

Prize Team
First Place Taunton's College, Southampton
Second Place Peter Symmond's College, Winchester
Third Place Mirfield Free Grammar, Huddersfield
Chairmans Award Mirfield Free Grammar, Huddersfield
Online Presence "Powered By Magic" - Churcher's College, Petersfield
First Robot Movement Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School, Bristol

Details on the awards can be found in the 2011 Rulebook

2010: "QuacMan"[edit]

The challenge involved picking up small wooden tokens of the correct colour, with points being lost for picking up the wrong colour blocks. In addition, a super token (a rubber duck, from which the game's name was derived) was placed on top of a ramp in the centre of the arena, which was worth enough points alone to swing the match.

2009: "Golf" and "Squirrel"[edit]

In 2009, two game types were specified, both involved collection & placement of coloured play-balls.[18] Teams had a home zone on the floor of the arena, as well as a net suspended above their corner, into which the balls could be placed.

In Golf, teams had to place the balls into their opponents zones & nets, while in Squirrel the challenge was reversed, with teams aiming to collect the balls.


The first game was not named, and involved teams collecting coloured tokens that were painted wooden cubes.[19]


  1. ^ "Charity Details". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Vision, Mission and Values". Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Autumn 2010 issue of LynchPin Bristol Engineering newsletter
  5. ^ Grenoble INP news article - Des élèves-ingénieurs de Grenoble INP ont participé au concours "Student Robotics" (in French)
  6. ^ Information on Teams Budgets
  7. ^ Student Robotics "kit" page
  8. ^ Student Robotics Kit Documentation page
  9. ^ Student Robotics Documentation on the Vision System
  10. ^ 2013 Student Robotics Rulebook
  11. ^ "Student Robotics Rulebook 2019" (PDF). Student Robotics. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  12. ^ "The Ladies' College, Guernsey Wins Student Robotics 2019". Student Robotics. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Student Robotics returns for SR2019 | Student Robotics". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Competition 2018". 21 April 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Last Year | RoboCon". Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  16. ^ Student Robotics news article on 2012 competition
  17. ^ Student Robotics news article on 2011 competition
  18. ^ Game Rules for SR 2009
  19. ^ Game Rules for SR 2008

External links[edit]