Aaron Jawson: What is RoboRave? And why is everyone talking about it?

Aug 17, 2017 by

An Interview with Aaron Jawson: What is RoboRave? And why is everyone talking about it?

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Aaron, first of all, tell us about yourself and your education and experience.

My first experiences with robotics and engineering were through activities, such as playing with LEGOs and science summer camps as an elementary and middle schooler. I earned the robotics merit badge in the Boy Scouts of America as a high schooler. My high school physics teacher inspired me to pursue the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering.

For my undergraduate education, I double majored with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics with Teaching Emphasis and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics with Education Emphasis. The emphasis part means I not only completed B.S. Degrees in Physics and Math, but I took additional courses focused on helping me be a better educator, such as Psychology, Philosophy of Science, and the History of Science. (These courses were not required for a B.S. in Physics or Mathematics). I was the only student in my Physics graduating class to earn the Teaching Emphasis.

Throughout my college career, I was a Learning Assistant for the Introduction to Physics Courses. My duties were leading a discussion section, attending lectures and helping students during clicker questions, performing physics demos during lectures, holding office hours, and running exam review sessions. I earned the L.A. of the Year award in 2011. I also worked for a program called Breakthrough. They are a summer education program trying to help students overcome the achievement gap. I taught middle school students Physics and Art as a part of that program.

My first full time teaching position was as a 7th and 8th grade Mathematics teacher at Episcopal Day School in Pensacola Florida. I was also the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Coordinator for grade levels K-8. That was when I really began working on teaching engineering. I was at Episcopal Day School for 2 school years, before I decided to jump to high school education. That is how I ended up at Digital Arts & Technology Academy (DATA) in Albuquerque, NM. I have taught 3 school years at DATA and am about to begin my 4th school year. At DATA, I have taught Introduction to Robotics, Advanced Robotics, Physics, Integrated Math, and Algebra 2.

2) Now what exactly is this thing called RoboRave?

In short, RoboRave is a non-profit robotics education and robotics competition program that was started in New Mexico by Russ Fisher-Ives back in 2001. Since then RoboRave has grown to be international! Elementary School, Middle School, High School, and College students from more than 10 countries participate in RoboRave. The list of categories to compete in grows every year, but in 2017 there were 9 categories for the competition held in Albuquerque.

RoboRave does one International Event every year where students from all over the world meet in one city to compete. In 2015 and 2016, the International Event was in Albuquerque. In 2017, the International Event was in Medellin, Colombia. In 2018, the International Event will be back in Albuquerque!

For more information visit their website! https://roborave.org/

3) How did you and your students fare in this competition?

In 2015, we entered with 1 team of 2 students competing in the Fire Fighting Challenge. We did not end up in the top 10.


In 2016, we entered with 1 team of 3 students competing in the Fire Fighting Challenge. The students earned 6th place, but we were notably the top performing American Team. Teams from Colombia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia finished ahead of us. We were very proud to have improved from the previous year and find ourselves competing with the best teams from around the world.

In 2017, we entered with 1 team of 2 students in the Fire Fighting Challenge and 1 team of 2 students in the Sumo-Bot Challenge. The students earned 3rd place in both the Fire Fighting and the Sumo-Bot challenge. The Fire Fighting Team won 1st place in their Engineering Report.

4) How many other countries participated?

In 2015 participating countries included: the USA, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, China, the Czech Republic, and Canada.

In 2016 participating countries included: the USA, Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, Japan, China, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Canada.

In 2017 participating countries included: the USA, Mexico, and China. The Chinese and Mexican teams were invited as part of RoboRave’s outreach, even though the competition was not advertised as International, RoboRave invited a handful of teams from these 2 countries in order to give them experience in travelling for robotics competitions.

5) Tell us about some of these challenges and who fosters and dreams up these challenges?

Some of the challenges are the line-following challenge, sumo-bot challenge, and the fire-fighting challenge. All of these challenges require building an autonomous robot. In other words, the robot must use sensors and programming in order to complete tasks without human involvement. A good way to think about autonomous robots is, once they are turned on, they will complete the task completely on their own.

Line following challenge: Competitors build a robot that can quickly sense and follow line tracks on the ground. These line tracks have turns and curves and the robot must distinguish the correct path to take. The robots also must deliver objects, such as ping pong balls to a tower at the end of the track.

Sumo-Bot challenge: Competitors build a robot that can push 2 other robots out of a sumo ring before being pushed out themselves. The robot must fulfill weight and volume dimensions in order to compete. The robot must also be continuously moving, so the plant firmly on the ground strategy and wait for the other robots to fall out of the ring is not allowed.

Fire-Fighting challenge: Competitors build a robot that can sense, locate, and extinguish 4 candles in a rectangular arena. Walls block 3 out of the 4 candles. Candles cannot be touched as an extinguishing method. And very, very importantly, the robot can only extinguish one candle at a time AND must be within 10 centimeters of the candle.

The challenges and rules are created by the people who work for RoboRave.

6) Tell us about the field of robotics- and how many students are involved?

Robotics is focused on building machines in order to complete tasks semi-autonomously or autonomously (there’s that word again). You see robotics when you use the self-checkout machines at the grocery store. Or when you

There are currently more High School Robotics teams than there are Varsity Athletic Teams in the USA. And with more competitions popping up, similar to RoboRave, Elementary and Middle School students are forming plenty of teams as well! Outside of the USA, we see students involved in robotics in a majority of the countries.

7) Do you see robotics as ” cutting edge”?

I do see robotics as cutting edge. There will be guaranteed jobs in robotics available to our students when they enter the work world. Robots are already being used and will continue to grow in the film industry, transportation, medical field, building management, construction, military, and beyond.

Robotics also creates demand for computer programming, software engineering, cyber-security, mechanical engineering, material engineering, and much more. Roboticists are using biology in order to better design and build robots (this is called biomimicry). Robotics is being used in the business world to help analyze company efficiency. Houses are being built with robotics helping to manage the utilities and create more sustainable households. The list goes on and on!

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