Raspberry Pi Robotics Competition Coming to Philadelphia

A Raspberry Pi robotics competition is coming to the United States for the first time. Students in grades 6 through 12 will have the opportunity to put their robots to the test in the first-ever "Pi Wars USA," taking place at a Pennsylvania school in early June. The contest originated in the United Kingdom. The Raspberry Pi is a low-cost series of credit-card-sized computers.

According to the rules of the game, the robots need a Raspberry Pi at their core to carry out most of the computing effort, although other technology such as sensors and microcontrollers are also allowed. They must also be powered by batteries, have a footprint no larger than 8.5-inches by 11 inches and can be controlled via an untethered laptop, smartphone, tablet or game controller.

Students may build their robots and enter the contest as individuals or members of teams. Tasks, all of which are "non-destructive" and none of which is compulsory, include a straight line speed test, a test in which the robot must follow a designated line and an obstacle course test. One-on-one "battles" pit robots against each other in tasks such as popping a balloon tied to a competitor's robot.

Entrants can choose to enter any or all the routines. With each challenge completed, they accrue points

Prizes are issued in three categories: beginner "roboteers," those with no previous experience in either Raspberry Pi or robotics; intermediate, for students who have experience in either the computer or robotics, but not both; and advanced, for those with experience in both. Awards will also be given for the most creative or artistic robots and for "code elegance." The competitor who racks up the most points for each level is declared the "grand champion."

This year's U.S. event takes place on June 3 at Collegium Charter School in Exton, PA. A two-day version for student and adult competitors takes place in early April in the United Kingdom at Cambridge Computer Laboratory.

"We are inviting students from all schools to participate and be a part of this historic event, and to also help grow local interest in robotics, STEM and computer science," said Don Asplen, who brought Pi Wars to the states and is CEO of Achievement House Cyber Charter School, in a prepared statement.

For educators interested in integrating the devices into their programming and computer science lessons, the Raspberry Pi Foundation provides education-specific curriculum and other digital resources.

More information, including advice for people who have never built a robot before, is available on the Pi Wars website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.