Building robots is fun. Playing with robots is fun. What's really fun, though, is showing your robots off to other people, and winning some stuff at the same time isn't too shabby, either. Here are a few competitions coming up over the next few months that you can get involved in.
Robot Launch 2014
If you think that you have a viable idea for a brand new robot startup business, you're probably 100 percent crazypants. And if you think that a better way of saying "100 percent crazypants" is "paradigm shifting" or something like that, then maybe you are, in fact, crazypants enough for the Robot Launch 2014 startup competition.
Robot Launch 2014 is open to any robot startup pre/partial Series A. We're looking for startups with prototypes and business models. But we're also interested in any great robot startup idea.
Prizes include $25,000 in legal advice and startup services from WilmerHale, $500 in cash, discounts for an Indiegogo campaign, and more good things. You've got a month to submit a 60-second pitch video, and if you don't know what a 60-second pitch video is, you can get some help at Robot Launchpad.
Drone Social Innovation Award
It's possible to use drones for good. We know this already. So it's about time that you can get a huge pile o' cash for doing it, right?
The Drone User Group Network's Drone Social Innovation Award is a $10,000 prize for the most socially beneficial, documented use of a drone platform costing less than $3,000. Through this prize we hope to spur innovation, investment, and attention to the positive role this technology can play in our society. We believe that flying robots are a technology with tremendous potential to make our world a better place, and we are excited that they are cheap and accessible enough that regular people and community groups can have their own.
This prize isn't for an idea, it's for some good that you've already done with a drone. Ideally, you'll make something happen that's broadly impactful, easy, and inexpensive to replicate, and (of course) wicked cool. Entries in the form of a a 2-4 minute YouTube video along with a 1-2 page write-up are due June 20th.
[ Drone Social Innovation Award ]
The last one is slightly tricky because you kind of have to show up with your robot in Boulder, Colorado, but it'll definitely be worth it. We've written about the SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition before, but usually just after it's over, and now's the time to think about getting involved in the competition, which'll be June 21.
There are several different categories that you can enter in both aerial and ground robots, and here are the highlights of the changes from last year:
We’re adding a new feature to the ground course this year that will make the GPS haters happy. We will be adding a line through the course, so you no longer have to rely solely on GPS for navigation. The line will snake through the course, avoiding obstacles, and ultimately end up at the finish line. It may have some curves, breaks, or other tricks. Generally speaking, it will get harder as the course progresses.
The first change for the aerial competition will be class designations. This year, there will be two aerial vehicle classes, fixed wing or rotating wing. We are introducing a new obstacle, the Red Balloons of Death. We will be randomly placing 3 large (roughly 10' in diameter) red balloons somewhere in the aerial course. We’re not telling you where. You are allowed to avoid them, but if you choose to destroy them you will get extra points.
The really exciting bit for the AVC is the A: all of these robots are autonomous, and their humans just have to set them lose on the course and then hope that they behave themselves. We're particularly excited for the balloon destruction, and if past AVCs are anything to go by, there should be no shortage of creativity.
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.