…from Estonia to China to the globe!
The story of how one small robotics competition evolved into a festival, now being held across the world.
We have just returned from Shanghai with awesome news, and a contract in hand. Apparently, Robotex had been such a fantastic experience for one Chinese team attending in 2016 that they looked us up, hired a translator and asked if they could bring it to China. And they were not even the first ones asking.
By the time they contacted us, we had already been in talks with two other parties from Beijing that also wanted to import the brand. Thus, now there were three, and we had to face them on their turf.
The initial meetings went perfectly. Pick up at the airport. A feast for both lunch and dinner. All while two of the teams left wonderful impressions, and the third one did not bother to pick up the phone.
This truly shows the difference between a wish and an urge to make a difference. Those two, that treated us with all their hospitality, really do want to change the world by bringing STEAM education to everyone.
So now there were two. One that had already been organising RoboRAVE (our partner from the U.S.) events in China. And the other had experience with attending Robotex, while also covering most of China with their robotics workshops.
After the first wonderful trip to China and many long emails, we finally decided to reside with the last one in the game. We simply believe that through the partnership with RoboRAVE we can already access the network of the other party as well. While our new representatives give us a chance to have completely new brains join the quest. Additionally, they showed stronger energy and pushed us more, giving hope that they will help us cover the whole Asian region.
Thus, another trip had to be taken. This time to Shanghai. All for us to show the local teachers and universities that Robotex really does come from Europe and has big plans with China. Plus, we needed to sign the papers…
But the real news is not Robotex going to China.
For those that still remember, Robotex was first organised in 2001 by a group of university professors. They had simply wanted to give the parting engineering students a yearly chance to party. Which really meant that students needed a chance to put their robot building skills to the test against those coming from other institutions.
Meanwhile, the initial organisers also believed that Estonia should be creating ways for more children to enter robotics at the earliest age possible. So they did their best for that to happen.
But 16 years later, Robotex is not organised by the professors, nor the universities anymore. Also, almost every Estonian kindergarten and high school has a robotics club — not to mention universities. All the while, the reach of this event has grown to all age groups. With the youngest robot builder being 4-years-old and the oldest around 65.
One could say that the initial mission has been achieved.
That is why a completely new vision is being built inside the Robotex team.
One that does not solely rely on Estonia anymore, but rather sees it as the perfect example, which to implement elsewhere in the world. One in which STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education still is important, but not the first in the line. One which sees Robotex growing from Europe’s biggest robotics competition to World’s biggest robotics festival. All so we could involve more talent while matching them with companies and investors, so robotics as a field could evolve much further.
And there are people and organisations really pushing this dream.
It so happened, that one of Robotex participants from some years ago found his love towards robotics while attending the event. And is now building the leading robotics company in Estonia. Or should we say the friendliest droid delivering your pizza, Starship.
In fact, earlier this year, Ahti Heinla — one of the founding engineers of Skype, and the CEO of Starship — decided to step in as the largest sponsor for Robotex. Not to help us make the Estonian event bigger. But to make sure Robotex grows outside the boundaries of Estonia, while also taking the lead in advanced robotics competitions. Which is why we are also developing an AI-based robotics competition together with Starship.
The grand vision is not just for Tallinn to host the biggest robotics festival.
The overarching plan is to make Estonia the robotics innovation hub that perhaps (in)directly plays a part in the birth of every robotics company that will ever see the light in the future.
Because there really is nothing else to do in Nordics other than write software and build robots.
That is why we have turned to the idea of franchise events (and robohacks) across the world. With the first such franchise event already successfully held in Cyprus on June 25th of this year. And now, the next one is coming up in China, somewhere in Spring 2018.
However, we are not just looking to have more events, but also to grow the quality of the current ones. Thus, we are looking for partners that would help us organise strong conference(s), workshops, as well as other fun activities bringing together more interesting people and companies.
For example, this year we will be hosting a two-day conference as part of Robotex in Tallinn. This will include topics such as ‘Talents and STEAM — the future of work’; ‘Innovations in space technology — no longer just science fiction’; ‘Ethics in technology — will AI take over the world?’ and ‘The future of Robotics and AI — let’s talk about Deep Tech’.
And, at the end of the day, we still want to host more robots at the event(s). Which is why we have a plan to break the Guinness World Record of most robots under one roof this year. All this, while also becoming the arena for all new robotics companies launching their products in the future. Perhaps, at one point in time, even starting to help them find the initial seed funding.
So, it’s coming. What’s coming? The world, and everything in it. But the question is, who is going to join us this year…
Sander Gansen, Robotex Chief International Officer