Build your ideal robotics competition

Inspired by the “Better than FRC” threads, if you were to create your own robotics competition, for whatever age group you’d like, with whatever goals and mission you’d like, what would it be like? What rules and limitations would you have, what would the cost structure be?

Go into as much or as little detail as you’d like. I’m curious what solutions people would come up with.

Isn’t this the same as the Better than FRC Pt 2 thread?


The opposite of this: Worst possible game

How about we just recreate Deep Space? I already know how to play that game, saves me the hassle of figuring out a whole new game manual.


The intent of this thread is to be a little broader in scope - it seemed like the posts in that thread were leaning more towards “what would be a better FRC” than a different competition all together, so I didn’t want to detract from that thread with my more abstract question.

EDIT: what brought this up was the RoboMasters competition ( - it’s not FRC but it’s still an interesting challenge that I think is worth consideration for how we evaluate a robotics competition.

Assuming I magically start with about the same number of teams, funding, and general support FRC has now:

  • District-like system for progression, with state/districts/national championships in regions that can support it
  • Fields simple enough to either recreate key parts easily (see the 2017 goal which could be made using a 2015 6 stack) or build with basic tools
  • Affordable control system with most components running open source software
  • Competitions on roughly the same scale as FRC in terms of teams attending, but the structure is scalable for events with anywhere from 20 to 80 teams attending
  • Official interaction in popular online communities
  • Abstract, sport-like games that will require design trade-offs for all teams to succeed (Ideally, no one could build a robot that that does everything but the game will also be simple to understand)
  • Rookie application process to ensure that rookie teams know what they’re getting into
  • Transparent game design process, with published postmortems of every game before next year’s Kickoff
  • Less secrecy in general, no point in hiding most of the stuff in the manual that’s mostly the same every year
  • Official resources for fabricating common mechanisms such as arms and shooters using basic tools, as well as more advanced things like setting up 3D printers and CNC machines
  • Resources on how to transition between to this competition from other alternatives and transitioning to a lower level competition if your team finds that it’s too much.

I realize this is kind of all over the place and this might be a little more like an alternate universe version of FRC instead of a more sustainable alternative, and it’s kind of just what I personally want instead of what might actually end up being a good program. I do think it could lead to more successful teams in general if the resources are well made and distributed, though.

  • Playing line dance music at an event will result in a lifetime ban from the competition

My ideal robotics competition would probably include limited material/part restrictions…

A clear objective each match…

1 v 1 timed matches…

A few different classes for weights…

Aaaaaand it would be Battlebots.


Only judged awards. The robots don’t need to play - the highly trained, industry judges will be able to tell which one is best.


All right, I’ll take a stab at this.

First: Define the goal/mission.
Second: Define the target audience.
Third: Details.

First: I’m thinking of challenging FIRST directly. So the goal is to inspire as many people as possible, and allow them to work with more-experienced persons to do well.
Second: Ah, why not. All ages target (let’s put the low cap at about 6 years, no top end).
Third: The gory details.

First, I recognize that a bunch of 6 year olds can’t hang with a bunch of PEs. So in order to make this work, the entire competition will be divided into classes by age/experience.
Peewee: 6 years to 7th grade.
Club: 8th grade to end of high school.
Semi-pro: College (including grad students)
Pro: Post-college

In general, a team must have a 2:1 ratio of in-level to above-level members or greater. So a 10-person peewee team can have up to 3 members in club, semi-pro, or pro age bands, for example. Want more pros on the team? Move up a level to Club, or recruit more Peewee students. “Organization sponsor” is exempt, as are “parts sponsors”. Pro level is allowed to have semi-pro, club, and peewee members. That sort of thing. Youth Protection included.

The game would be substantially the same between levels, with the primary difference being scale and robot size. Games would be on a 2-year cycle, where the game is played once, then replayed the following year with “minor” twists and improvements (example: 2015 replayed with light defense allowed through elimination of the center section of the Step)–and robots from the previous year of a cycle would be legal as-is. Each game would have 3 play conditions: Driver, Auto, and Integrated which is a certain length of Auto followed by Driver. Teams MUST play Integrated and one of Driver and Auto; the other is optional but encouraged.

Teams would only compete within their classes at any given event, but all classes would be welcome. Depending on the setup, two field sizes might be required, but a well-designed field would allow for the smaller field to be set up on the larger one if the venue was on the smaller side.

Peewee and Club would play at about 2/3 the scale of SemiPro and Pro. Peewee would be limited to pre-fabricated parts (with modifications along the lines of expanding holes and bending parts); Club would be allowed to build parts to interface with those. SemiPro would be allowed to use just about any part; Pro would need to build at least some items that SemiPro can just buy, or provide an engineering justification for buying.

Overall robot rules would be primarily safety, transport packaging, and a couple of engineering constraint (size rules). Games would be designed to reduce penalties by reducing strategic benefit of undesired actions wherever possible. The smaller robots would be restricted to smaller motors than their larger cousins.

Sizing overall, let’s say about 2/3 the size of an FRC field currently for the larger robots. If I had to set up a venue, it’d be a gym plus cafeteria/second gym, with the smaller robots in the latter for pits, or even playing.

Oh, and one other curveball. Any given organization could play as many teams as they wanted. However, they would have to play one team per class that they serve BEFORE they could play two teams in one class.


Battlebots in school parking lots

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Eric’s plan sounds a lot like NURC.

Water game, anyone?

This is actually a neat idea.

I think about this a lot, dude. Here you go.

Mission: Inspire and Empower high school-aged students, using technology and science as the primary tools, and a sports-based robotics competition as the primary vehicle to carry that inspiration and empowerment, assisted by and partnered with caring and skilled adult mentors and coaches.

In light of this mission, some similarities to FRC and some differences from FRC and all other existing robotics competitions.


  • Alliance selection (partners)
  • Game length
  • Component constraints (motors, power distribution, etc.)
  • Level of mentor involvement in design and construction left up to team discretion
  • Robot-to-robot contact
  • Mix of autonomous and driver-controlled game play

Robot Differences:

  • Design constraints carry over regardless of the game or year, with a 6-year cycle. Teams can build new drive bases each year, or can reuse past designs and add manipulators per the game requirements. This includes a consistent maximum perimeter, weight, bumper height, but would allow for adding new technology (such as motors or sensors).
  • Max 100" perimeter
  • Max weight 80 pounds (eleven below NIOSH limit per person)
  • The overall effect of these differences would be to make robots easier to store, safer to move, and less expensive to build and maintain, while still allowing them to be imposing and impressive and not look like a slow-moving “toy”

Game Differences:

  • Field size 15x30
  • A team-ready construction plan for a durable, aesthetically pleasing, safe field that can be constructed on a $3000 budget and perpetually reused will be provided by the organization
  • Game-specific field elements have constraints for spectator visibility and cost. Team elements functionally identical to official elements, minus the aesthetics and electronics, and built on a reasonable budget (<$1000)
  • Partners of two robots rather than alliances of three (not sure about this one yet; it has advantages an disadvantages)
  • Always sports-oriented rather than themed. Robots will play sports differently from humans, so it isn’t “robot soccer” or whatever, but will incorporate simple game play, allowing for complex strategy and specialized positions
  • Games on a rotating schedule of two years. In fact EricH took the words out of my mouth on this point. A new and exciting game, followed by a year where the bugs have been worked out.

Culture Differences:

  • Teams are incentivized to do service work with a monetary “prize” rather than a trip to championship (or perhaps in addition to). This money (perhaps several thousand dollars) is automatically tied to the service work for which the team won the award; the team MUST use the money to continue or grow their specific service project, and all dollars must be accounted for as having been used to that purpose
  • While still allowing for the enthusiastic participation of the “typical” robotics kid, this league would actively and passively encourage a wider variety of students to consider the joys and benefits of participation. I have lots of thoughts on how to accomplish this, but a good start is the aforementioned sports approach and the elimination of nerdy themed games
  • Tournaments are Friday evening through end of day Saturday, and are treated more like districts. 2v2 games would allow tournaments to occur with 15ish teams in attendance, and the smaller field size would allow simultaneous games to be played in the same size arena as current FRC games, so events with 55 teams attending would still work
  • A permanent field perimeter would be installed in any region with 10ish teams, ensuring consistent practice year round
  • A “street ball” feel to pick-up games. No need for fancy anything or extended setup and tear down to play on any given weekend or evening
  • All teams guaranteed to play a minimum of two events
  • Open play; teams may stay local or choose to travel with consistent point ranking
  • Super Regionals
  • Single Championship

Let us know when we can sign up for the Noble Robotics Competition.