Springtime is finally here-a favorite time of year for future engineers everywhere because spring means Botball.

The KISS Institute for Practical Robotics is once again hosting its annual Botball Robotics Competition. Nation-wide, high school students are designing, building and programming their own mobile robots to compete in regional tournaments leading to a national face-off hosted by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence on August 7 and 8 in Seattle, Wash.

The Washington, D.C. regional competition takes place on Saturday, April 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University. Nine regional competitions are taking place around the country with 178 teams. In the Washington-Baltimore area, 29 schools are expected to participate. Many schools will have two or more teams competing making a total of 43 teams in this year’s local competition. The winners of this year’s competition will receive various awards and trophies.

The competition is open to the public and last year’s regional tournament drew some 500 competitors, family, friends and spectators.

Initially, students are given the KISS Institute’s specialized kit of cutting edge robotics equipment. The kit comes equipped with sensors, motors, customized robot computers, selected LEGO Technic pieces, software, and documentation.

Robots must start and stop autonomously and have 90 seconds to score points by positioning their colored balls and tubes on the 4′ X 8′ game board and by placing them in the goal area in the center of the game board. Each team has an opportunity to run their robot solo, in a seeding round, and then against other teams in a double elimination tournament style.

Dr. Jim Green, the Botball coordinator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., says NASA’s involvement in the annual competition plays an intricate role in the development of America’s future engineers. “Just like in the past, Goddard will support area schools by providing students with engineering mentors, financial assistance, or both,” said Green, a long-time liaison between area schools and Goddard.

This year, Goddard is sponsoring one District of Columbia school, one Tennessee school, 2 Virginia schools and 11 Maryland schools and Green says there will be stiff competition.

This year’s participants express interest in the areas of robot design, programming, and web site research problem design. When asked what prompted him to participate, John Dahunsi, a DuVal High ninth grader said, “When I grow up I want to pursue a career in engineering. Right now I’m especially interested in the engineering component of robots and programming.”

For graduating senior Isaac Johnson, this year’s Botball is nothing new. According to this future mechanical engineer, “This year’s competition has us going–it’s definitely more challenging.”

For a complete listing of Washington-Baltimore area schools competing in the Botball competition, go to:


For additional information on the KISS Botball tournament, go to: