Roborama 2011a Courses and Rules

Rev 0.3 4/18/11


Roborama 2011a will consist of two sections:

  1. Outdoor section
  2. Indoor section

Both sections will be held on Saturday May 14 at the Museum of Nature and Science (Science building), 1318 S. 2nd Avenue in Fair Park, Dallas, TX. The outdoor section will begin at noon behind the science building (see image below), and will consist of one event. After competition for the outdoor section, the event will move indoors to Gallery 1 in the Science Building. There will be four indoor contests.

Directions and Site Entry Instructions

Enter Fair Park off 2nd Ave at Gate 6. Turn left and you will see the Science Building. Park and enter the Science Building via the steps (steep and high) or via the elevator to the right of the steps. The RoboColumbus contest will be staged first, at noon, behind the Science building. Walk through the lobby and out the back, and look for robots to your left. After RoboColumbus (~12:45 - 1pm) we will relocate inside the Science building, to the east wing of the lobby (opposite end from the cafeteria). See the locations map below.

If you get lost, call Paul on 214-906-4268.

Registration and Entry Fees

The event is open to the public, and all are welcome to watch. Entering robots in the competitions is free for DPRG members, and costs $10 per person to compete in any number of events for non-members.

Please pre-register for the events you intend to enter here: 

You can also see the judges scoring sheet there.

Pre-registering will help events run more smoothly on the day of the event. You can change your registrations at any time, or at the event by talking to an organizer.


So far, the prize purse includes the following:


There is one new event, the Vex Unlimited Open. It is a contest for robots built out of Vex and non-Vex components, and entries are judged in 3 categories.

The outdoor section will consist of a simplified Robomagellan-like contest: RoboColumbus. RoboColumbus is a one-way trip along a straight course about 100 feet in length over grass and concrete, finishing as close as possible to the destination marker, as quickly as possible.

The indoor section will consist of four contests:

  1. Vex Unlimited Open
  2. Line Following context
  3. Table Top Challenge (two sections)
  4. Square Dance contest

Vex Unlimited Open

1. This is a contest that encourages creating new machines which combine significant Vex content with significant non-Vex content.

2. Robots must be custom designs combining significant Vex components, and also significant non-Vex components. For example, a robot might use a Vex controller, or Vex motors, or a Vex chassis. It might be controlled by an Arduino, or be a wooden robot, or be based on a product like Lego. The judge will decide how much is "enough" Vex and non-Vex components to qualify, but taping a piece of Vex metal to a robot doesn't meet the standard, and nor does a stock Protobot with a non-Vex battery. An honest attempt to create something new, that's partly Vex, is what's asked. If in doubt, send your proposal to a Roborama organizer and the Roborama Committee will respond.

3. Robots must do something autonomously. It could be as simple as spinning around and stopping, or wandering around a space. There is no course.

4. Robots will be judged on creativity of design and of behavior and on entertainment value (3 categories). Three prizes will be awarded, one in each category.

5. Club members may borrow Vex components from the club library for their designs (TBD if they have to return the borrowed components after the event).

Square Dance and Line Following

The Square Dance and Line Following competition rules are found on the DPRG web site at

Two additional rules will be in place for Square Dance:

  1. Boundary maintenance for camera-driven robots: a contestant may request that specific objects, people or clothing be removed, covered, or otherwise made invisible to cameras, but this may not always be possible. Contestants may provide material intended to cover objects which would confuse the vision system, but should understand that a "best effort" is all that can be assured.
  2. Contestants may supply their own course markers

Line Following will use the same tiles as have been used in recent competitions; they have a black line painted on a white-ish background. 3Pi robots may be entered but will will not be eligible for the time-based award unless they do something that demonstrates real robot hacking that produced something different than the standard program which comes with the robot. (We want to encourage creativity and technical skill, not ability to purchase a top-notch commercial product.)

Table Top Challenge Rules

This contest is changed: Phase 1 (go from one end to the other and back) is removed, and the previous phase 2 becomes phase 1, the previous phase 3 becomes phase 2. Phase 2 has the judge place the block at a place of his choosing.

Note: All rules subject to change without notice.

Length of Event: 5 minutes

Robot Weight Range:  5 lbs maximum

Robot Dimensions: Not Specified

Arena Specifications: 2.5 x 6 feet (approx)

Robot Control Specifications:  Autonomous


Object: The object is to build a robot that can deposit a block into a shoebox while staying on a table. We want to show your robot in the best light possible, so you are free to embellish on the activities.


Phase I: Have the robot push a block off the edge of the table. You can place the block anywhere (yes, right in front of the robot if you want), but the judge will award a better score if the robot does more (like get it from somewhere, or find it).

Phase II: Have the robot push the block into a shoebox. The judge may place the block anywhere, at his discretion.

Here are videos of phase II and III winners - something to aspire to:

Robot: The Table Top Challenge rules are purposefully vague and simple in order to foster creativity and encourage participation. A "TableBot" is a robot designed to survive, live and play on a table or pay the price. In order to achieve more complex behaviors TableBots are built and graded in "phases".

Course: The size of the table is generally about 3x8, but may be smaller. It may be light or dark surfaced. A TableBot must deal with whatever the situation but one can bring their own table if desired. The table provided by the DPRG at Roborama 2011a will be light gray, approx 6’ long X 3’ wide. It can be viewed and tested at the Dallas Makerspace during RBNOs. Generally the shoebox is mounted at one end of the table with the opening facing the length of the table but we do allow for the mounting of the shoebox in other positions based on the roboteer’s preference. Also the "block" is generally a 2" square but again there is no specification. An approx 2” white block will be provided, but one can bring whatever block it is they've used to train their robot. Our goal is to show your robot in the best light possible.

Scoring: Robots will be scored on how “well” they perform each phase. Judges will be able to take into consideration robot, table, block and/or box design and/or placement in making the final decision.

Judging: One or more judges will officiate the contest. They will ensure the spirit of these rules are followed and impose scoring penalties or remove a robot from competition if the robot is operating in an unsafe manner or not complying with the spirit of these rules. The decisions of the judges are final.

Safety: Since TableBots can fall from up to 3' we ask that they not weigh more than 5 lbs and preferably less then 1. If a robot is deemed "unsafe" it will not be allowed to participate. Participants can use "leashes" (rope, string, etc tied to robot) but their use could result in a lesser score.

Acknowledgement: These rules are a modified version of those found on and originated with the Home Brew Robotics Club.


Note: All rules subject to change without notice.

Length of Event: 10 minutes

Robot Weight Range:  50 lbs / 22.68 Kg max

Robot Dimensions: 4' x 4' x 4' / 121.92 cm³

Arena Specifications: See below

Robot Control Specifications:  Autonomous




Robo-Columbus is a simplified version of RoboMagellan. It is is a robotics competition emphasizing autonomous navigation over varied, outdoor terrain. Robots have three opportunities to navigate from a starting point to an ending point and are scored on distance from the target when it stops. Time to complete the course will be used to discriminate between robots which touch the finish marker.


The robot must not be constructed in such a way as to damage the environment or other robots. See "Safety" for other restrictions. No robot may weigh more than 50 pounds nor may it use an internal or external combustion engine. Flying robots are not permitted. The robot must fit inside a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ cube for the entire duration of its run.

Robots must be autonomous. Remote control is not allowed, with the exception of the remote control safety switch(es).


The course will be outdoors ibehind the Science building. The terrain will include pavement and grass. There may be small obstacles on the ground, and competitors may move them but the robots will not have to cross curbs or large obstacles. There may be obstacles such as trees and benches in the vicinity, but there will be at least 8’ of clear space either side of a straight line between the start and end points. Warning: trees in the vicinity may affect GPS readings. See the image above for the course location.

Weather conditions may make some surfaces wet and/or soggy. The contest will not necessarily be postponed or abandoned in the event of inclement weather. You might want to bring a Robot Raincoat.

Robots will be placed at a designated starting point prior to each run. The destination will be approximately 100’ to 150’ away and marked by an 18", orange plastic traffic cone.

Contestants may perform environmental modifications to the course area to aid navigation, provided that they can be set up and removed in under 5 minutes each, and do not damage the environment or affect subsequent contestants. Mechanical tethering will not be allowed.


The start and end markers will be put in place at 11:30am. Contestants will then have 30 minutes to make software and hardware modifications to their robots and to practice the course with their robots. No competitor’s environmental modifications may interfere with another competitor’s practice attempts. At the end of 30 minutes, a judge will signal the start of the competition. Each robot will be given three chances to complete the course and 10 minutes will be provided between attempts for software and hardware modifications.

Judges will designate the order in which robots will start.

Each robot is given 10 minutes to complete the course on each of its three attempts. Each attempt is scored individually. After three attempts, the best (lowest) score for each robot will be recorded as that robot’s final score.


Robots will receive a score corresponding to the distance from the finish marker, and the number of seconds needed to travel to the destination. If no robots touch the finish marker on any run, the one which finishes closest will be declared the winner. Any robots which touch the finish marker will be ranked above those that don’t, and the one with the shortest time will be the winner.

Clarification for Roborama 2011a: for this competition only robots don't have to stop after touching the cone - the rules don't require it - they can be manually stopped after touching the cone. (Of course, robots which miss the cone and never stop autonomously would be disqualified because they'd end up in the parking lot or the bushes or through the plate-glass windows and in any case would exceed the allowed time limit.) It is considered poor form for robots to not stop, and the rules will be fixed to require this next time.

Scoring will be at the sole discretion of the judges.


One or more judges will officiate the contest. They will ensure the spirit of these rules are followed and impose scoring penalties or remove a robot from competition if the robot is operating in an unsafe manner or not complying with the spirit of these rules. The decisions of the judges are final.


Each robot which is heavy enough that it can’t readily be picked up or fast enough that it might escape must demonstrate a suitable safety stop mechanism before it will be allowed to compete. The robot builder is responsible for devising the safety stop mechanism. Some possibilities:

The safety stop mechanism may be built to allow the robot to continue its run after it is reengaged.

Other controls

In addition to the kill mechanism, the robot may have a wireless or wired "pause" switch in the event that the robot must be stopped, but not necessarily powered down. An example of this kind of situation (which may or may not present itself) is a temporary time-out due to foot or vehicular traffic, which the event coordinators cannot control.

Acknowledgement: These rules are a modified version of the RoboMagellan rules found on and are believed to have originated with the Seattle Robotics Society.