An annual international STEM competition

Since 2000, the annual international RoboFest competition in Southfield, Michigan, is a festival of autonomous robots that encourages students to have fun while learning principles of science, technology, engineering, math and computer science. With more than 20,000 students from all over the world, students design, construct, and program robots giving them hands on experience.


Since 2000, the annual international Robofest competition in Southfield, Michigan, is a festival of autonomous robots that encourages students to have fun while learning principles of science, technology, engineering, math, and computer science.

With more than 20,000 students from all over the world, students design, construct, and program robots, giving them hands-on experience.

Here's the story.

Ro-bo-fest! Ro-bo-fest!

Robofest is a competition for young people grades 5 through college where students learn how to create and program robots that operate autonomously.

The tournament director, Dr. CJ Chung, was there from the very beginning.


So, the first year, we did three competitions.

We had 29 teams participated in.

This year, after 18 years, we have over 3,000 teams all around the world.

For 17 years, students from around the world descended on the campus of Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, but Dr. Chung and his team decided on a change of venue.

So, that was a big challenge not only for Robofest but for us here in the Tampa Bay area.

But when they asked us to do this, all I could think of was 'Yes! Yes! We can do it!'

Emma Alaba has been coordinating regional competitions in Florida for several years.

She and her team were ready for the challenge.

We needed at least 70 judges who have at least a degree, hopefully in engineering, in science, or math, in the STEM arena.

And like 135 volunteers we had to recruit.


Out of the 3,000 teams that competed in their local communities, 225 made it to the finals this year.

Robofest is all about STEM Plus learning.

STEM Plus means STEM plus first computer science.

But the 'Plus' includes so many other skills, such as innovative ideas, creativity, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and teamwork.

There are several types of robotic competitions going on during the three-day festival.

One of the more challenging was the Unknown challenge.

Teams would come in with their LEGO Robotics kit totally dismantled.

You would have a mission.

You would have to build a robot to accomplish the mission, and then you had to program the robot to actually do the mission.

So, it's a challenge that you come barefooted, [ Chuckles ] and you leave with shoes on.

[ Laughing ] And that's the whole idea, is that you really got to think really good, and it's all done by the students.


This is the Exhibition challenge.

It's one of the top-tier competitions of the festival.

Exhibition is one of the ideas -- how to develop creativity as well as innovative ideas.

Now, they have full freedom to create any robotics projects.


It blows my mind with some of the exhibits they have and the problems they have come up to design their project to solve these types of problems that are in the world, you know, having robots do things that you have people doing.

It's awesome, the mind-set and the creativity that these kids have, and I think the future is bright for them and for not only America, for the world.


The biggest competition of Robofest is simply called 'the Game.'

It's a baseball theme.

You have to circle the bases.

You have to find the ball, and you have to hit it over a fence.

3, 2, 1.


Although the teams have had months to build and fine-tune their robot, it's the last-minute changes that can throw them off.

And then when you get to the competition, there's actually what they call an unknown, where they know it's coming, but they don't know exactly what it is.

They have half an hour to adjust their robot and their program and make it work.

So, they have two unknowns in two rounds.

That's to ensure that the parents and the coaches didn't do the work.

And now the kids going to have to perform at their own capacity and level and skill.

It may be obvious to you by now that many of the competitors were not able to complete the task.

And yet this is another lesson learned.

Failure is the beginning of success.

And I want them to know that.

Say, 'Thank you, failure.

Welcome, failure.

Oh, yes, I look forward to failure because I know then I can go higher.'


At the end of the day, the Robofest international community gathers to celebrate the winners.

The junior division Game competition was won by an American team from Illinois.

So, this first-place Junior Game trophy awarded by the city of St. Pete Beach goes to team Jammin' Awesome Blockies.

[ Cheers and applause ]

So, it was hard because of the special rules, but Jensie helped program them.

And yeah, it was fun.

It was incredibly stressful, in my opinion.

And you had to cross your fingers every time the robot ran because if it's just a smidgen off, you're all doomed!

And the first-place winner for the senior division of the Exhibition competition went to a team from Bogotá, Colombia.

Our first-place award goes to team numbers 2796... [ Cheers and applause ]

It gives us a great chance to actually compete against other countries at an international level, to actually put our skills to the test and, well, show the world what we can do.

And we can see that this not only place that we can compete with other countries.

It's a place that we learn.

And we learned about their cultures, their projects.

Many awards were given out today, but more importantly, thousands of young people have grown and are being prepared to become future scientists.

If you enjoy, you learn how to apply what you have learned.

So, I believe in Robofest.

All the students are enjoying this program, and I know they'll apply what they have learned.

I will not sleep an hour if it had to do with making these kids see -- this is what your future looks like, and this is what I want you to do, but I know you can do it.

You got the knowledge.

You got the willpower.

You got whatever it takes to make this future and this world a better place.