Revision v1.41, Jan. 4, 2002

General Description:

The Atlanta Hobby Robotics Club will hold a household vacuum robot competition at the beginning of each year. The contest objective is to create a task-oriented robot to autonomously vacuum a typical household room. The robot should be able to navigate around ordinary objects without damaging them, while providing a level of cleaning comparable to a manually operated vacuum or good carpet sweeper. Testing will be done in a simulated room, complete with a chair, floor lamp, and speaker-box.

Judging will be based on the quantity of "dirt" that the robot is able to remove from the simulated room. Each robot will be allowed two or more four-minute trials. Scores will be based on the best trial. Robots that return to the start box before the four-minute time limit has expired score a "recharge" bonus.

Prizes will be awarded to the three robots with the best scores.

Statement of Intent


Contest Specifications:

Robot entries should be of reasonable weight and size that by would be manageable by adult members of an average household - about 40lbs. The robot should be able to clean a carpeted area of 64 square feet on one charge.

The simulated room or "arena" will be bounded by four walls, each one 6 inches tall. The walls are made from laminate counter top material antique ivory in color. Small samples available on request. The arena will be fully carpeted with a generic dark gray office carpet. There will be one black touchier style standing floor lamp made by Furio. The lamp will be connected to a simulated outlet by a short electrical cable. There will also be one 1 x 1 x 1.5 -foot box designed to simulate a stereo speaker. Last but not least, there will be a metal folding chair. The folding chair will be beige in color, made by Sampsonite. The chair may have weight added to help it stay in one spot. Click here to see pictures of chair, lamp and drawings of the arena.

Beacons may be installed to help with navigation. Beacons may be active or passive. No more than four beacons will be allowed. Beacons must be placed inside/near the arena in such a way that their removal will not damage the arena itself.

One or more overhead cameras will be installed above the arena to allow for monitoring of the vacuum robot. Lighting of the room will vary, but will probably be fluorescent lights, theater style track-lights, and a few high intensity "camera lights." There may also be trusses around the outside of the arena to hold the camera and lights. Expect flash photography to occur during the competition.

Room pattern storage may be programmed or learned. Optimum scores are given to robots that maximize coverage and minimize overlap during cleaning. An eight by eight square arena will be used for competition trials. No vision and or tracking systems will be required, although any system may be used. Random motion around the test arena will be allowed as long as robots do not damage the lamp, box, chair or walls.

The floor lamp, chair and box (obstacles) will be centered over orange "markers" - robots that push them off of their markers will will be penalized. Spot markers are not visible under the obstacles unless they have been pushed more than inch in any direction, therefore if a marker is visible after a time-trial, the "dirt" weight will be reduced by 20 percent.


There is a $10 registration fee for each robot competitor. Registration deadline is February 1, 2002. Entries received later than February 1, 2002 or entered on the day of the contest cannot be assured of entry. Click here for information on registering.



Scoring is based on four objectively measured factors: coverage, time, weight, and a recharge bonus.

Coverage - as measured by the quantity of "dirt" removed from the contest carpet.

The contest arena will be covered with one half pound of long grain rice prior to each robot trial. Spreading will be done by the judges. Measurement via a scale will take place immediately following each trial. Cups and bags that cannot easily be emptied must be weighed empty before and after each trial.

Scales will measure the "dirt" recovered from the carpet to a resolution of 1/10 of an oz.

Time - faster is better, but no one will be allowed more than 4 minutes per attempt.

Each trial will be timed and no robot will be allowed more than four minutes to pick up dirt within the arena. The timer will be stopped in the case of a robot that has shut down under program control. Please note that judges must be informed in advance that a robot will shut down under program control. Robots that become hung-up or otherwise stalled in one spot will be declared "trapped." Trapped robots score the full four minutes even if they are removed from the arena before that time has elapsed. The time score will be based on the better of two trials.

Robots designed to shut down under program control can score a minimum of one minute for a given trial. Judges must be notified if a robot is programmed for shutdown prior to the four minute mark. Robots that are still cleaning the carpet after four minutes must be immediately deactivated and removed from the maze in order to maintain fairness in weighing the "dirt."

Weight - lighter is better, since home-use robots must be carried up/down stairs

Robots will each be weighed once before the contest starts. The weight will include all dust bags/cups and batteries required to complete a single trial. Due to the scoring method, a minimum weight of 2 lbs. will used to calculate the score of all robots weighing 2 lbs. or less.

Bonus - given if robot can self-recharge by locating a charging station or power socket

Robots must leave and subsequently navigate back to the start box to score a recharge bonus. The robot must touch or be within the start-box border with the vacuum stopped in order to score a bonus. The recharge bonus will be worth 8 times the weight of the rice picked up.

Penalty - robots must not push or move objects in a room

Each time an obstacle is moved off its "mark" by a robot the robot will be penalized. The penalty will amount to a 20 percent reduction in the "dirt" weight used to calculate the score. A robot can only be penalized once per obstacle per time trial i.e. a robot will not be penalized twice for moving the same obstacle two times in the same time trial. Penalities are additive: the maximum penalty for moving all obstacles is 60 percent.

The contest arena:

Construction restrictions and safety issues


The following formula will be used to score the robots in the contest: (all weights in decimal ounces.)

Recharge Bonus = dirt weight oz. * 8

Score =
dirt weight oz. * 480
dirt weight oz. * 256
(dirt weight oz. * dirt weight oz.)
Recharge Bonus
Time Sec
robot weight oz.

The recharge bonus will be calculated for robots that return to the starting box. Robots that do not qualify for the recharge bonus will not have the last factor (recharge bonus) added to the score.

Note: The dirt weight used in the formula is reduced by any penalties imposed on the robot during the time-trial.

Click here to use a JavaScript score calculator and see how well your robot may perform.


The contest judges reserve the right to disqualify any robot for subversion of the rules or intent of this contest. Judges have the final word in interpreting the contest rules.

Contest Prizes

Prizes will be awarded for First, Second and Third Place entries. Planned prize awards will be posted on the web pages.

Special Awards

Entries to the Vacuum Competition are eligible for the AHRC Robot Rally 2002 Special Awards. Achievements in robot building will be recognized with awards for the Coolest Bot, Most Original and Technical Innovation. The judging committee will make selection of the awards with consideration given to the age of the robot builder.

Video Tape

The Atlanta Hobby Robot Club reserves the right to Video Tape and offer for sale any portion or all of the contest or program.

For more info contact the Atlanta Hobby Robot Club, SciTrek Science and Technology Museum or
contact AHRC at