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

Autodesk Sustainable Design Challenge

The Autodesk Sustainable Design Challenge is an online, skill-based challenge being run by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (RECF).

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: Autodesk Sustainable Design Challenge Award: $750 gift certificate and automatic team qualification for the 2013 VRC World Championship (if part of a registered VRC team), $250 Amazon Gift Card
  • 2nd: $500 gift certificate, $100 Amazon Gift Card
  • 3rd: $250 gift certificate, $50 Amazon Gift Card


With the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop as inspiration, use Autodesk software to design a VEX robot or robotically-controlled machine that achieves one or more sustainability goals. The model may show either a full-size VEX robot, or a VEX model of a larger machine.

You may use any Autodesk software for this challenge, however, you may find Autodesk® Inventor®, Autodesk® Inventor® Publisher, Autodesk® ForceEffectTM, and Autodesk® Simulation Multiphysics to be of particular interest. Go to and click on the Free Software to download software. Click on the Resources tab to download Autodesk ForceEffect or other mobile apps.

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.
  • The Finalists will submit their actual Autodesk CAD files to a special site for the final round of judging -- the link will be provided to the Finalists after they are announced.
  • Designs submitted in previous Online Challenges are not eligible for submission this year.
  • Use Autodesk software to design a VEX robot or robotically-controlled machine that achieves one or more sustainability goals. Since VEX does not make certain sensors that you might want to use, such as chemical analyzers or GPS units, you may use CAD models of non-VEX parts and assume that they will "talk to" a VEX controller.
  • Write a description, no more than 750 words long. This should:
    • Explain how the VEX robot would be used to address environmental issues in a meaningful and positive way.
    • Document the design process from the beginning of the project to your final design in Autodesk CAD software, and explain what features of the Autodesk software were most helpful in the process.
    • 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.
  • Document the design process using three or four images or drawings that show your progress from storyboard progression to finished design, using PNG, JPEG, GIF, or PDF files.
  • Additional Autodesk-generated images should include the following:
    • Completed Design - Four images (Front, Back, Side and Top views)
    • Assemblies - Three or four Isometric Autodesk images that illustrate the key assemblies making up your finished robot design
    • Part Documentation - Three or four Autodesk images that illustrate the progression of a key significant part of your robot and how you built from sketch to the completed part
  • Produce a YouTube video up to 60 seconds long showing the Autodesk design/construction of the robot. This could be an animated presentation (such as in Autodesk Inventor Publisher) or it could be still shots with narration, captions, or some other means of informing the viewer about the design. Provide a link to this video as part of your submission.
Judging Community voting will determine three of the seven finalists with four additional submissions chosen by the RECF. The finalist submissions will then be judged by selected professionals who will determine the Autodesk Sustainable Design Challenge Award. Evaluation
  • 20 Points: Robot design and function: To what degree does the robot meet the requirement of being used for sustainability purposes? Is the design efficient, simple, and elegant using as few materials as possible? Can it be easily disassembled, repaired, and recycled? Does it incorporate features to reduce non-renewable energy use?
  • 20 Points: Does the design work show a high level of knowledge and skill using Autodesk design software? Excellence in use of Autodesk software is a key criterion of the submitted design.
  • 10 Points: Brainstorming and Design Process Documentation: Do the renderings do a good job of presenting the design?
  • 10 Points: Written description of the robot: Judged on clarity, thoroughness and design process and description of its use.
  • 10 Points: Overview images: Quality of the isometric images of the front, back, side and top of robot
  • 10 Points: Assemblies: Images that illustrate the key assemblies making up your finished robot design
  • 10 Points: Part Documentation: images that illustrate the design progression of a key significant part of your robot and how you built from sketch to the completed part
  • 10 Points: Is the video informative, interesting, and less than or equal to 60 seconds long?

Deadline Information

Current time:
Thu, Jun 20, 2024 7:04 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