Press Release

Student-Built Mini Robots Compete in Botball Regional Tournament

By SpaceRef Editor
April 15, 2008
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MOFFETT FIELD, Calif., — Are you ready to robot? If so, get ready for fast-paced action as dozens of mini robots built by hundreds of California high school students compete Saturday, April 19, 2008 in the 11th annual northern California Botball Robotics Tournament, San Jose, Calif.

Teams will take turns battling their robot competitors and race to put the most balls and other small objects onto a series of targets within a set time limit, on a smooth, 8-foot-by-10-foot playing surface riddled with orange and green poms and a stuffed “Botguy.” This year’s fast-paced game story simulates a space station using robots to prepare for a solar flare.

“Botball is a robotics competition that gives middle school and high school students a chance to experience open-ended hardware and software development problems in a team environment,” said Terry Grant, an engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., who volunteers to help students and teachers. “It allows potential future engineers a chance to solve a real problem when no one has ‘the right answer.'”

All teams receive identical kits filled with hundreds of parts to build their robots, such as sensors, motors, a battery-powered microcomputer/controller, and programming software. Each robot must be built within seven weeks without altering any of the pieces by cutting, taping or gluing. Also, this year, for the first time the kits include a platform that looks and moves much like the ‘Roomba’ vacuum cleaner. To successfully compete in the Botball tournament, students must learn to program a ‘Game Boy’ using interactive C computer code, so that their robot will operate on its own, without the use of remote controls. The robots also must be built to recognize color, depth, and light.

The Botball program is aimed at increasing students’ enthusiasm and skills in mathematics, science, physics and design through hands-on education. The project is co-sponsored by NASA’s Robotic Alliance Project at NASA’s Ames, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, Calif., and the Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS) Institute for Practical Robotics, Norman, Okla.

Participating northern California and San Francisco Bay area cities include: Anderson, Davis, Fair Oaks, Fremont, Hillsborough, Half Moon Bay, Los Altos, Livermore, San Francisco, San Jose, San Lorenzo, San Mateo and San Pablo. Gig Habor, Wash. has also entered a competing team.

WHO: Hundreds of northern California middle and high school students and their robots.

WHAT: The 11th annual northern California Botball Robotics Tournament. Admission is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Saturday, April 19, 2008

– 8 a.m. to 10 a.m PDT: Teams arrive and practice before the competition
– 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. PDT: Welcoming comments
– 10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. PDT: Unopposed seeding rounds
– 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. PDT: Lunch
– 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. PDT: Double elimination rounds
– 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. PDT: Awards Ceremony

WHERE: The Leavey Center, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, Calif.

For more information about the NASA Robotics Alliance Project and Botball, visit:

For more information about Botball, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.