Robots are one of the most beloved technologies for students interested in engineering. With basic programming and mechanical engineering skills, kids of all ages can build impressive robots that can complete a variety of tasks. For students who want to take it to the next level, there are some excellent STEM robotics contests in which they can hone their skills and show off their knowledge. In today’s post, we’ll review some of the best robotics competitions for kids, sharing different options for different ages and interests. Some even offer cool prizes!
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Discover robotics competitions for kids
Robotics competitions can be open to kids of all ages! We break down some great competitions for kids ranging from early elementary to high-school seniors.
Robotics competitions for elementary students
1. VEX IQ Challenge
VEX, hosted by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, is a great way to get elementary school students involved in competitive robotics. Each year, there is a specific robotic challenge that students must team up to solve. This year, it’s all about building robots that can hit targets with disks. Register a team, and attend an event near you! There are also options for middle schoolers.
Dates: Varies based on region
Prize: Prestigious Awards
2. Wonder Workshop Robotics Competition
Every year, Wonder Workshop hosts a Robotics Competition that is done completely online. Elementary students may participate in the Innovator or the Pioneer Cup, forming teams to solve a virtual robotics challenge. Students will need one of the popular Dash or Cue robots, and the enthusiasm to solve an open-ended problem with a group of their peers.
Dates: Opens in April, closes in March
Prize: Feature on the Wonder Workshop Website, STEM Grant, Robots for each teammate
Robotics competitions for middle school students
3. BEST Robotics Competition
The BEST, or Boosting Engineering Science & Technology Competition, is open to students all over the US. Join a school team and compete virtually or in person to solve an industry problem and develop a robotic product. Successful teams go head to head in a championship. This competition is open to both middle and high school students.
Dates: Typically runs September-December
Prize: The BEST Award, and other prizes depending on location
4. World Robot Olympiad’s Robomission
The WRO hosts an exciting, task-based competition for students of all ages and levels. Teams compete in a Lego-based game space to solve a real-world problem, ranging from putting out a fire to doing household chores. There are multiple levels that may be suitable for this age range: most middle schoolers may want to do Robomission Junior, but the levels above or below may also be appropriate.
Dates: National Championships for the US are in August, but you can find dates for your country here
Prize: Varied based on country
Robotics competitions for high school students
5. First Robotics
First Robotics is likely one of the more well-known competitions on this list. Ambitious high schoolers can register or join a local team and compete in Distinct, Regional, and Championship events, all focused on using robotics to solve a specific task. Find a team near you - they’re pretty common and always looking for more talent.
Dates: Competitions track with the US school year
Prize: College scholarship money
6. MATE ROV Competition
A cool twist on the standard robotics competition, the MATE Remotely Operated Vehicle competition requires students to build a robot that functions underwater. This competition is great for any students whose STEM passions extend to climate change, green energy, and even oceanography. The competition requirements are lengthy, but the skills gained and experience are definitely worth it.
Dates: Information for the competition is released in November, and regional events are held in the spring
Prize: Martin Klein or Oceaneering HSE awards
Enter robotics competitions for kids
We hope this article helped you and your student find a suitable competition. If this all seems great, but you’re not quite ready to compete, check out Jr. Robotics, where we teach robot basics through interactive, live, online classes. Or our fun online robotics camps. Alternatively for older students in grades five plus, consider our advanced programming classes in Python that will help build the coding skills required to thrive in upper level competitions.
Written by Sarah Rappaport, who graduated from Northwestern University with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and music. She's now working on a masters in data with Georgia Institute of Technology. She taught math and computer science with Teach for America for two years, and now works as a Systems Engineer.