Robotics Education & Competition Foundation
Inspiring students, one robot at a time.

FUTURE Foundation Sustainable Design Robot Construction Challenge

The FUTURE Foundation exists to advance robotics and technology through education.

With the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop as inspiration, build a VEX robot or robotically-controlled machine that achieves one or more sustainability goals. You may construct either a full-size VEX robot or a VEX model of a larger machine.

Sustainability is about using engineering and science to reduce human environmental impact. This can mean producing renewable energy, using less energy, replacing high-environmental-impact materials with low-impact alternatives, recycling, reusing, and designing upgradeable products that can meet future needs without having to be replaced. Learn more about sustainability, and specifically sustainable design, at the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop website at



  • 1st: Future Foundation Robot Construction Award: $750 gift certificate and automatic team qualification for the 2013 VRC World Championship (if part of a registered VRC team)
  • 2nd: $500 gift certificate
  • 3rd: $250 gift certificate


To understand more about specific sustainable design strategies that may be relevant to your design, we encourage you to visit these web pages:

  • Whole Systems and Lifecycle Thinking: Looking at the big picture to understand how products or buildings are made, used and disposed of so these considerations are included from the start.
  • Materials Use/Lightweighting: Factoring in the types of materials you're using, the manufacturing processes required for your design, and the geometry of your design to minimize material use.
  • Improving Product Lifetime: Ensuring your using the right strategies for optimizing a product's life and end-of-life.
  • Energy Efficient Design: Ensuring the design addresses optimal energy efficiency.

As mentioned, sustainability can involve many different things. Here are some examples of actual robots that are either in use or under development:

  • A robot that monitors energy usage in a home or business
  • A robot which recycles used materials
  • Robotic applications in agriculture such as precision fertilizer applications, reduced soil compaction, or soil monitoring
  • Robotically-implemented vertical urban farming
  • Robots that automatically find and repair urban potholes
  • Robotic transit systems that do not use tracks
  • Robots that travel to collect information on soil and water chemistry and temperatures

To help you provide renewable power for your design, VEX is now distributing the Heliocentris Alternative Energy Kit (VEX part number 276-1986). It uses solar power to run a hydrogen fuel cell. This might power a mobile robot recharging station or even directly power a stationary robot. Think about how to creatively combine green energy with your design.

  • This contest is open to students anywhere in the world currently registered in an education institution at the middle school, high school or college/university level, or to home school students younger than college/university level.
  • Designs submitted in previous Online Challenges are not eligible for submission this year.
  • Your robot may either be a full-scale useful machine itself or it can be a working scale VEX prototype of a larger machine. An elegant and entertaining engineering solution demonstrated using VEX is the goal of this challenge. If you need sensors or special parts not provided in the VEX product line specifically to achieve sustainability goals, you may include them. Aside from sensors, no more than 10% of the structure should be non-VEX parts. (The intention of our sponsors is that this is a VEX robot with a few non-VEX parts, not a non-VEX robot with a couple of VEX parts.)
  • Write a description, no more than 750 words long in PDF or Microsoft Word. This should:
    • Explain how the VEX robot would be used for environmental purposes to address sustainability use in a meaningful and positive way.
    • Include information about if and how the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop played a role in your robot design. Note how your robot can be more sustainably designed, and/or if it can ultimately play a role in any of the areas of sustainability discussed on this site.
  • Produce four images showing the completed machine from front, back, side, and top. Include other pictures as necessary to show off your machine's features.
  • Create a video of the robot in action posted to YouTube, not more than 150 seconds in length. After your 150 seconds of video demonstrating the robot, you may have up to 15 seconds of credits. The credits must be at the end, not the beginning of the video.
Judging Community voting will determine four of the ten finalists with six additional submissions chosen by the RECF. The finalist submissions will then be judged by selected professionals who will determine the FUTURE Foundation Award winners. Evaluation
  • 40 points: The video clearly shows the robot in action, and shows how it achieves the goals laid out in the written description. The robot is mostly built of VEX parts as described above.
  • 20 points: There is a clear, well-written 750-word description that explains how the robot works, how it is sustainable, and how the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop helped in the design process.
  • 20 points: There are four images of the finished robot (front, side, back, top), and other pictures complement the four primary images.
  • 10 points: The degree to which the robot or robotic machine achieves the goal of being useful in performing a sustainability task.
  • 10 points: The robot or robotic machine is well made and functional, and safe in use.

Deadline Information

Current time:
Tue, May 28, 2024 3:02 AM CDT


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 12:00 AM CDT


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 2:00 PM CST

Voting Ends:

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 2:00 PM CST