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2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 1 of 8
Boston Public Schools
Office of Instructional and Information Technology

TechBoston Robotics Olympics 2010
Animal Kingdom
Saturday, May 22, 2010 12-4pm
Beatty Hall
Wentworth Institute of Technology

Scientists have long ago began classifying living
things in an effort to make sense of the living
world. In modern classification, mammals, fish,
birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and other
organisms such as coral and sponge all fall
under the animal kingdom.

Animals are of interest not only to biologists but
also to engineers. Biomimetics, which literally
means to "imitate life," is a growing field of
engineering whose aim is to "learn from nature"
to make new technologies. For example, fish
swim through the ocean with far greater
efficiency than any engineered boat or
submarine. Engineers are studying how the fish swims to try to incorporate the mechanism
into novel underwater vehicles. Other engineers are studying how mussels, a type of
shellfish, stick to rocks to help develop strong waterproof glue.

This year’s Robotics Olympics challenges focus on the animal kingdom and the diversity
within it.

If you have any questions regarding this year’s challenges and rules, please contact Haruna
Hosokawa at
or 617-908-6045.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 2 of 8
1. Cliff Walk
Animals live in all kinds of habitats, even in places that seem
uninhabitable to humans. Many have evolved special characteristics
that make them thrive in otherwise harsh environment. For example,
mountain goats, a type of goat found in the Rocky Mountains, have
special feet and hooves to let them climb up very steep and rocky
terrain that their predators can not reach.
In this challenge, your task is to build a robot that can climb the steepest ramp possible.
Can you catch up to the mountain goats?


• Robot MUST be controlled using default Program 1.
• Only RCX-based robots are allowed in this
challenge. NXT’s can not be used
• The plywood ramps measure 24” wide by 48” long
with 3” high barriers around the edges. The
ramps vary from approximately 20° to 45° slope,
in approximately 4° increments.
• The robot must start on the ramp with all parts
behind the start line located 12” from the base of the ramp. All parts of the robot must
cross the finish line which is located 12” from the top of the ramp.
• Robot will begin on the shallowest ramp.
• Each robot will get 2 attempts to climb each ramp. Robot may not be modified between
trials or between ramps.
• The team that completes the steepest ramp wins. In the event of a tie, the robot that
climbed the steepest ramp in the shortest time will be the winner.

2. Food Fight
For many animals, life is a constant race to
find food and to avoid predators.
In this challenge, you will navigate your
robot through a course while collecting food
and avoiding predators. Extra points are
given if you reach the “shelter" at the end of
the time limit. Bonus points are awarded for
robots that resemble an actual animal.

• Only RCX-based robots are allowed in this challenge. NXT’s can not be used
• Use Program 2 to navigate the robot through the field. The car MUST BE controlled using
the default Program 2.
• You MAY NOT control the robot by forcefully pulling on the cables. If a judge rules that
you have intentionally pulled on the cables to move a robot, you will be disqualified.
• The field measures approximately 8 feet by 12 feet.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 3 of 8
• The robot will start in the START area placed in one corner. The SHELTER is located at
the opposite corner.
• Food is represented by 2x2 LEGO bricks, scattered randomly through the field.
• Predators are represented by various obstacles placed through the field.
• Each robot will get at least two trials; best score counts.

• You have 3 minutes to collect as much food while avoiding predators.
o Each food collected is worth 2 points.
o If the robot bumps into a predator, there is a 5 point deduction.
o If the robot is in or touching the SHELTER at the end of the 3 minutes, you get 10
extra points.
• Food is considered “collected” if the robot is pushing the food. A good test is to drive the
robot forward, and any food that moves forward with the robot is considered “collected.”
• Up to 5 bonus points will be awarded to robots that resemble an actual animal. Decision
will be made by the judges.

3. Animal Race
Animals don't roll on wheels. They walk, run,
hop, slither, wiggle, crawl, fly, or even swim to
get to places.
Make a robot that uses any method other than
wheels to move forward. Awards will be given in two categories: Fastest Robot and the Most
Original Motion.

To see some examples of robots moving without wheels, go to

and click on the “Artificial Intelligence: Exploring Movement” page. There is a movie
showing numerous examples of robots moving without wheels.
• Robots must move using a method other than wheels rotating on axles.
o Gears or other parts rotating on axles are also considered “wheels” and are not
o LEGO wheels may be used in the robot as long as they do not rotate on axles like a
traditional wheel. (For example, a wheel may be laid on its side and be used like a
• Robot may have any number of “legs” as you wish.
• The RCX or NXT may be held by hand, attached to the moving robot by a long cable.
However, you may not move the robot by forcefully pulling on the cable.
• The time it takes for the robot to travel 24 inches will be recorded. The robot that
traveled 24 inches in the shortest time will win the “Fastest Robot” award. “Most Original
Motion” award will be given to the robot with the most interesting movement mechanism
(as determined by the judges), regardless of speed.
• Each robot will get at least 2 trials.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 4 of 8
4. Penguin Slide
Animals inhabit all places on earth, even ice-covered Antarctica. Penguins
have adapted to take advantage of the icy (and slippery!) environment –
they have learned to slide on their belly on the ice to get to places!
Design a car that can roll down a ramp and travel on the floor, just like a
penguin travels on ice. The car that can travel the furthest wins!

• This challenge is for grades K through 2 only.
• The car MUST NOT contain any electric components
(no RCX, NXT,
motors, or sensor). It must be powered entirely by gravity.
• Car must use LEGO wheels and axles. Other components may be made of any material.
• Car must contain at least two axles and must roll on at least three wheels.
• Ramp measures 24” wide by 30” long. One end will be raised by 12 inches. Car may be
released from anywhere on the ramp, but it must not be pushed.
• Distance will be measured from the bottom of the ramp in a straight line.
• Each car will get at least two trials.

5. Migration Navigation
Many animals migrate from one area to another to adapt to different
seasons. For example, the monarch butterflies spend summer days in
various parts of the US, but migrate to Mexico during winter months.
Many birds are migratory, with some traveling as far as from Alaska to
New Zealand, a trip of over 6000 miles! Many species of fish also
migrate from one part of the ocean to another in response to changing
water temperatures.
Build a robot that can follow a line on the floor to go from one place to another. Can you
make it all the way to the summer breeding ground?
• Robot must use light sensors to travel along the course.
• The course will be drawn using blue masking tape on white paper.
• You will have 3 minutes to complete the trip. Your trip will end if you run out of time or if
your robot falls off the course, whichever that happens first.
• Each robot gets at least two trials.
• The robot to go the farthest without falling off the course wins. If more than one robot
completes the trip before the time is up, the robot to do so in the shortest time wins.
• Note
: Light sensors are very sensitive to lighting conditions. Lighting conditions at the
competition will not be the same as your classroom, and it may affect your robot’s
behavior. Be prepared to re-program your robot on the day of the event. You will have at
least one hour prior to the competition to test the robot on the actual course and make
any necessary adjustments to your program.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 5 of 8
6. Clearing Ground

Many animals will change their surroundings in order to make a shelter. Some dig burrows
or tunnels. Some will make a nest. Some will seek refuge in a tree. To make a comfortable
and safe shelter, animals often need to clear away the space of soil, rocks, leaves, and
In this challenge, your robot will clear out an area that is full of rocks so that it can be made
into a shelter.

• The area to be cleared will be a square measuring 18” by 18”.
• There will be 30 “rocks,” represented by 2x2 circular LEGO bricks, randomly scattered in
the area.
• The robot may start anywhere outside of the 18”x18” square.
• You will have three minutes to move the “rocks” from the square to anywhere outside of
the square.
• You may touch your robot only if it is entirely outside the square.
• If you touch your robot while it is not entirely outside of the square, there will be a 10
point penalty. The robot must be moved out of the square before it can be restarted.
• Each robot will get at least two trials.

• Score is calculated as follows:
o Each “rock” that is moved completely out of the square is worth 3 points. Rocks that
are partially out are worth zero points.
o If you clear all of the “rocks” before the end of three minutes, each second remaining
is worth 1 point.
o Each time you must touch the robot while it is not entirely outside of the square, there
is a 10 point deduction.
• If you don’t touch the robot at all (inside or outside the square) after the initial start, you
will get a bonus of 30 points.

7. Take It Slow
Most animals move around one way or another. Some
animals are known for their slowness – like sloths or snails.
While slowness may seem like a disadvantage in the natural
world, that is not always the case. For example, sloths avoid
detection by moving so slowly that they blend in with the
In this challenge, your task is to use gears to make a robot
that moves VERY slowly. May the slowest vehicle win!
• RCX vehicles must use default Program 1. NXT vehicles must be programmed with their
motors at full power. Vehicles must be slowed down using gears, not by reducing the
power to the motors.
• NXT cars and RCX cars will be judged separately.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 6 of 8
• Vehicles must move with a smooth motion – you can not have a stationary car or a
vehicle with skipping gears.
• Vehicles will be raced simultaneously on a 24” long course. Last one to reach the finish
line wins.

8. Biomimetics (Poster Presentation)
Biomimetics is a field of engineering where engineers develop technologies that mimic
nature in a way that helps the society.
For this poster presentation, you will choose an animal or a feature of an animal and build a
robot that mimics it. You will also make a poster that explains the animal, its habitat, and
the special feature(s) that you chose to mimic.
• This challenge consists of a robot and a poster presentation.
• Robot
o Build a robot to represent an animal or a feature of an animal. Examples include
extendable claws that are found in cats or a turtle’s ability to retract its head into its
o Robot must contain one RCX or NXT and at least one motor.
o You may use non-LEGO materials (i.e., craft paper) as part of your robot.
• Poster
o Posters must be self-standing (such as the tri-fold Science Fair poster board.)
o Poster must include the following:
– Title, name(s) of student(s), and name of school.
– Name and picture of the species you are studying.
– Information about the species: its habitat, behavior, physical characteristics, etc.
– Information about your robot: what it does, how it resembles the animal (or a
feature of the animal) you are representing, how you built/programmed it, etc.
• Students will have 5 minutes to present to the judges and to demonstrate the robot, then
answer questions from the judges.
• A tri-fold poster board will be provided upon request. Please contact Haruna at
Scoring will be based on
o Robot: Design, creativity, construction, and programming.
o Poster presentation: Quality of research, poster, and presentation.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 7 of 8
General Rules:
The following rules apply to ALL challenges unless otherwise specified in the challenge
1. Unless otherwise specified in the challenge description, a robot must not exceed 10” by
8” base and 8” height at the starting position (it may “grow” to a larger size after
2. Any genuine LEGO piece may be used in the construction.
3. Unless otherwise specified in the challenge description, robots may not contain any non-
LEGO components. Tapes, strings, etc. are not
allowed. Exceptions are:
• Non-LEGO rubber bands and strings may be used only if they are used as part of a
pulley system.
• Tapes or labels are allowed if used for identification purposes.
4. Unless otherwise specified in the challenge description, robots may have a maximum
• 1 RCX or NXT
• 2 motors
• Up to 3 sensors (any combination of touch sensor, light sensor, rotation sensor).
Built-in rotation sensor on NXT is counted as part of 3 sensors ONLY IF the rotation
sensors are used in the programming.
5. If a robot breaks during competition, the following procedure will apply:
• Team will pick up the robot and remove it from the field.
• Team may fix the robot or take it to the Help Desk to get help fixing it. Help Desk will
have extra parts and experienced builders who can help fix the robot.
• After repairs, the team may re-attempt the trial ONCE from the beginning.
• The team will be given have no less than 10 minutes to fix the robot. More time may
be allowed at judge’s discretion if time permits.
• If the robot breaks in the second attempt, the attempt ends and the score will be
determined based on what the robot has completed before it broke.
6. Because some events run concurrently, each team may participate in only one event
with the exception of Challenge 8, which may be combined with any other challenge.

2010 TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics
© 2010 TechBoston, Boston Public Schools page 8 of 8
Additional Information for Teachers

Event Logistics:

• TechBoston Annual Robotics Olympics 2010 will be on Saturday May 22, 2010, 12-4pm
at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
• Please register online at
• Deadline for registration is Monday, May 10

• Wentworth Institute of Technology is accessible by T (Museum of Fine Arts on Green Line
or Ruggles Station on Orange Line). For directions to the Wentworth campus, please go to
• Bus transportation to/from Wentworth Institute of Technology to your school is available
upon request to BPS teams. Please fill out the appropriate information on the online
Registration Form.
• Event is open to public. Please encourage parents, friends, and other members of the
school community to attend the event.
• BPS Parent Permission Form can be downloaded from
. Permission forms must be completed by all participants.
• If you have questions regarding event logistics, challenge rules or materials, please
contact Haruna Hosokawa at
or 617-908-6045.

Information regarding specific challenges:

• Challenges 1 and 2 are restricted to RCX robots. No NXT’s allowed.
• Challenge 4 is restricted to students in grades K through 2.
• 2x2 circular LEGO bricks for Challenge 6 can be provided by TechBoston upon request.
You may also practice using 2x2 square bricks (normal bricks).
• Tri-fold poster board for Challenge 8 is available from TechBoston upon request.