Prestigious Robotics Competitions for Kids: Elementary to 8th Grade
Robotics and STEM competitions are the Super Bowl of education. Kids that love coding and are involved in STEM education look forward to these contests all year and prepare for them with enthusiasm. Kids of all ages can participate in competitions that judge their knowledge and skill according to their age.
With the pandemic and travel restrictions, most organizations are now conducting the competitions virtually. This allows participation of students that were previously unable to travel for various reasons. Parents and teachers should encourage their students to take part in these competitions for multiple reasons. First of all, it is fun for kids to engage in mentally stimulating activities and contests help them sharpen their skills and hone their craft. Survey shows that after participation in a robotics competition, coaches reported a 94% increase in the interest in science and tech and the number of students participating in math and engineering classes doubled!
Participation in robotics competitions from school level is valuable for future college applications. Having trophies, medals or even participation certificates from these competitions shows college admissions offices that the candidate is serious about a STEM career and will be a valuable addition to the college. Moreover, kids learn to play in teams and appreciate failure in these competitions.
Parents should motivate the kids to participate in robotics competitions for a chance to go abroad and study at top-notch institutions and represent the country at an international level. Some other reasons why robotics competitions are so valuable for kids to experience include:
- Opportunity to earn scholarships for higher education.
- Learn through the process of trial and error: kids learn to be persistent by continuing to work on creating a better robot. The problem-solving skills learnt in these environments are valuable for a future in STEM.
- Appreciate the effort and hard work that goes into winning competitions.
- Find a community of like-minded people that they can connect with: they can form lifelong friendships by connecting with others in these competitions.
- Learn soft skills such as creativity, individuality, problem-solving, communication and collaboration. Some competitions require students to present their ideas and explain the code to the judges, that way even the shy kids learn to communicate professionally with adults and each other. These skills can’t be learnt in a robotics lab where kids work by themselves.
Robotics competitions are held throughout the year at national and international level. Students can participate in teams or represent their school individually. The following are some of the most prestigious robotics competitions for kids, divided into age groups
Elementary School (Grades K-5, ages 5+)
This challenge aims to spark kids’ interest in different fields of STEM and particularly engineering and robotics. After an orientation period that is held online, kids are presented with a series of three challenges that have to be solved by themselves. These challenges are based on real-world situations that take place on the land or in the sea. The robots in the stimulation are those that are used by experts in real life.
Eligibility: Grades 3-10. Kids from around the world can participate in this virtual robotic competition.
Teams of up to 15 students work together to build, program and operate the robots. You can use a variety of Java programs for coding. The FIRST competition is unique because it encompasses STEAM values uniquely. Kids are encouraged to participate in community outreach programs to earn extra points in the competition; also they have to market the robot to raise funds for STEM education.
The registration cost varies according to the type of challenge and the team details. The upcoming challenge is in July 2021. Thousands of teams from over 34 countries participate each year.
Eligibility: grades 7-12
Exciting challenges are presented to kids to solve real-world problems. With 41+ competitions involving various countries, the MATE competition is one of the most well-respected robotic competitions. They use underwater robots to solve various hurdles and the students are judged on their code and the time taken to program the robot. Every challenge is different from the other and designed to stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
The Scout challenge was on 26 April 2020, new dates will be announced on the website. The fee is different for various challenges starting from $50.
Eligibility: scout program is for K-12. The navigator is for grades 5+.
VEX robotics team is spread over 50 countries and conducts 1,700+ competitions a year. Their challenges include just one robot competing against time. Challenges are given in the form of an arena or maze for the robot to clear. There is also a chance to pair with other teams to enhance each other’s score. Each challenge requires an integrated knowledge of all STEM fields to succeed.
The registration fee is $150 and the tournament is scheduled in April 2020.
Eligibility: less than age 12.
The possibilities are endless in this robotics competition. Students can use any software to code one robot per team. The code has to be such that the robot can complete various tasks such as put out a fire and climb inclined planes. Students are awarded prize money and certificates that can be used in future endeavors. This competition is free!
This year’s competition was held in Japan in July 2020. Next year’s dates will be announced on the website.
Eligibility: international elementary (8+ years) and middle school kids from 30+ countries.
Middle School (ages 11+)
The Botball challenge requires students to code and use AI to create robots in seven weeks. Challenges presented include hands-on real-life problems. The unique feature of the BotBall competition is that the robot is autonomous, which means it is controlled by sensors and the programming in the robot, no remote controls. All challenges are designed to promote creativity and STEM skills in integrating various fields of knowledge.
The competitions run from January to May. Schedules are available on the website. International students can participate in various countries on each continent.
Eligibility: Middle and high school students.
The goal of the competition is to promote teamwork by programming robots according to the theme of the contest. The competition requires students to write down their thinking behind creating the robot. And make a video presentation for the judges. Students have the opportunity to represent their country and win certificates that they can put on their college applications.
Competitions are held in various countries and you can check the website for the location closest to you.
Eligibility: primary to junior high school from over 20 countries.
The Robofest competition has various games and contests that kids can participate in according to their age and robotics skills. The main aim of the program is to promote kids to engage in STEM education so they give challenges and motivate students to have fun! Any robot building material is allowed including Arduino DIY robots. Challenges include mathematics and engineering knowledge integration with robots. You can request for official certificates as they are quite valuable for a future in STEM. Over 20,000 teams participate from 15+ countries.
The competition continues throughout the year with finals held in various countries. You can check for a location near you by clicking here. The entry fee is very minimal ($50).
Eligibility: middle school grades 5-8
This platform offers competitions in the form of video games, with a completely online setup it eliminates the cost of hardware and kids can participate from the comfort of their homes. Kids can play single-player levels and then advance to competitions in teams. The competition is inside a virtual arena where team members collaborate to solve complex STEM-based challenges. There are sensors on the controls that feed information to the robots in the game. You can record your robot doing advanced projectile motions and submit it for extra credit.
The competition is live all year round so you can sign up whenever you are ready!
Eligibility: Middle school and above internationally.
RoboCup is an international platform. The virtual robot stimulation is a rescue mission to prepare children to understand how robots can be programmed to perform search and rescue missions. The qualifying teams represent the country and are judged on the basis of how well they understood the challenge, how many victims did the robot rescue and how well was the navigation of the robot. They encourage participation from third world countries.
Registration closed on Feb 22, 2020, and the competition is in June 2020.
Eligibility: middle school kids and above.
Junior High School (ages 13+)
World robotic competition includes over 65 countries. The challenges are simple and the students are judged based on the level of creativity and skill demonstrated in building the robot. The robots can play soccer or solve real-world problems. Every year’s competition has a new theme of challenges. 26,000 teams were involved in the 2017 season with judges from 30 different countries!
This years’ Olympiad is scheduled to be held in South Korea, dates are yet to be announced.
Eligibility: elementary to high school; ages 10-19 years old.
RoboCup Junior is a subsidiary of the RoboCup competitions. The students work in teams led by a mentor. The robots have to be built by the team itself using any commercially available set including Arduino and program them using any language. Robots play soccer on the field and the tasks including running with the soccer ball and scoring. Another challenge includes a rescue robot that navigates the arena to solve problems and find its way through a maze.
This years’ competition was scheduled for May 3, 2020. Check the website for new dates.
Eligibility: primary and secondary school students of ages 8+ from 45+ countries from around the world.
The virtual Olympiad offers competitions using virtual robotics toolkits. Kids can design and code the robot in a 3D environment without having a physical robot in hand. Using simulated Lego Mindstorms kids compete with teams from around the world. The stimulation is built with precision with rich details. The goal of the challenge is to enhance STEM knowledge by integrating engineering, mathematics and robotics knowledge. There is a maze challenge, rucomp, and line expert among many others.
The maze challenge was on May 30, 2020. New dates are updated on the website.
Eligibility: elementary to high school from various countries. Check the website to see if you qualify.
Zero robotics is a coding competition where young kids are required to program the SPHERES, these are satellites which are in the international space station. The competition is open to all who can complete the tasks. Although the initial phases of the competition are online, the final challenge is broadcasted live from the ISS.
The best feature is that this is entirely free of charge for various countries including Australia and Russia. The last tournament of the year ends on Dec 20th, 2020.
Eligibility: Middle and high school students.
This platform offers a multitude of challenges for all age groups of students around the world. They also collaborate with other companies including Google and Autodesk when creating contests. The challenges involve coding the robot and programming it to do STEM-based tasks. All the submissions are made online for free!
The current challenge ends on Dec 8, 2020. for this year is closed. More dates are available on the website. 30,000+ teams from around the world participate and compete in different challenges.
Eligibility: elementary to high school students.
The Bottom Line
Building robots on its own is not going to land your kid in a college but the sense of accomplishment is what you need to strive for. The confidence that comes from participation in these contests in deep-rooted and guides future adventures.
You should try your best to involve kids in as many of these robotics competitions as you can for them to learn skills such as teamwork and practical application of STEAM knowledge. Don’t wait for them to get to high school before participating because these contests are designed for all ages. Many youngsters in elementary school are already participating. If you wait too long your kid might lag.
Click on these links provided so you can check the dates of each of these competitions. Start preparing to participate as winning is not what is important, you can learn a ton by simply engaging!