There are several ways to introduce LEGO robotics into your school or club. Dr. Amy Eguchi suggests three ways: thematic, project, and competition (see Alemisis, 2013 who references Eguchi). This post introduces some of the more popular robotics competitions for LEGO robotics.
It should, however, be noted that competitions may sometimes exclude students for whom competition is not appealing. In addition, more often than not, these inter-school competitions are self-selected, meaning that only students with an interest will participate. This may leave out students who are not (yet) hooked on robotics. Rusk, Resnick, Berg, and Pezalla-Granlund (2008) suggest that broadening the appeal of robotics is key to encouraging a wider range of students to explore STEM subjects and careers.
Major international competitions
In each of the following LEGO-based robotics competitions, teams typically participate in local regional events, with successful teams continuing to national and possibly international events.
The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a competition for 9-16* year olds (the age limit varies by country). Each year in August, a new challenge is released. The challenge is based on a real-world scientific topic and has three parts: the Robot Game, the Innovation Project, and the FLL Core Values. Teams of up to ten children, with at least one adult coach (two coaches required in U.S./Canada), participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game), developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Innovation Project), all guided by the FLL Core Values.
RoboCup Junior (RCJ) is a project-oriented educational robotics competition for school students up to age 19. It provides a hands-on, scaffolded environment where learners can grow by expanding their knowledge of, sparking their curiosity about, and increasing their comfort with technology. Teams work in a cooperative and supportive environment in one of three challenges: Dance, Rescue and Soccer. The focus of RoboCup Junior is the development of teamwork skills as well as technical skills in an environment of participation, fun, and excitement.
World Robot Olympiad
The World Robot Olympiad (WRO) brings together young people aged 8-19 years old from all over the world to develop their creativity, design & problem solving skills through challenging & educational robot competitions and activities. The WRO organizes robotics competitions in different competition categories.
The following books are specifically written to support teams and their coaches/mentors.
- Daudelin, Jonathan, and James Kelly. NXT Robotics Competition Workbook
- Kelly, James Floyd and Jonathan Daudelin. FIRST LEGO League: the Unofficial Guide (NXT)
- Perdue. David. Competitive Mindstorms (RCX)
- Quah, K. K. Preparing your team for FIRST LEGO League
- Trobaugh, James Jeffrey. Winning Design!: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition
- Trobaugh, James Jeffrey and Mannie Lowe. Winning LEGO MINDSTORMS Programming (NXT)