Science and Engineering Area

Alabama Robotics Competition: Rules

The following categories represent the different types of rules that will be used during the administration of the contest. Please contact the organizers if clarification is desired on any rule. All of the rules will be covered in the lunch session prior to the actual competition period.

Eligibility Rules

  1. The competition is open to all students attending an Alabama school (public, private, or home schools).
  2. Students from all grade levels are invited to participate in three categories: Elementary (K-5), Middle School (6-8), and high school (9-12). Teams with participants from multiple categories will be assigned to the level of the oldest team member. We reserve the right to change the boundaries of the categories (e.g., past contests had categories from K-6, 7-9, and 10-12 to balance out the teams for awarding fairness).
  3. Participants who arrive to the contest late will not be given extra time to complete the competition.
  4. All fees must be paid by the start of the competition.

General Rules

  1. Participants may not search the web or use the Internet in any way in order to obtain hints or tips.
  2. While in the competition area, all cell phones must be turned off. iPods, and MP3 players are not allowed to be used during the competition. In general, any disturbance that causes other contestants to lose their concentration will be addressed by the contest judges.
  3. Participants may not use a wireless device to contact or talk to anyone during the contest period. Interaction with teachers and family during the actual contest period is not allowed.
  4. Teams are allowed to bring the following to the contest:
    - a total of three books. A "book" may consist of a personal collection of notes in a 1-inch binder (loose collection of papers is not permitted).
    - a calculator (although most laptops should have a calculator as a general app)
    - a measuring tape/stick
  5. Any question should be submitted to a competition judge who will provide a response.
  6. Each clarification question will be considered and acknowledged, but the judges reserve the right to not answer any question that may provide a competitive edge. The question and its answer may be provided to all contestants if it seems relevant.
  7. During the contest, judges and volunteers are not permitted to help debug a team's program.
  8. The judges' decisions are final.

Hardware and Software Requirements

  1. Participants will bring their own robotics hardware to the contest. Robots should be pre-assembled at the time of the contest and be ready to compete. There will not be any additional time given to teams who do not have their robot constructed at the start of the contest. Any robotics platform is allowed, with the expectation that the majority of teams will be using Lego NXT/EV3 Mindstorms or VEX robots.
  2. Batteries for each robot must be provided by the participants. A new set of batteries is suggested. Backup batteries may be brought to the competition and used as needed.
  3. Each team's robot should fit within the dimensions of 13in x 13in x 13in. Please contact us if you have a robotics platform that cannot accomodate this requirement.
  4. Robots may not have grippers or extend beyond the required dimension. All robots should be purely navigational robots. We suggest a very simple hardware configuration for the robots.
  5. Some obstacles will require the ability to detect shades of black and white. A light sensor will be needed for such obstacles. Additionally, a touch sensor may assist robots in moving through some obstacles.
  6. All robots must be under autonomous control based on a downloaded program. Robots may not be remote controlled by a human or tethered to a laptop.
  7. Participants must also bring their own computer to use during the competition (this allows us to accomodate a wide range of programming environments, and provides greater flexibility to the participants).
  8. Each team may only use one computer at a time during the competition. However, teams may bring a configured back-up computer in case there are any hardware failures during the contest. We will not provide any replacement computers in the event of a hardware malfunction.
  9. A table and chairs will be provided to each team, with adequate seating for the maximum team size.
  10. Power will be provided to each team table.
  11. Participants may use the programming environment of their choice to produce their robot programs (e.g., Mindstorms Labview graphical block language, Lejos, RobotC, Microsoft's Robotics RDK, etc). The specific environment must already be installed on the participant's computer. We do not have the ability to manage the various environments that may be used and leave that responsibility to each team.
  12. Teams may use multiple programming environments, if needed (e.g., if individual team members prefer to use different environments for different solutions across the various obstacles and challenges).
  13. We are not able to accomodate any requests for extra time due to media failure of a hard drive, or lost programs. Teams are encouraged to backup their solutions frequently to multiple locations.


  1. The contest will consist of several obstacle courses and challenges that the students must consider over a 3-hour period.
  2. The set of obstacles will span various levels of difficulty.
  3. The obstacle courses and project challenges will not be revealed until the beginning of the contest.
  4. Teams may work on any problem in any order. It should be noted that a line may form for specific obstacle courses and challenges, such that the wait time to get onto the playing field is a factor that should be considered as a strategy.
  5. Ranking will be based on the overall combined score from the individual challenges.
  6. Time will be used as a secondary scoring method in order to break potential ties. In the case where multiple contestants have the same score, the tie breaker will be the total time taken to solve the correct problems (i.e., the contestant solving the problems in the least amount of time will have the higher ranking). A third-level tie breaker will default to the flip of a coin :)
  7. Some obstacle courses or challenges may have penalty points assessed (e.g., knocking down or touching a forbidden obstacle). The overall score will be counted as the number of positive points minus the deducted penalty points.
  8. A team may try each obstacle and challenge multiple times, but must start at the back of the line for each new attempt. In the past, all team members were required to stand in line - the 2023 contest requires that only one team member stand in line and be present during the obstacle run.
  9. When multiple attempts are made for a specific obstacle course, the best score of all attempts will be used in computing the overall score. It is possible for teams to go back to their computers and modify their programs (and also their robots, as long as it remains in the required dimension) and make additional attempts at a specific obstacle course to improve their score.
  10. The organizers may solicit comments and feedback from teachers and participants such that these rules may evolve up to the final week before the competition. The specific issue of scoring and judging are the most likely issues that may be modified based on feedback.