The Robot Race to Hawaii Contest is a robotics contest were participants have to program a humanoid Nao robot to make it run the 10 meters race in the shortest amount of time possible. The whole competition is run in a Webots simulation which is run inside The Construct, the platform that hosts the competition. Participants do not have to install anything in their computers and only need a computer equipped with web browser to participate. Furthermore, participation is free (like in free beer ;-).
The level of complexity of the competition is not very high, what makes this competition a good entry point for newcomers to robotics. The competition already provides the simulated environment with the robot in it, and it even includes a sample controller that can be used as a base for the participants. Participants only have to build the walking controller, and can use as a base the provided one (not mandatory). This makes the competition a good hands on exercise on robotics (teachers, you can use this contest as an assignment for your students ;-).
Along the competition, participants will have to learn several disciplines related to robotics and STEM:
- Learn to code in Python. The controllers of the robots must be written in Python language. Python is one of the best languages for introducing someone to programming and specially to robotics. A good place to start learning about python is CodeAcademy.
- Learn how a robotics simulator works. The simulator used for the contest is Webots. Participants, need to learn how this simulator works in order to understand how all the parts interact together (robot simulation, controller, computer, etc). Fortunately, there are nice tutorials to learn about it here.
- Learn how to build models of objects for robot simulators. Along the competition, participants will be asked to create simulated models of simple objects, like a chair, a glass or a blackboard, once per week. This will provide them with deeper knowledge of what a simulation means. The same Webots tutorial above, contains information about how to create a model.
- Learn about biped walking. Even if the contest provides a sample controller that already makes the robot walk, participants may be interested in applying more complex techniques for robot walking. Learning about how to make a biped walk can help create faster controllers. You can learn about robot walking here or read many of the scientific papers available in the web.
This challenge leaves out of the equation learning other important robotics subjects like writing and compiling C++ controllers, using ROS as a robotics framework, or the programming of more complex robot skills like opening doors or grasping a objects. That is why we consider this challenge specially suited for people with low knowledge in robotics like STEM high school students and first year of robotics students.
Furthermore, the whole challenge is hosted in The Construct, hence participants do not have to engage in installing and make work the simulator, since everything is stored in the cloud, and can be handled by the participant with a web browser and a few clicks.
You must be aware, though, that participation is not restricted to anyone, independently of the level of knowledge. So, you may expect some pros around…
By the way, did I mention that the winner of the contest will get a trip to Hawaii?!?!
Now that I got your attention, you can enrol the contest and know more about it by visiting the page contest.theconstructsim.com