Robots 101 - Robot Design

Welcome back to our Robots 101 series! This time we will be looking at what you need to consider when designing a robot that is both practical for the game’s task and one that would fit our safety regulations.

The aim of this post is to give you a jumping off point rather than prescribe the best way to tackle Student Robotics. There will be things we’ve missed and may even be things that are not relevant to your specific team. Over the years teams have tackled the competition in all sorts of ways we never imagined. Please do experiment and come up with the best way for your team to work.


Before settling on a final design, it’s a good idea to devise several different strategies. Making a scale plan or model of the arena, tokens, and robots is a very good way to start thinking about these and can aid discussion. Be sure to document the pros and cons of each strategy. Include point scoring, ease of implementation, additional items required to implement the strategy, and possible interactions with other robots.

Narrow the list and prototype some hardware (can be simple) to assess feasibility. The most complex, technologically advanced strategy is not necessarily the best. A simple (and elegant) strategy is more straightforward, quicker to implement and less likely to fail. On many occasions, a simple strategy has won the day.


How your robot will move is a key decision to make. Many options are available, and all have pros and cons: wheels, tracks, or legs, 2, 3 or 4-wheel drive, omniwheels etc. Types of motor: DC, geared, stepper motors, built-in or add-on encoders. You should research these methods and decide what will be best for your strategy. The ability to move a defined distance and/or rotate a specified number of degrees can be helpful.


The construction of your robot will be strongly influenced by the movement system you have decided upon. When planning the construction of your robot, a few things would be good to think about: the strength of your robot, how heavy it will be, the ease of modification or repairs, do you have sufficient ground clearance, is the robot protected from impacts, etc.

Note that the maximum dimensions of the robot are clearly defined in the rules. These are strictly adhered to and robots must comply or will not be allowed to compete.

Location of components

The power board has an ON/OFF and a START button. Both of these can be wired to remote switches if desired. The ON/OFF switch (remote or on the power board) must be easily accessible, clearly marked and visible. All the boards have LEDs on them that can provide valuable information for debugging.

The battery must be protected from mechanical damage on all sides. Failure to comply will result in disqualification. Having your battery easily accessible will make your life easier.

Two USB ports must be easily accessible to allow insertion of your code USB stick and the competition USB stick that will be provided by us for competition matches. Keep all wiring neat, tidy, well secured and away from all moving parts. Clearly labelling your components and wires is advisable. Ensure that you comply with the rules and safety regulations concerning wire colours.


The process of building a robot is an iterative one. You may need to rethink and refine your strategies and return to earlier points in the process. Prototype and test to assess the feasibility of mechanical and software strategies. Test, test, test, test, test, test, test.

If something occasionally doesn’t perform as expected, be wary of ignoring it on the basis that it was a “glitch”, “one-off”, “it hasn’t happened again”. Often it will happen again and probably during the knockout stages of the competition! Investigate, identify and rectify.

Kit Software Update 2023.1.0

Our Kit team has been hard at work and are delighted to announce the release of the Kit Software version 2023.1.0 🎉. The full changelog for this release is on the updates page but we wanted to highlight a few of the notable improvements!

Remote Debugging

If there’s one piece of advice we give to our teams it’s “Test, Test, Test” and with Remote Debugging we hope to make this even easier!

Using VS Code (or any editor that supports DAP) competitors can now step through their code while it is executing on the robot. This will allow competitors to inspect variables, change execution flow, and gain a much deeper understanding of what their robot is doing at that very moment.

Remote Debugging in VS Code
Remote Debugging a robot in VS Code

Read the docs to learn more!

Dark Mode

We’re happy to announce that the Student Robotics Web Interface now has a Dark Mode!

The Student Robotics Web Interface in Dark Mode
The Web Interface in Dark Mode

The Web Interface will automatically use the system’s preferred colour scheme, but you can also manually toggle between light and dark mode if you wish.

Improved Vision

We’ve tweaked the calibration of the vision system to make it more accurate. We’ve also added support for processing images through our vision system after the image has been captured, unlocking the ability for teams to develop their own image processing pipelines.

Marker Sizes Changed

The last rules update reduced the size of the markers, and we’ve updated the vision system to match. You’ll need to re download the marker images and print them at the new size for vision to work as expected.

Vision Axes Changes

We’ve also made some opt-in changes to the vision axes. These changes are not enabled by default so as not to break existing code, but we recommend that teams update to use the new axes. By passing legacy_camera_axis=False to your Robot constructor you can opt-in to the new axes. These now follow the standard right-handed coordinate system, with the X axis pointing forwards, the Y axis pointing to the left and the Z axis pointing up. Yaw, pitch and roll are also corrected to their expected directions.

SR2023 Game Announced

Student Robotics 2023 was Kickstarted on Saturday 22nd September at the University of Southampton and on our livestream. It was great to see the excitement building at our first in-person Kickstart since SR2019.

Our game this year, Greed, challenges teams to steal tokens from other scoring zones. With Bronze, Silver, and Gold tokens, each worth a different number of game points, teams must think carefully about the optimum strategy. To help teams locate tokens they have 2D barcode style markers attached that our computer vision library can detect. However each of the markers will identify themselves as exactly the same, so teams must use other sensors to detect which type of token is which. Bronze and Silver tokens are the same size but the Silver tokens weigh 300g more, and Gold tokens are larger than Bronze and Silver. Teams are scored at the end of the match for collecting the most points. Full details, including the prizes available this year, are available in the rulebook.

This year we have also introduced a new way for teams to earn league points, Challenges! There are three challenges which teams may optionally complete during the competition year in order. These challenges encourage teams to start work on their robots early and cover movement, sensors, and vision. The challenges may be approached in any order, and completing challenges before certain deadlines will earn the teams bonus league points. Full details of the challenges are available in the rulebook and the deadlines are on our events page.

This year’s teams have already been strategising their approaches, and we can’t wait to see their progress over the year!

If you weren’t able to attend Kickstart this year, or would like a recap, you can:

  • watch our livestream where we explain the game and how this year’s competition will work.
  • download the presentation in which we explain this year’s game and how the competition is running this year.
  • download the microgames which are small activities designed to let you become familiar with the Student Robotics simulator.

If you’re a competitor, be sure to check out our Kickstarted, now what? blog post for some next steps.