View the 2021-2022 challenge guide: 2021 RDL Challenge Guide Dragonfly REV 3.1

Robot Drone League

  • Combines the excitement of competition sport with science and technology
  • Provides a rigorous game, played with robotics and drones
  • Students develop skills used in the technology industry
  • 75% of students involved in Robot Drone League are more likely to attend post-secondary education

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Robot Drone League (or RDL for short) was started 6 years ago in Boca Raton, Florida by Dr. Scooter Willis. His team at TechGarage created and designed the robotics competition as an initiative to help serve at-risk youth in the North Miami area. The RDL season runs from the beginning of September to Mid-December. It consists of a ten-minute match with a one-minute autonomous period at the start. RDL allows students to learn fundamentals skills in Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Python coding, teamwork, communication, and mechanical and electrical engineering. Unlike other robotics competitions, students are to design, build, and code their robots without intervention from their mentors. Students work in teams of no more than fifteen members throughout the competition season to build a robot out of a Kit of Parts provided during your Rookie Season. The Kit of Parts consists of aircraft-grade aluminum from GoBilda, vex motor controllers, a Raspberry Pi, a Raspberry Pi Camera, a Ryze Tello Drone, a Bluetooth Logitech Controller, and a few other essential parts to assist in completing a robot.

The 2018 season was named “CrossOver.” The field was a 40 ft x 40 ft square split into a Blue Alliance and a Red Alliance. With a teetering bridge separating the two sides, teams had to cross the bridge to obtain field elements to score points. There was also a Low Scoring Zone and a High Scoring Zone for scoring by drones. The RDL Challenge CrossOver provided an opportunity for students to build a robot to solve exciting engineering challenges, with the guidance of an adult mentor. Students collaborated with their teammates and other teams in a teamwork format to strategically place CrossOver blocks and balls, color-coordinated to match assigned alliance into scoring zones. Teams scored points by moving the red alliance, blue alliance, or green (neutral) scoring elements (3-inch cubes and 2-inch foam balls) from starting positions (aft of the yellow dashed line towards each respective team station) to the scoring zones (low or high goals). Teams were given the opportunity to earn additional points for stacks on each alliance color’s base in a 10-minute match. Alliance robots were outfitted with one balloon each at the beginning of each match. Drones received points if able to “pop” the opposing alliance’s balloon. Alliances were allowed to replace one balloon for each robot during the match. During the match, there were TVs placed on each alliance’s side that displayed science and math problems for the teams to solve via drone video feed.

The second season, in 2019, was named “Towers of Titan,” based off Mars’s largest moon. The primary scoring elements were PeeWee Power Pellets, Zapper Zots, and Mega Power Orbs. The object of the game was to score as many scoring elements (PeeWee Power Pellets, Zapper Zots, and Mega Power Orbs) as possible within a ten-minute match, with the first one minute in autonomous function mode only. Scoring elements were placed into three assorted holes located on the scoring towers in each alliance territory. Students would also have to land a drone atop the scoring tower to illuminate the beacons controlled by RFID chips.

In the fall of 2020, a new mission was released, named “Dragonfly”. Due to the pandemic, this annual challenge will be re-released as the 2021 Challenge. Dragonfly is based on NASA’s mission to send rotorcrafts to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in search of life. This mission is expected to launch in 2027.

In this exciting ten-minute challenge, teams must collect HydroPods, NitroPods, and CarbonPods to create molecular assemblies of molecules found on Mars’s surface. Teams also must transverse across the surface to survey for images placed around the field to identify the contents of the image. Robots must place a seismometer inside the mountain and measure seismic activity. Drones must deliver an Automated Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to the great methane lake, Lake Photon. At the same time, these machines must fly over beacons, powered by ultrasonic sensors, to illuminate the alliance’s color. Drones also need to deliver satellites to the appropriately colored landing pads on top of the mountains.

There are TV’s mounted on the sides of the mountains displaying science and math problems that must be viewed through the drone’s camera in order for the teams to solve problems and gain points. Creativity and innovation are critical elements in advancing the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into the future. The Robot Drone League was designed to provide students with open-ended challenges that allow for creation and innovation by engaging in hands-on design, engineering, and programming of interactive robots and drones. Working with robots in a collaborative game format can be a very powerful tool to engage students and enhance math and science skills through hands-on, student-centered learning. Through participation in the RDL, students can develop the essential life skills of teamwork and collaboration, as well as critical thinking, project management, and communication required to become the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers in our global society.