Robot competition

A robot competition is an event where the abilities and characteristics of robots may be tested and assessed. Usually they have to beat other robots in order to become the best one. Many competitions are for schools but several competitions with professional and hobbyist participants are also arising.


Robotic competitions have been organized since the 1970s and 1980s. In 1979 a Micromouse competition was organized by the IEEE as shown in the Spectrum magazine.[1]

Although it is difficult to pinpoint the first robotic competition in history two events are well known nowadays for their longevity: the All Japan Sumo from Japan, and the Trinity College International Fire fighting Robot Contest.[2]

Other competitions have grown in popularity with the pass of time, being the Robocup and the Robo One two of the main singular events in current times. In parallel companies like Lego and VEX have developed their own branded events and called them leagues, although they function more like individual cups in regional qualifiers with finals.

There is some controversy whether university specific challenges should be considered competitions or more workshops, in general the trend is to open competitions to the public in order to prevent nepotism and improve the quality of the robots competing at the event.

Some organizations have been trying to standardize robotics competition through the introduction of full-fledged leagues with a standard calendar, but the model has been only working in specific countries like Spain where the National League was founded in 2008 and is still functioning.[3]

Criteria to classify robot competitions

There are many criteria that can be used to classify robot competitions which makes it hard to establish a standard way of referring to them:

  • Popularity with public or competitors
  • Indoors versus Outdoors
  • Branded materials (LEGO or VEX) versus Open materials
  • Minors / students versus Professionals / clubs
  • Itinerant (Robocup) versus Fixed-location (All Japan Sumo)
  • Nature of movement: humanoid, wheeled, aerial, aquatic, underwater,...


Major competitions and organizations

All these competitions are indoors, itinerant in their location and showcase different categories. The competitions in this listing have a yearly recurrent major impact in their locations with a huge national impact or an international significant reach. Map in reference [4]

CompetitionBrandedStudents / ProsFoundedShort description
FIRSTYes (Lego)Students1992US-based international organization
BEST RoboticsNoStudents1993American student competition
FIRANoBoth1997Asian organization competing with Robocup
RobocupNoBoth1997Organization similar to FIRA but with more expansion
BattlebotsNoPros2000American TV Program
ABU RoboconNoStudents2002Asian organization similar to FIRST
Robo OneNoBoth2002Asian humanoid reference event
RoboGames (aka Robolympics)NoBoth2004American well known competition
World Robot OlympiadYes (Lego)Students2004Similar to Lego and Vex with less branding
RoboPartyYes (botnroll)Students2007Educational event (robot is built in the event), with 3 challenges (Obstacles, Race of Champions, Dance)
VEXYes (VEX)Students2007The VEX championships
RoboMasterYes (DJI)Students2015China-based international team shooting competition

Historically relevant competitions

These competitions had an important impact on the evolution of technology, public awareness or other robotic competitions in the world.

CompetitionIn / OutBranded / OpenStudents / ProsLocationMovementShort descriptionYear first runStill active
IEEE Micromouse competitionIndoorsOpenBothItinerantWheeledMouse labyrinth navigation done in several locations: APEC, Taiwan and Japan1979 [5]Yes
All Japan Robot SumoIndoorsOpenBothFixedWheeledJapanese historic sumo event1990 [6]Yes
International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC)BothOpenUniversity only2 VenuesAerialFully autonomous aerial robots; multi-year missions; 2 simultaneous venues (USA and Asia)1991[7]Yes
AUVSI Foundation's Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC)OutdoorsOpenStudentsFixedWheeledStudents customize autonomous buggies at Oakland University1993Yes
Trinity Fire Fighting Robot CompetitionIndoorsOpenBothFixedWheeledFire fighting historical event at Trinity College (Connecticut)1994[8]Yes
RoboCupIndoorsOpenBothItinerantWheeled/LeggedSeveral league (Football, Rescue, @home, @work, Junior)1997Yes
RoboSub and RoboboatOutdoorsOpenBothFixedUnderwaterAUVs innovation in San Diego1997Yes
EurobotIndoorsOpenStudentsItinerantWheeledChanging normative student event originated in France1998[9]Yes
Centennial ChallengesOutdoorsOpenProsItinerantSeveralNASA's contests for non-government achievements (not strictly a robotics event)[10]2003No
European Land-Robot TrialOutdoorsOpenProsItinerantWheeledMilitary R&D in Europe ("not organised as a competition but as a trial,")[11]2006Yes
RoboPartyIndoorsBranded (botnroll)StudentFixedWheeledEducational event held in Portugal, teaches hands-on how to build a robot2007Yes
UAV Outback ChallengeOutdoorsOpenBothFixedAerialUAVs innovation in Australia2007Yes
DARPA Grand ChallengeOutdoorsOpenProsFixedWheeledAutonomous street cars in the USA (in 2019 focus changing to "spectrum collaboration")[12]2014No
RoboraceOutdoorsBrandedProsItinerantWheeledAutonomous Formula E carsTBD?
World Robotics League Both Open Both Itinerant Land, Air, Water Competition based purely on merit. Autonomous and Remote control with elements of dynamic environment 2014 Yes

Local active competitions with Wikipedia pages

Location for these competitions is fixed, usually linked to a venue or institution.

CompetitionIn / OutBranded / OpenStudents / ProsMovementShort descriptionLast edition
National Engineering Robotics ContestIndoorsOpenStudentsSeveralA student competition at NUSTActive
Pioneers in EngineeringIndoorsOpenStudentsWheeledStudent competitionActive
BotballIndoorsOpenStudentsWheeledStudent competition???
Student RoboticsIndoorsOpenStudentsSeveralStudent competition at the University of SouthamptonActive
DEF CONIndoorsOpenStudentsSeveralHacker event with a competitionActive

Unsourced or discontinued minor competitions

The following events appear to be inactive or have no reference that show them to be active.

OFF Road Robotics Competition

The competition is organized by the Robot Association of Finland.

The goal is to build a robot which is able to move without human help off-road. The competition is held annually at the mid-summer Jämi Fly In air show in Finland.[13][14] The competition track is randomly selected 10 minutes before competition by the judge, marked with four wooden sticks to make a 200-meter track. The track consists of sand roads and fields containing bushes and rocks. The robots must run outside the sticks from start to finish without human assistance as fast as possible. YouTube movies and pictures from the 2007 and 2008 competitions are available.[15]

International Autonomous Robot Racing Challenge (IARRC)

Student teams from around the world compete in an outdoor racing competition, where small-scale robots race against other robots to the finish line, without any human guidance or control. Their skills are put to test in a static judging event, a drag race and a circuit race event, where the vehicles navigate around obstacles and obey the traffic rules. These robots are finding their way in applications such as space exploration, mining, search and rescue, remote sensing and automotive inspection.

Robot Racing is an effort to promote research in autonomous mobile robotics technology. The competition provides students with engineering design challenges, including components of mechanical, computer, control software, and system integration. Students work together to design and build robotic vehicles that can navigate twisting, obstacle-filled courses without any human guidance or control.

Mobile Autonomous Systems Laboratory competition (Maslab)

The Mobile Autonomous Systems Laboratory, or Maslab, is a university-level vision-based autonomous robotics competition. The competition is open to students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and requires multithreaded applications of image processing, robotic movements, and target ball deposition. The robots are run with Ubuntu Linux and run on an independent OrcBoard platform that facilitates sensor-hardware additions and recognition.

Flying Donkey Challenge

The Flying Donkey Challenge is an escalating series of sub-challenges held annually in Africa with a focus on lifting cargo. The initial challenge is scheduled to take place in Kenya in November 2014 with four enabling technology and design sub-challenges and three non-technical challenges.[16][17]

Micro Air Vehicle Events

A series of micro air vehicle (MAV) events have been sponsored by organizations including the University of Florida, the U.S. Army, French DGA, Indian Ministry of Defense, and others. For example, the International Micro Air Vehicle conferences (IMAVs) always includes competitions in which capabilities are demonstrated and missions are performed. The goal of most competitions is to stimulate research on full autonomy of the micro air vehicles. Prizes range up to an aggregate value of $600,000 in 2008.

UBBOTS competition

UBBOTS is an annual robot exhibition taking place at Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.[18] The teams have to create a robot that helps humans and simplify their life.

Duke Annual Robo-Climb Competition (DARC)

Hosted by Duke University, the Duke Annual Robo-Climb Competition (DARC) challenges students to create wall-climbing robots. The competition is discontinued.


Sakarya University Robotics Competition (SAURO) is a robotics competition hosted by Sakarya University since 2009. The organization is open to undergraduates, graduates and high school students. The competition is discontinued.

First Robot Olympics

The first Robot Olympics took place in Glasgow Scotland on September 27–28, 1990. The event was run by The Turing Institute at the Sports Centre at the University of Strathclyde. It featured 68 robots competing in a range of sporting events from. The robots were from 12 different countries and involved over 2,500 visitors over the two-day period. The competition is discontinued.

See also


  1. "Maze Runner Archives". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  2. "Trinity College Int'L Firefighting Home Robot Contest". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  3. "Liga nacional de robotica de competicion". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  5. "Maze Runner Archives". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  6. Nagata, Kazuaki (December 14, 2014). "Sumo robots converge on Ryogoku for first international competition". The Japan Times. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  7. "International Aerial Robotics Competition home page". Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  8. "Trinity Fire Fighting Robot Competition". Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  9. "EUROBOT: International Students Robotic Contest". Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  10. "STMD: Centennial Challenges". Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  11. "ELROB – The European Land Robot Trial". Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  12. "New DARPA Grand Challenge to Focus on Spectrum Collaboration". Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  13. "Jami Fly In". Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  14. "Off-road Robot Car Competition 2007". Archived from the original on April 25, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  15. "Off Road 2007 videos". Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  16. "The Flying Donkey Challenge". Archived from the original on April 24, 2014.
  17. Munford, Monty (February 13, 2014). "Forget Amazon, drone delivery will take off in Africa". Wired UK.
  18. "UBBots". Archived from the original on March 4, 2015.
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