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The Future of Digital Robotics

Here at Filament Games, we can’t wait to see how up-and-coming technology continues to shape the world we live in, especially when it comes to education! From eSports to the metaverse, EdTech is buzzing with potential in 2022. One area of that potential is digital robotics, which happens to be a subject we’re particularly passionate about! 

If you’ve been keeping up with Filament Games and RoboCo on Twitter, you’ll know that at the end of 2021, we produced the FIRST® Global RoboCo Challenge (also known as the FGRC21), a first-of-its-kind virtual robotics competition in collaboration with FIRST Global. The challenge started in early November 2021 and its final round aired on December 18, 2021. In case you missed it, here’s all you need to know on how the FGRC21 worked, along with a play-by-play of all of the action!

How Scoring Works 

Before we get into the challenge, we should clarify how scoring works. RoboCo recently updated its scoring system. This means that players are scored on budget and time in addition to completing objectives. The faster you complete a challenge, the higher your time score is; the more expensive your robot, the lower your budget score is. 

In addition to objectives, times, and budget, FGRC21 also provided scores for secrets. Teams earned 500 points for every completed secret. Since there are five secrets per challenge, a team could potentially add 2500 points to their total score! However, it came at a price. FGRC21 required teams to solve secrets in the same run as the run where they solved the main objectives, meaning that a team’s overall time score suffered if they took too long. Likewise, solving for secrets may also require adding additional parts, thus making a team’s robot more expensive and decreasing their budget score. This makes RoboCo much more high-risk, high-reward!

Additionally, teams were scored on mechanics, innovation, and aesthetics. You may wonder how, since RoboCo itself doesn’t have numerical values for these conditions. Well, that’s where the judges came in! After the runs were submitted, three professional judges from FIRST Global went through and awarded teams a score in each category. The maximum amount of points a team could earn per category is 2500. Multiply 2500 by three, and they could potentially earn another 7500 points if their score was perfect! That’s a lot of points, and it has made a big difference in some cases, as you’ll see in the videos. 

FIRST Global RoboCo Challenge – Qualifier Round

The first challenge that participants had to overcome during FGRC21 was the Sandwich Challenge! 37 countries competed to build the best sandwich-serving robot – you can see the full list here. Team Algeria was the one to rule them all though, with their well-dressed waiter earning a whopping 16,327 points! This score allowed them and 19 other teams to progress to the playoffs. 

To see Team Algeria’s historic run as well as some other amazing builds, make sure to check out the YouTube video below! 

FIRST Global RoboCo Challenge – Playoff Round

RoboCoffee was the second challenge of the competition. A little different from previous versions of the challenge, RoboCoffee now requires you to deliver a coffee (with cream!) to the construction worker upstairs. Players have to figure out how to reach the construction worker without breaking the caution tape or smashing any statutes, which led to something we’ve never seen before – robots stretching like Mr. Fantastic!

Truly, a towering accomplishment. This turned out to be a massive time-saver for Team Hope! To see their robot in action, along with many other brilliant creations, watch the YouTube video below. 

Team Hope’s innovative approach did come at a substantial budgetary cost, which made the final results a lot closer than you might think! Eventually, Team Algeria came away with another win, clocking in an impressive 15,031 points, with Team Burkina Faso and Team Indonesia trailing close behind. These teams, along with seven others, went on to compete for the chance to become the ultimate RoboCo Champion during the finals! 

FIRST Global RoboCo Challenge – Finals Round

The third and final challenge of the RoboCo competition was Wood and Chips! 10 teams competed to build the perfect wood-chopping robot, but only one could rise to be Paul Bunyan’s equal. To get the highest score, teams used a combination of methods. This resulted in some of the most intricate, out-of-this-world robots we’ve ever seen in RoboCo, including a robot that was piloted by a little robot man from Team People’s Republic of China! To see the full lineup for yourself, watch the video below!

So who came on top? Which team claimed the title of first-ever FIRST RoboCo Challenge Champion?

Team Algeria!

After three unbelievable runs, Team Algeria came away with another impressive victory with their robot, Morgana. Taking in an impressive 16,069 points, we’re convinced that the country is home to the next generation of prestigious, humanity-changing engineers!

The FIRST Global RoboCo Challenge and the Future of Digital Robotics

As our CEO Dan White mentioned on an episode of The K12 Engineering Education podcast not long ago, bringing robotics into a digital realm via RoboCo expands learning opportunities for all. With digital robotics, anyone interested in learning more about robotics and engineering can dive in using their computer, no toolkit required. Digital robotics allowed 37 countries to come together, build robots, and compete – with no travel costs, pandemic worries, or other physical barriers in the picture. The possibilities of digital robotics are exciting, to say the least – their potential as a Scholastic eSport, their ability to bring together students from all over the world, and their potential to change the how, and the who, of robotics and the broader world of STEM! 

We have so many wonderful people to thank for helping us produce this first-of-its-kind virtual robotics competition, including Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, everyone at FIRST Global, Dan Richardson from The Walt Disney Company, and Melissa Smith from YouTube. We couldn’t imagine pulling off the challenge without you and are so thankful to have you on this journey with us. 

If you want to learn more about how you can get involved in international robotics competitions, make sure to check out the FIRST Global website. There are definitely more digital robotics competitions on the way, so if you want to keep up, check out our devblog and subscribe to our RoboCo newsletter here!

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