Sonoma County Office of Education

Robotics Challenge

Sonoma County Robotics Challenge

2020 Robotics Challenge logo

The Sonoma County Robotics Challenge engages students in grades 4 through 8 applying concepts from math, science, and engineering building Lego robots. Activities span the months of December through April. December and January are spent building capacity among teachers and volunteers who will work with students at local schools. In early February, challenge events for the year's competition are announced. Challenges are designed for beginner through advanced student competitors. School teams meet from February through April to develop challenge responses. The culminating experience is the Sonoma County Robotics Challenge where students and their robots perform.

Looking Back at 2024 Challenge

The 2024 Robotics Challenge took place on May 4, 2024 at Elsie Allen High School. Over 450 students from 29 schools were present. See a video with highlights:

Robotics Perspectives

Stories and photos from the Press Democrat Newspaper about the Sonoma County Robotics Challenge:

Highlights from the 2023 event:

Petaluma Accelerated Charter School - excitement and elation about robotics:

Spring Lake Middle School offers their views on the how, why and when of robotics

Challenge Event Robots

Lego Robots are used by event competitors. These products were selected because they have programmable bricks, open design & construction options, a variety of sensors, learning materials and programming applications that are accessible to beginning through advanced users. An overview of these robots is offered here:

  • Lego Spike Prime | This is a new Lego robot rolled out in Fall 2021. It combines colorful LEGO building elements, easy-to-use hardware, and a drag-and-drop coding language based on Scratch. SPIKE has beginner through advanced learning activities that run on computers, tablets and Chromebooks.
  • Lego Mindstorm EV 3 | This is the most popularly used robot set among challenge event competitors. Introduced in Fall 2013, this kit has over 400 Lego elements and apps that can run on computers, tablets and Chromebooks.
  • Lego Mindstorm NXT | Introduced in 2006, this set was discontinued in 2015. A commercial version can still be purchased at some retail stores. The NXT series is still being used among competitors for beginning and advanced events.
  • Lego Mindstorm RCX | This set was introduced in 1998 and discontinued in 2009. It is no longer available for purchase. The software for the RCX programmable brick will not run on newer computers and most schools use this set only for beginning level events.

Working with Lego Robots

Tips & ideas to support efforts:

  • Student learning with robots is achieved by experimentation and hands-on activity. MIT Professor Seymour Papert expressed it best when he said, “...hands-on learning involves making something.that you can identify with and be proud of. What you learn in the process of making things that you care about goes deeper into the subsoil of the brain than what anyone can tell you,”
  • Managing and organizing Lego sets is important. Your system of material management should be understood by students. Best practice involves students sorting and organizing materials during the last 10 minutes of each building session.
  • Lessons/Activities for Lego robots can be found in the software associated with a robot’s controller. Look to develop familiarity with mechanical design and programming through these introductory materials.
  • Resources from January 20, 2024 Orientation Class for Teachers & Volunteers

Prior Year Events

2023 Robotics Challenge | Results and Description

2022 Robotics Challenge | Results and Description

2021 Virtual Sonoma County Robotics Challenge

2020 Virtual Sonoma County Robotics Challenge

2019 Robotics Challenge | Results and Description

2018 Robotics Challenge | Results and Description

2017 Robotics Challenge | Results

2016 Robotics Challenge | Results


Event Director/Spokesperson:
Rick Phelan |