There are a plethora of Robotics Competitions organised throughout the year in Singapore. The format and the difficulty of these competitions remain a mystery to many parents. SRG, FLL, APYRC, NRC, IDE - not to mention the confusing abbrieviations? What are the differences and how should you best prepare your child for them? Let Nullspace Robotics navigate you through the maze of Robotics Competitions!
Jointly organised by the various polytechnics, ITEs and universities in Singapore. This competition involves higher-performance robotic systems, mainly created by tertiary students. As the events are challenging, they require dedicated research and development. Some examples of their events include Autonomous Underwater Robots and Legged Robot Marathon Race. The SRG is meant as a display to the public of what the tertiary students can do with robotics and a glimpse into the future generation commercially-available robots.
As the local version of the International FLL, it is one of the more prestigious LEGO Robotics competition in Singapore. Organised by Duck Learning, FLL requires participants to collect points by accomplishing missions with their LEGO robots. The unique part of this competition is that participants can change the program and attachments of the robots at the start base. So after accomplishing one mission, the robot can return to the start base, load up new attachments, and head off for another mission on the same playfield. The rules and mission are always announced 5 months ahead of the competition, providing ample time to prepare for it. Particpants must strategise on how best to complete the most missions within the 2.5 minutes. In addition to the mission run, participants must also carry out research on an environmental theme (e.g. reducing trash) and present it to the judges.
IDE is organised by Nullspace. This is a surprise LEGO competition, meaning the participants have no idea about the actual mission or playfield until the day itself. They then have 3 to 4 hours to build/modify, program and test their robots on the playfield. The single-run mission typically involves collecting and movement of cubes. This is slightly more challenging as it requires the participants to be able to strategise and bring their ideas to fruition promptly. The time limit tests the participants mettle and training thoroughly. If you are not well versed in programming and building, you might not be able to cope with the unknown!
As the name implies, this competition is organised by Rulang Primary School. This is also carried out in a surprise LEGO competition format. Particpants will have to build and program their LEGO robots to accomplish certain missions within 3 to 4 hours. The robot must move autonomously and the students are not allowed to touch the robot until it completes the mission.
Jointly organised by Singapore Polytechnic and Science Centre Singapore. The competition consists of the Robo Soccer event and Robo Rescue to name a few. The Robo Soccer as the name alludes to, requires participants to build soccer robots to score points and defend their goal post. The Robo Rescue event requires participants to navigate obstacles like bumps, slopes and bottles. All in the bid to mimic rescue robots. All competition missions are revealed beforehand and robots can be built from any platforms.
NRPC is a LEGO Robot Competition that is similar to FLL. Participants must complete the numerous missions dotted across the playfield within 2.5 minutes. They are able to change their attachments and programs once their robot returns to the start base. The focus of this competition is on strategising on how best to achieve multiple missions using the fewest attachments and runs.
APYRC consists of many side events like the Sumo Robot, Tug-of-War and Creative Challenge. The side events are carried out in a knock out system, whereby the winner progresses. Generally these events are less demanding of the participants as they require basic programming knowledge, thus it serves as a good exposure for beginners. Besides the side events, there is also a surprise mission event, which participants will only find out about the mission at the venue.
Organised by VJC, DSTA and DSO, this competition has 2 main events, the Exploration Challenge and the Autonomous Challenge. The Exploration Challenge requires participants to control 3 separate robots to complete missions together. Thus each team would have to build and prepare 3 robots either using the LEGO or the VEX platform. The Autonomous Challenge requires the robot to be pre-programmed to complete a challenge (e.g. scanning and shifting of cubes in a certain order). All missions and rules are released a few months before the competition date.
National Robotics Competition (NRC) - Previously known as National Junior Robotics Competition (NJRC)
Organised by Science Centre Singapore and Duck Learning, NRC is the local version of the World Robot Olympiad (WRO). This is another prestigious LEGO Robotics Competition where participants get to travel overseas to compete in the WRO if they manage to win the Championship award. The competition format is a single-run mission that requires the robot to complete a certain set of objectives to score points. There are no restarts from the start base unlike the FLL format. This is slightly less forgiving as any errors in the front part of the program will snowball and result in the robot failing in the later parts. The mission challenges are usually announced 5 to 6 months ahead of the competition date, but due to the difficulty of the challenge, most participants often have difficulty completing the full mission.
As previously mentioned, this is the international version of the NRC. Every year the location of the competition changes! Champions of the various local competitions congregate to via for the coveted trophy and rights to be called the best programmers and builders.
So that's it folks! To summarise, the competition formats normally revolve around 4 styles, suprise missions, single-run missions, multiple run missions and side events! Surprise missions are often the most challenging as students are unable to prepare and seek help. Single-run and multiple run missions would be the next difficult missions as students are able to prepare in advance, but they have to be able to calibrate their robots on the day itself to ensure accuracy. Lastly, side events would be the easiest competition since minimal programming is needed and most robots simply have to move forward or backwards.
I do like to highlight that the list of competitions here are not exhaustive, and there may be other competitions that are not mentioned. However, from our experience, these are the more prominent ones that schools often sign up and participate in.