in Technology

Competitions, Tech Fairs, and Maker Fests for Inventors and Robotics Hobbyists

Making and inventing are great ways for families to bond. They can work to solve problems and develop prototypes, or see the work of others in action. As robotics and making increases in popularity, so do the opportunities to see the work of others and showcase local inventors.

Below, we’ve found 20 such amazing opportunities. With National Robotics Week coming up,  these events will give your child a chance to see inventions and robots in action!  

Robofest at Lawrence Technological University

Robofest is a competition in Michigan for students to build autonomous robots that aren’t remote controlled. There are multiple events created around Robofest, including a conference, carnival, exhibition, and a parade. Teams compete in either the younger bracket (grades 5-8) or older bracket (grades 9-12), while all students can participate in the RoboParade.

Since its founding in 2000, more than 20,000 students have participated in Robofest coming from 14 states and more than 17 countries.

ArtPrize Robotics Parade

Last fall, the ArtPrize Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan hosted a robotics parade with creations from FIRST Robotics by high school students across the area. Twelve robots were featured from 10 schools, and the parade was followed by a keynote speech on the importance of art and science as one. Check back to see this year’s competition and possibly submit an entry of your own!

RVA MakerFest

Based in the Science Museum of Virginia, RVA MakerFest takes place each year in October and is free for families to attend. Makers, robotics hobbyists, and engineers can show off their creations to the general public or lead hands-on activities. From glassblowing to 3D printing, there’s something for everyone who has an interest in creative thinking or STEAM.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and serves as the headquarters of the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition. Over the past 25 years, the organization has awarded $1 million to 183 inventors. It has clubs and camps for younger inventors so they can start brainstorming their plans for the collegiate level. Even viewing past inventions can inspire families to create something unique.

Edison Fairs

Southwest Florida K–12 students are welcome to submit their best ideas and creations to the annual Edison Inventors Fair, which takes place each January in Ft. Myers. Winners will go on to compete nationally in the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS). Edison Fairs takes pride in encouraging students to learn and boost their self-esteem by presenting their ideas.

Florida residents can either submit their inventions or visit the fair with their families to see what the next generation of innovators is cooking up.

Post Bulletin Inventors Fair

Each spring, The Post Bulletin of Rochester, Minnesota, hosts an inventors fair for students through grade 12 who live within the Post Bulletin delivery area. Participants are judged by grades group, and parents are able to help — but discouraged from offering too much assistance.

Judges will visit each inventor and ask to see a demonstration. They might ask follow-up questions to understand the value and functions of the invention as well. Cash prizes are awarded to the highest-rated inventions as well as the most popular inventions voted by the general public.

Cloquet Kids Inventor’s Fair

Funded by the Cloquet Educational Foundation, the Cloquet Kids Inventor’s Fair in Minnesota was founded in 2016 after the Minnesota Inventor’s Program ended its sponsorship. The community came together and invited local students to present their inventions to about 16 local judges and friends and family. This fair is quickly growing into an annual event, with more than 150 fourth- and fifth-grade students presenting almost 80 inventions in 2017.

Robot Day at The Works Museum

During April, young robot enthusiasts and their families visit The Works Museum in Bloomington, Minnesota for Robot Day. About a dozen presenters discuss concepts related to robots and teach kids the basics of robot building and commands.      

The InVenture Prize at Georgia Tech

The InVenture Prize at Georgia Tech was started by professors to engage students in creating innovative creations and sharing their ideas. This is actually a televised competition that local residents are able to attend. Since its rise in popularity, Georgia Tech has launched a K–12 contest to engage students from more than 60 local schools who want to enter.  

Atlanta Robot Rally

If you live in Atlanta and want to explore a different side of inventions, join the Atlanta Hobby Robot Club for their annual Robot Rally. The organization has regular practices and works on robots throughout the year to prepare for its annual showcase at the Pinckneyville Community Center, typically in November.  

The event gets bigger each year as interest in robots expands and the robot club grows its following. Check out some of the contests and competitions they have this year or join their Facebook group to see past winners.

The National Museum of Education

The National Museum of Education displays student inventions in its National Gallery for America’s Young Inventors. It is also home to the country’s largest invention competition, Student Ideas for a Better America, which runs throughout the year and awards monthly cash prizes for top ideas.

Inventors in grades K–12 who have competed locally or who are proud of their inventions can submit their projects for the hall of fame, where they will be on display to museum visitors and members of the general public. This museum is a great place to stop if you happen to be in Akron, Ohio or if you want to see your invention in a museum.   

ExploraVision

Sponsored by Toshiba Innovations, ExploraVision encourages parents to work with their kids to create unique projects and solve problems in their communities. Regional competitions take place around the country, so families who don’t enter can look at the inventions and creations of others. Projects are grouped by grade level, so students in K–3 or 4–6 won’t compete with older students.

Make48

What could you make if you only had two days? If you think your family has what it takes to draft and execute an idea, consider signing up for Make48. The 48-hour invent-a-thon weekend sees teams creating prototypes and present them to a series of judges. The top three teams actually get a license agreement and the opportunity for their products to go to market.

Teams of two to four people can sign up, and the team captain must be older than 18. Only 12 teams are selected. This competition airs like a documentary series, so even if you don’t compete you can watch the maker process in action.

UO Science Fair

Each March, the University of Oregon hosts a Science and Invention Fair for students in grades K–5 and 6–12. The university provides workshops with local schools to prepare them for the fair and stir their curiosity in creating something exciting. One organization, S.P.I.C.E (Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence), works with girls in the area and helps them collaborate in teams to enter (and hopefully win) the competition.

SRS Robothon

The Seattle Robotics Society is the main creator of the annual Robothon, which hosts competitions, events, and activities for the general public at the Seattle Center Armory. People are welcome to participate locally or from across the country, and are also invited to spend the day seeing homemade robots in action and competing to finish various tasks.

Valleyfest Robotics, Drones, and STEM Showcase

Valleyfest in Spokane Valley, Washington, hosts a Robotics, Drones, and STEM Showcase, so keep an eye out for the next one in September. This family event encourages kids and adults to engage with robots and play games using science and technology.

RobotArt

While this competition doesn’t feature robot creation itself, teams are challenged to create art with robotics. In some cases, this might mean developing a robot that uses paint and brushes to create a piece, or using robotics differently to execute their vision. RobotArt offers more than $100,000 in cash prizes to teams.

Last year, there were more than 200 submissions from 38 teams, which were judged by professional art critics, tech professionals, and the general public. You can see submissions from previous years online.

Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC)

More than 5,000 students from across the country participate in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) each year. What started in 2002 as a celebration of the Centennial of Flight has turned into a popular annual program.

Teams compete locally through their schools and the top 100 builders are invited to Washington, D.C. for the National Finals. There is $100,000 in cash prizes and scholarships, and the winning team travels to Europe to compete internationally. Families can enjoy TARC by visiting local competitions or heading to Washington, D.C. in the summer to watch students compete.   

Rube Goldberg Contests

Hosts across the country invite students to create their most innovative Rube Goldberg machine. Every year features a different challenge, like pouring a bowl of cereal or applying a Band-Aid. Keep an eye out for Rube Goldberg contests near you to see these playful creations in action.  

Explore Your Future STEM Showcase

Last summer, the COA Youth & Family Centers in Milwaukee hosted the Kohl’s Explore Your Future STEM Showcase, which saw more than 125 local students compete in challenges to solve physics and engineering experiments. The winning team used physics to create a design that held a person’s weight using just seven paper drinking cups.

This showcase keeps children engaged in STEM learning while encouraging the local community to support them. If you live in Wisconsin, keep an eye out for upcoming Showcases.