Lawrence Tech’s Robofest Competition Shifts to the Virtual World in August

Lawrence Technological University’s annual student Robofest World Championship, which involves more than 2,500 students from over 27 countries, is moving online due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
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LTU Robofest World Championship
Lawrence Tech’s Robofest World Championship will be held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. // Photo courtesy of Lawrence Technological University

Lawrence Technological University’s annual student Robofest World Championship, which involves more than 2,500 students from over 27 countries, is moving online due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, originally scheduled for May 14-16 on LTU’s Southfield campus, now will take place beginning Aug. 28-29 and continue through Oct. 2-3 via video conferencing.

When the coronavirus pandemic closed thousands of schools around the world in March, the competition that features five-person teams of students in three divisions – junior (grades 5-8), senior (grades 9-12), and college – was in the midst of its season of qualifying and regional competitions.

“We are proud to announce that Robofest is currently the only robotics world championship operating this year,” says C.J. Chung, Robofest inventor and professor of computer science at LTU Chung said. “Rather than canceling it, we are creating a new modality in competition-based learning to cope with the unpredictable future. We firmly believe this will be a great opportunity for Robofest students to develop both hard STEM skills and soft skills such as online technical communication and remote teamwork skills through internet tools.”

Robofest teams can choose to participate in a variety of events:

  • GolfBowl, in which students design and build a robot to putt golf balls into holes on a 6-foot table while also knocking over water bottles.
  • BottleSumo Time Trial, a competition in which robots try to push water bottles off a table.
  • RoboArts, in which students create robots that offer artistic performances like music or dance. RoboMed, in which students create medical care robots.
  • The Unknown Mission Challenge, in which students don’t know the task their robot will have to perform until competition day.

For the exhibition open competitions, a panel of expert judges will decide winners after observing team presentations and robot demonstrations via video using the same rubric as they would if they were physically present. For game competitions, unknown tasks and factors will be unveiled at the same time all around the world, then local judges will score robots’ performance, while trained volunteer judges will monitor and proctor all the game locations via video.

Success at Robofest requires mastery of multiple STEM and computer science subjects, which in turn drives preparation for college classes and high-tech careers, according to Chung. In addition, Robofest teaches students to develop skills such as problem solving, teamwork, creative thinking, and communication.

The Robofest rules allow the use of any robotics kit on the market in the construction of robots that can be programmed with any programming language.

More details about the LTU Robofest Online World Championship can be found here. Videos of mock online competition can be viewed by visiting here and here.

Major sponsors of Robofest include DENSO, the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation, Robomatter Inc., the National Defense Industrial Association Michigan Chapter, IEEE Southeastern Michigan Section, SoarTech, Realtime Technologies, Toyota, and IBM.

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