MADE 2021 Rescue Robot Challenge

Rescheduled to October 22 8:00am-4:00pm

The Historic Morganton Festival, Inc. is excited to announce the dates of the Fall 2021 Morganton Arts Design and Engineering (MADE) Competition. After two successful fall team competitions and one spring individual competition, MADE is coming back to downtown Morganton on Friday, October 22 from 8:00am-4:00pm. Originally scheduled for September 10-11 during the Morganton Festival Weekends, MADE was rescheduled to October 22 due to the cancellation of the Festival Weekends. Area Middle and High School students will compete over the two days in the “Rescue Robot Challenge”, an on site engineering and design challenge.

MADE is one of the most successful collaborations between education and industry partners and it gives Burke County students a chance to experience STEAM-based activities that build skills relevant to many of the area industries. MADE encourages students to think outside of the box and engages participants in critical thinking, design, engineering and innovation.

The Fall 2021 Rescue Robot Challenge is now taking entry forms with a total of 15 school team spots available (4 students max per team). In order to reserve your space, please contact Abby Nelson at or 828-438-5280. Spaces are limited and are first come, first serve. 

Prize packages for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in both middle and high school divisions will be awarded including over $3,000 going directly to technology education. In addition to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes, each school that signs up will receive a $250 stipend to go toward their competition entries. 

The Fall 2021 competition is generously supported by Work in Burke, City of Morganton, Burke County Public Schools, and TOSS. Now’s the time to join the challenge! 

M.A.D.E. Challenge

This year’s MADE competition will be an on site challenge where competing teams will bring a machine that they feel will put their team in a position to compete. This bot will be each team’s prebuilt answer to the criteria of the engineering challenge presented below. 

This year’s competitors must build a remotely controlled machine that will retrieve items that need to be “rescued” and returned to a safety area within the timeframe allocated. The test rig will be a series of connected platforms with different “terrain” and obstacles that must be overcome to get to the items of interest.

General Information and Expectations

  • Teams will build and bring a machine that they feel will satisfy the constraints and will complete the challenge in a timely manner.
  • Teams will be allowed to practice, adjust and tweak their machine to better match the physical on site testing rig.
  • Teams will be allowed to bring any style of machine/ robot as long as it is of their own construction. It is generally expected that most teams will use a VEX style platform. It is recommended that teams start off with a driver controlled “Clawbot”. Similar arduino builds are also acceptable. A manufacturer built machine/bot will not be allowed.
  • Machines will have general size criteria given closer to the challenge reveal but they will be similar to the size constraints of a standard Vex Clawbot. 
  • The testing rig dimensions and plans will be distributed to all teams by the end of June. This will include a detailed video as well as the opportunity for team sponsor/ team members to come see the physical rig itself. 
  • Each team will need a “spotter” that will be in charge of giving voice directions when the bot is out of view of the driver.. 
  • Teams will earn points for the rescued items. The items will have different point values depending on size, shape and difficulty of access. 
  • Teams that return the most points to the safe zone within the allotted time will win. In the case of a point tie, the faster team will win.

General Test Rig Constraints/Descriptions

  • The testing rig will consist of 3 platforms connected by ramps of varying angles. Each platform will loosely be based on 4 x 8 sheets of plywood. 
  • There will be static and movable obstacles on each platform.
  • Ground clearance will be an issue in certain areas.
  • The rescue items will be of different shape and size revealed on site.
  • The rescue items will be located at different heights from the platform surfaces. 
  • Certain parts of the rig will be obscured from view from the driving area.

Loose Machine/Bot Constraints

  • There will be a size constraint of the machine when it begins. It will have to fit in a box of a certain size. The idea being this is a product that can be shipped to a rescue site quickly.
  • Bots can expand (by themselves) from that initial size in order to complete the challenge.
  • You can create carriers to place the rescued items in but it must be brought in and out of the field by the bot.
  • Bots can be designed to carry several rescued items or just one and travel back and forth.
  • Bots that expand after starting DO NOT have to contract back to the original form at the end of the timed event.

On Site Supplies

  • It is expected that all groups show up with a working bot. As always, things will need adjustment and the on site supplies are designed for that. There will not be enough materials for full rebuilds 
  • Basic Vex materials will be on site. This includes basic metal pieces as well as nuts and bolts.
  • Electrical outlets will be there for battery charging and computer use.
  • 3-D printers will be available for small prints and will be used on a first come first serve basis.
  • Basic tools- pliers, screwdrivers, hex tools, hacksaws, bandsaw
  • Random wood and metal pieces.

What You Bring

  • Your machine, tools, parts, computers and software.
  • The action camera/cameras and associated viewing devices and software
  • A good attitude.

Team members

  • Each team will consist of a maximum of 4 members and a teacher/supervisor who will help facilitate safety and time schedules.
  • Each team member must be present for safety instruction at the beginning of the competition.

Interested? Next Steps

  • Sign up with the forms below to reserve your place. 
  • The spots will be first come first served
  • You can reserve your team spot even if you do not have all team members lined up yet. There will be a deadline on team member names and if there is not a submission your spot will be given to the next team in line. 
  • Start brainstorming and building with your team!

The Official 2021 M.A.D.E. Design Brief will be delivered by the end of June. This will include the final rules for the bot build as well as specific measurements of the platform and associated materials. This will include a detailed video of the final test bed.

Save the date for MADE 2022- September 9-10, 2022

*Please note that details may change as the testing site is built. All teams will be notified in advance of changes to the challenge.

Robot Design Brief


Teams will bring a ready to run basic clawbot in order to complete the given task.

The Task

Your team will work together to use your bot to retrieve items from the course and return them to “safety” within the time allotted. 

The Bot

It is expected that each team will show up with a basic Vex Clawbot in some form or another. The bot should be able to fit into a 18” cube. You can modify the size, shape or workings of the bot once you are on site and checked in. Basic Vex materials will be provided including structural members and motion pieces. There will also be a random materials pile that you can utilize. You are welcome to bring your own spare parts if you choose to. All modifications must be done using only the parts provided by the competition.

A very basic clawbot example is shown in the video below.

*****No Vision Sensors Allowed*****

Testing and Modifying

The idea is that a basic clawbot can compete as is with no modifications. The most important part of this challenge is the game strategy. Items will have different point values and be placed in a variety of places. Teams will take turns testing their bots and strategies on a rotating basis. The testing rigs will be hidden from all teams except the team testing. This is to ensure that teams come up with their own unique strategies. Any team or team associate (Coaches, parents etc) found peeking in on other teams during their testing time will be penalized in the final task by losing time. Honesty and integrity are expected norms in order to produce a fair result that truly shows the efforts and skills of each team.

If you miss your assigned testing time due to any reason you will be skipped and the next team will be able to use your time. Time on the platform for testing will be at a premium.

You may modify your clawbot in size, shape and function once you see the testing areas. You do not have to change anything about the bot if you feel that the basic machine suits your needs.

Final Runs

All teams get two runs at the end with the best score being the one that counts. 

The Platform

Please watch the video below in order to gain a better understanding of the challenge at hand.

MADE Platform Walk Around

Previous MADE Winners

Spring 2021 Lamp Design Challenge

2019 MADE Junkyard Challenge Winners

2019 High School 1st Place ~ Freedom High School Team 1
First Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge

First Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge

2019 High School 2nd Place ~ Patton High School
a picture of the High School second place winner

Second Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge


2019 High School 3rd Place ~ Super Team
Combination Team made up from all Burke County High Schools

Third Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge – Combination Team made up from all Burke County High Schools


2019 Middle School 1st Place ~ East Burke Middle School Team 2
a picture of the middle School first place winner

First Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge


2019 Middle School 2nd Place ~ East Burke Middle School Team 1
A picture of the Middle School second place winner

Second Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge

2019 Middle School 3rd Place ~ Liberty Middle School
a picture of the middle School third place winner

Third Place Winners of the 2019 M.A.D.E. Junkyard Challenge

2018 MADE “ECO Chair” Challenge Winners

Thank you to all of the 2021 Fall M.A.D.E. Sponsors. This competition would not be possible without your support.

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