Saturday, July 21, 2012

AFRON "10 Dollar Robot" Design Challenge

How cheaply can you build a robot?  The African Robotics Network (AFRON) has launched the "10 Dollar Robot" Design Challenge, aimed at catalyzing the design of a new class of affordable robots for learning.  Participants are challenged to come up with creative designs for educational robots.  US$10 is a very challenging target, but entries costing US$100 or less in parts will be accepted for the competition, which is open to anyone: students, hobbyists or professionals in any part of the world.  Submissions are due on September 15. Please consider participating!

David Pescovitz shared an interesting post about the competition:  The full text of the call (in html and PDF formats) can be found here:  It is also copied below.

Best regards,
Ayorkor Korsah

G. Ayorkor Korsah, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Computer Science Department
Ashesi University College, Ghana

Announcing: The AFRON "10 Dollar Robot” Design Challenge


The African Robotics Network (AFRON) is a community of institutions, organizations and individuals engaged in robotics in Africa.  AFRON seeks to promote communication and collaborations that will enhance robotics-related education, research, and industry on the continent.


Goal of the AFRON “10 Dollar Robot”Design Challenge

The goal of the AFRON “10 Dollar Robot” Design Challenge is to design a new class of affordable robots for learning (especially in primary and secondary schools).  Robots excite people of all ages.  Their physical behavior in response to programs and/or sensors inspires student interest in computers, science, math, and engineering more broadly.  However, existing platforms are often too expensive for students in many African countries and other emerging economies (this competition is open to anyone worldwide). Note that US$ 10 is a target but we are happy to accept designs that don’t reach this goal, provided they cost less than US$100.


There will be nine winners:  a first, second and third prize in each of three categories (described below).  Thank you to the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for sponsoring the cash prizes.

·      First prize:      $500 + 1 Raspberry Pi

·      Second prize: $250 + 1 Raspberry Pi

·      Third prize:    $100 + 1 Raspberry Pi

In addition, there will be “honorable mentions” for additional creative designs.


The competition is open to individuals, teams of individuals, or institutions from anywhere in the world.  We welcome submissions from hobbyists and students, in addition to professionals.

Submission Deadline

15th September 2012.   Winners will be announced in October 2012


This challenge is an opportunity to think creatively about robotics platforms that can be inexpensively built and/or manufactured and that are useful for science and/or technology education at primary, secondary or tertiary levels.  In this competition, we are interested in designs that can be hand assembled based on a few easily obtained parts (eg, motors, servos, sensors, etc)  and we’re also interested in designs that could be assembled/manufactured centrally at low cost and made available.  We’re also hoping for designs that can spur open-source sharing of software and programs.  The “US$10 Robot” is a challenge to get participants thinking creatively -- not all entries may reach that price point, but all entries must be below US$100 in parts for the prototype.

For the purpose of this competition, a robot must be programmable and respond in some way to its environment (this could be through sensors, switches, and/or the camera built into a laptop).  Mobile robots and/or robotic manipulators are all eligible.  Other than those implied by cost, there are no restrictions on materials, sensors, or control systems.

There are a wide variety of educational contexts in which such educational robots could be applied including in classrooms, school science clubs, or out-of-school camps and workshops.  Participants can assume that their designed robots would be used in an educational setting, with each robot being used by a small team of students.


We invite submissions in one of three categories of robots.  Each category will be judged separately, as the capabilities and prices of robots in the three categories will be very different.

1.    Tethered: Computing and programming off-board (e.g. on a laptop)

In this category, the designed robot is connected to a laptop that serves as the “brain” of the robot (and perhaps also the sensors via the built-in camera or microphone).  The connection is via a USB interface that can also be used to provide some power. If the robot mechanism is comparable in size to or smaller than a laptop, you can think of the robot as being tethered to the laptop.  If the robot mechanism is larger than a laptop, the mechanism can carry the laptop.  In this category, the laptop is considered part of the robotic system, but the reported cost of the robot does not need to include the cost of the laptop used for computing.

2.    Traditional: Computing on-board, and programming off-board

In this category, the robot has an on-board processor serving as its brain.  Programs are written on a computer, compiled, and then downloaded onto the robot’s processor, allowing the robot to operate independently of the computer used to program it.  In this category, the reported cost of the robot should include the cost of the on-board processor and batteries, but does not include the cost of the computer used to program it.

3.    All-in-one: Computing and programming on-board

In this category, the robot has an on-board processor and is programmed through an interface on the robot itself. In this category, the reported cost of the robot should include the cost of batteries, its processor and programming interface.

What to submit, and how

The URL for one HTML webpage with the following information (numbered as below):

1.     A high-level description of your robot design with total cost (for one prototype unit; see point 7 regarding volume pricing).
·      Include in your description an indication of whether your robot is designed to be built from scratch by the user, or mass manufactured and supplied as a kit to the user
·      Some robots might have required accessories (e.g. a tool for downloading programs to the robot) that can be shared by multiple robots in a classroom. If applicable, include such a tool in the cost for a single robot, but also specify whether it can be shared by multiple robots, thus bringing down the overall deployment cost for a classroom.

2.     A description of the educational applications and possible resources.
·      For example, what science and technology concepts or skills can your robot help students learn?

3.     A list of parts, their sources (include URLs if applicable), availability, and prices.
·      Note that salvaged parts are allowed, if these salvaged parts are commonly available in your particular context.  Think of this list of parts as the starting point if someone in a similar context to you wanted to reproduce your robot.
·      Note also that your parts list should be complete, including things like required adhesive, screws etc.
·      Your parts list should include any consumables (e.g. batteries) and their associated cost and replacement frequency. This is a caution to think of sustainability.

4.     A list of tools/equipment needed to create your robot and estimated prices.

5.     Relevant drawings with dimensions.
·      These may be CAD drawings, particularly for machined parts, but they may also be hand-drawn

6.     Step-by-step instructions for creating your robot

7.     [Optional] If your robot can be mass manufactured, you can present an analysis of how costs would scale with quantity.

8.     Software, if any.  All software must be available open-source.

9.     A description of any actual experiments conducted

10. Pictures of your robot, if any.

11. Videos of your robot in action, if any.
·      These videos should highlight key capabilities such as its ability to respond autonomously to its environment.

Please submit via the following form, which asks for your name, contact information, and the URL: . Note that by participating in this competition, you agree to have your design published on the internet (and attributed to you, of course).


Note that $USD 10 is a target but we are happy to accept designs that don’t reach this goal.  Submissions will be judged according to the following criteria, with bonus for robots that have been built and demonstrated with experimental data:

·      Educational impact: how useful and reliable is your robot for education?
·      Reproducibility: how easy is it to re-create your robot?
·      Affordability: how close to $10 can you get?


·      Robot must be real (non-virtual/simulated) & made with commonly available parts.
·      The robot must be programmable
·      The robot should have at least one sensing mechanism (included in its base price).  Being extensible to support additional sensing mechanisms is a plus.
·      Submissions (prototypes) should cost under $100.  For category 1, the cost can exclude external computer and power supply.
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