Trinity’s Popular Robotics Competition to Celebrate its 20th Anniversary

Event will be Streamed Live
Trinity students ​​Gina Buzzelli '16, Barok Imana '16, and  Romero Board​ '16​ prepare for the robotics contest during their engineering courses, "Introduction to Engineering Design: Mobile Robots." Photo by John Atashian.

​HARTFORD, CT, April 2, 2013 – More than 130 teams representing seven countries, including the debut of a team from Armenia, and teams from at least 10 states will participate in this weekend’s Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest, which has two components: a RoboWaiter or assistive robotics competition and the more traditional extinguish-the-flame contest.

Trinity will be well represented, with 10 teams participating. The annual Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest is considered one of the premier robotics events in the world. Over the years, modifications have been made to make the fire fighting contest more difficult and exciting, and RoboWaiter was added five years ago as its own discrete event as assistive robotics has become increasingly instrumental to the lives of people with disabilities.

In recent years, the teams from other countries have done quite well. Of the 26 major prizes awarded in the 2012 Fire Fighting Contest, teams from China and Indonesia captured 18 in all, with two students from Shanghai Jianping High School in Shanghai, China, capturing the grand prize.

RoboWaiter will take place Saturday, April 6, beginning at 1:15 p.m. with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Richard Prigodich, dean of students, kicking things off. It will take place in the Oosting Gym in the Ferris Athletic Center. The Fire Fighting contest is Sunday, April 7, and will be preceded by remarks by Trinity President James F. Jones Jr. The competition will get started at 11:30 a.m. and wrap up with an awards ceremony at about 4 p.m.

Both days’ competitions are open to the public.

This event will be streamed live at:

For a complete schedule of events, including times and locations, please visit:

For answers to frequently asked questions, please visit:

For the 2013 rules and regulations, please visit:

The RoboWaiter competition has gained in popularity in the past couple of years, with an all-time high of nearly 40 teams taking part this year, including ones from China, Indonesia, Israel, the United States and, of course, Trinity.

RoboWaiter requires an autonomous robot to snatch a dish from a miniature refrigerator and carry it to a small figure seated at a table in a room. The robots, which are designed as colorfully and creatively as the imagination will allow, are typically no larger than a breadbox. It’s hoped that assistive robots, such as the type that will be on display, will one day lead to major developments that can help people with disabilities.

The Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest advances robot technology and knowledge by using robotics as an educational tool. The winning robot must respond to a fire alarm, discover the blaze, and extinguish it in the shortest possible time. 

To accomplish the overall task, the robot must start on a signal (a simulated fire alarm), explore a typical family home (the arena), locate a fire (a burning candle), extinguish it, and optionally return to its starting point. The robot must operate autonomously during all parts of the challenge, without human intervention, using its own sensors, control logic, and actuators.

There are several divisions, among them junior, high school, senior, walking and expert. In the expert division, open to contestants of all ages, the candles will be placed in different locations and at different heights. In all of the divisions, the rooms will be furnished with such scale-model items as tables, chairs, hat racks and sofas. The more items in the room, the higher the score that a robot can achieve.

Teams will be on hand from Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. In addition to the previously mentioned countries, teams from Canada and Israel will also participate.

The principle sponsor of the two-day event is Versa Products Company, Inc. of New Jersey, whose CEO is Jan Larsson, a 1977 Trinity alumna. The Versa Valve Challenge offers a $500 prize in each contest division for the best robot that uses a Versa valve to extinguish the candle. Versa Products has manufactured pneumatic, hydraulic, manual and solenoid valves since 1949.

Other major sponsors include Trinity College and xPartner Robotics. Patrons include the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities; Robotis; the Connection section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; SolidWorks; Servo Magazine; Lockheed Martin; Robotbox; and Custom Circuit Boards. Supporters include Odyssey Magazine; National Instruments; Circuit Cellar; Parallax;; Scientific American; and Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies.