Every year, tens of thousands of the brightest engineering minds from middle schools, high schools, and universities in 45 countries enter a massive tournament known as the VEX Robotics Competition.
Comprising more than 900 individual robotics tournaments worldwide, the competition pits teams against one another in a skills-based slugfest to determine who can build the best robot for a prescribed set of tasks.
It all culminates in the world championships, which just wrapped up in Louisville, Ky.
Out of more than 11,000 teams to participate in the overall competition, 1,600 of them (accounting for 30,000 overall students from 30 nations) were selected to make the trip to Louisville.
A handful walked away with top honors.
"The VEX Robotics World Championship is a thrilling experience for everyone involved, from students competing to teachers, mentors, volunteers, and spectators," says Dan Mantz, CEO and chairman of the board of the Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation, which oversees the event. "It's experiences like this that prepare students with the skills necessary to meet the needs of tomorrow's workforce."
The overlap with industry is apparent throughout the competition. The tournament is sponsored by Autodesk, Dell, NASA, Google, Texas Instruments, and others. A spokesperson told me some companies and organizations use the event to scout emerging robotics and engineering talent, high-value assets as the robotics industry booms.
This year's culminating game involved stacking cones in high configurations and shuttling stacks around an arena jammed with competing robots.
To get a sense of just how complex the robotics challenges can get, check out the newly-revealed game for next year's competitors in the embedded video.
Seven of the teams that took home honors this year hail from China, where the government-backed China 2020 initiative is spurring tremendous growth in homegrown robotics.
The overall Excellence Award winners were the Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools robotics program from Flint, MI, the Davis High School team from Kaysville, Utah, and the team from Xi'an Jiao Tong University from Xi'an, China.
Congrats to all the teams that made it to Kentucky.