Science and Engineering Area

Alabama Robotics Competition: Schedule

The following represents the tentative schedule of the contest. Family members and teachers of participants are welcome to attend the opening discussion, competition rounds, and awards presentation.


  • Check-in
  • Setup computer
  • Collect T-shirt and Registration Materials


  • Lunch
  • Explanation of Rules
  • Keynote Speaker

Approximately Noon-2:30pm (contest will end at 2:30pm regardless of start time)

  • Robotics Contest
  • Visitors can watch the contest live from the floor, or on a projected screen in the main contest area


  • Break
  • Snack Period
  • Time to load computers for transport


  • Awards Presentation

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Dan Preston


Interdisciplinarity and Creativity in Robotics


Implementation of unconventional materials has reshaped traditional robotics applications and introduced new use cases for robots—but which materials should we use? Creativity plays a key role in answering this question. First, I will discuss robotic components made from non-living materials derived from living organisms, called “biotic” materials, that have been naturally optimized over millennia by evolution. Second, I will describe how fabric sheets can be formed into completely soft, electronics-free pneumatic computers and integrated into assistive wearable robots for low-level control. These two research areas highlight how robotics has become an interdisciplinary field open to scientists and engineers from all backgrounds and interests.

Dr. Daniel J. Preston directs the Preston Innovation Laboratory at Rice University conducting robotics research at the intersection of energy, materials, and fluids. He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the ASME Old Guard Early Career Award, and the Energy Polymer Group Certificate of Excellence. Dr. Preston earned his B.S. (2012) in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama and his M.S. (2014) and Ph.D. (2017) in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following his graduate degrees, he trained as a postdoctoral fellow from 2017–2019 at Harvard University in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology prior to joining Rice University as an assistant professor.