Since 2012, our organization is the official organizer of World Robot Olympiad (WRO) in Germany. WRO is an international robotic tournament in more than 70 countries to promote STEM education worldwide.
With WRO tournaments, we have grown successfully over the last years. Starting with 32 teams in 2012, in 2018 more than 600 teams from more than 300 schools took part in our competitions. The main target audience are young children and students in the age from 6 to 19 years old and belonging teachers / parents. At WRO competitions, the students can take part in different competition categories with various age groups. The three main competition categories we do in Germany are:
- Regular Category: Teams need to build and program and autonomous robot that can solve tasks on a field (size: 3 square meter). In different age groups (6-12, 8-12, 13-15 and 16-19) missions with different complexity are applied. In Regular Category students can practise weeks before the competition but need to re-build their robot without any photos or building instructions on the competition day. In addition, a surprise rule is announced at the day of competition. These elements should make sure that the participants have done the work on their own and can use their creativity and problem solving skills during the competition day.
- Open Category: In this category, teams build a robot model that is connected to the season theme (e.g. Sustainable Development). Teams should think about a problem in their daily life that can be solved using robot and automation technology. Here, participants can combine skills to build and program a more complex robot model in a creative way with skills you need to make a presentation in front a group of judges.
- Football Category: This category combines the excitement of soccer games with the challenge task to program 2 robots per team that can play soccer game autonomously. The playing ball is a ball that transmit infrared signals that can be detected by the robots. The robots itself can interact using Bluetooth technology to define their way during a game (e.g. one robot could act as a defender, one as a striker).
Our organization has started very small. We used our own technical skills (like being able to code a website, an online registration or scoring system, design skills to make flyers, brochures etc.) to grow with this educational project in Germany. Currently, we are working with more than 40 partners from different institutions (companies, schools, universities and foundations) to promote competitions of World Robot Olympiad in Germany. Many of these partners act as organizers of local competitions (next year we will have 34 local competitions and one big German Final). Our organization offers the framework and guides our partners on how to organize local events. With that we could reach more than 3.000 girls and boys in 2018.
In addition, in some areas our organization works more closely together with selected partners In the local federal state Rhineland-Palatinate the competition is called an official student competition with the help of the local education ministry. With the city of Dortmund we have grown a „Robot for Dortmund“ school network, teaching teachers basic robot skills and explained on how to start a robotic group on their schools. These teacher training we have done in other cities with our partners (e.g. in the rual district „Kreis Unna“ and Chemnitz) and do it on demand in different places.
Why do we submit an application for this award? Because we think that our project combines skills that are needed in a digital world. Teachers get access to information materials about our competition, students (girls and boys) mainly learn to code (in different programming languages), to build autonomous acting robots, to work in a team and to present their ideas on the competition day – everything done with a lot of excitement of a competition.
The different age groups and categories of World Robot Olympiad allow the development of skills over time. WRO competitions are done every year. New missions are released in January, then teams have time to prepare for local competitions in May, they can qualify for a German Final in June, and there they can qualify for an International Final (every year in November in a different country). We like that our project is not a „one day show“, it forces teachers and students to commit for – at least – half a school year (January > May/June) in Germany. And we already know that there are several participants that took part more than once. More than 900 participants took part more than once and we have 60 participants that took part 4 times or more (always keeping in mind that we started in 2012 with only 30 teams).
With our project we want to inspire as many children and students in the age from 6 – 19 for technology and motivate them to start a career in STEM related fields.
With our competitions, we can measure how many teams and participants we have. As mentioned above this year we had more than 600 teams that took part in our tournaments. Teams consist of 2-3 participants, we know that around 1.700 girls and boys came as participants to our tournaments this year. In addition, we reach another 1.300 girls and boys that are working with our partners in other robotic work groups (using the missions of WRO to learn for the next year), that are part of bigger work groups in schools (and only some participants come to the competition day). We know that many participants participate more than once (see numbers in the next above). Unfortunately, we miss an information if our participants – at the end – really start a career in STEM related fields. We know this in some selected cases of participants we got to know over years but that is something we want to improve and learn how we can measure this impact better. We are in contact with people that do research on this topic to find out how we can work this out.
Looking on our success factors, we can name three main factors:
- Flexibility of our program à The program allows girls and boys to participate in a category and age group that most fits their interest and ability looking at the age of the participant. With that students can concentrate on selected aspects (e.g. playing robot soccer).
At the same time, this flexibility is very good for local partners as well. A partner that wants to organize a competition can do that in all age groups or categories or just select an age group / category combination that fits the regional need. We have partners only running a Football tournament, partners that do multiple categories and only selected age groups. Therefore, our program fits in nearly any location a partner want to use to host tournaments.
- Partner program for growth à We have set-up an easy to scale partner program, sometimes we call it “non-profit-franchise” :). Our organization sets the framework, does marketing, prepare information material for our partners, cares about team registration, answer questions to mission and rules to teams and our local partners can concentrate on hosting the local WRO events. For our workload, it is not that important if we have 30 or 40 regional events, we would just need to order some more certificates and ship some more packages with marketing materials – but overall all: Processes are in place to grow more. This partner program is very important aspect when it comes to sustainable development as well because doing all this we are not dependent on one partner doing everything, we work with many small partners doing a little bit (hosting an event in their region). That is a success because we do not “overload” someone.
- Members of our organization à When we founded our non-prof-organization in 2011, the oldest person has been 22 years old. All members of our organization gained experience in (different) robot tournaments as team members, coaches, participants or volunteers before. We could use all this experience to work out good processes to grow with World Robot Olympiad in Germany. In addition, and very important as well, we can still use many skills our members have, e.g. programing or IT / Website system, doing design of flyers, management. Using these skills of our members saved a lot of money, especially at the very beginning where money is the biggest issue. Moreover, we need to use the knowledge of our members or partners because we are not funded by any government part here in Germany and have done all the growth alone.
At the moment, we are working on a bigger goal – hosting the International Final of World Robot Olympiad 2021 in Germany. Not only because we want to host students of more than 70 countries in Germany, but mainly because we see this a big step for sustainable development of our organization and the World Robot Olympiad in Germany. With hosting the International Final we can gain much more publicity and get in contact with new partners here in Germany.
Overall, we try to promote the feeling of “Writing your own robot history” to our teams, team-coaches (teachers / parents), partners and member of our organization. This means that there is more to learn than just to code or to build a robot. If you participate in our program, you learn for life and you could get inspired in such a big way that it influences your career choice.