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Adoptabot challenge

Adoptabot challenge 2016

Competition Finale - 16 March 2016
Brunel University, Newton Room
Participants : The Computer Science Department and Secondary Schools

The Adoptabot Challenge is an annual project in which pupils from secondary schools in both the UK and overseas are provided with a finch robot to both programme and develop creative scenarios for the programmed robot to operate in.

The aim of the project is to familiarise secondary school students in years 7 to 13 with introductory Computer Science at University level adopting an enjoyable and exploratory manner in delivery.

The project aims require students to focus on the following tasks:

  • Develop a scenario
  • Produce Design documents
  • Implementation
  • Update wiki
  • Final presentation

The Challenge has its exciting finale on 16th March 2016 where the UK School teams are brought together at Brunel University to present their creative projects for judging by an academic panel. Teams are assessed on the originality of their scenario, coding complexity, and presentation skills as judged on the day and in their wiki web submissions. The winners are each provided with a robot and there are prizes for runners up.

We sincerely thank our sponsors for supporting this exciting project.

Further details on the project including images of the previous 2014 and 2015 Challenge may be viewed on the above tabs.

Adoptabot Challenge 2016


12.45         Adoptabot presentations to be judged

14.15         Judge's deliberation

14.30         Judges decisions to be finalised

14.45         Winner announcement and Award Giving

15.30         Finish.


Our scheme has been extensively piloted and tested by both teachers and pupils alike from Years 7 and 8 to Year 13.

For pupils it offers a fun way to rapidly grasp what coding is about by controlling your own finch robot. Then Adoptabot allows you to develop your programming skills through team-working as you put a finch into a scenario of your own.

For teachers it offers a scalable, flexible, multi-year, platform that is easy to transport and suitable for mixed ability cohorts. Adoptabot does not tie you to using a particular language and as all programmes are held on PC, laptop or Mac, robots can be passed from class to class without time-consuming cache wiping.

For schools, the Adoptobots are cheap, tough and can be used by successive classes without needing to be tied down to ICT suites. And with all power provided via USB there is no need for batteries.


Adoptabot is built around the finch, the little robot developed by Carnegie Mellon University in the United States.

Finches have a ‘beak’ that can change colour, an accelerometer so the orientation is known, IR sensors to detect obstacles, a light sensor, a thermocouple to determine temperature and a buzzer and a speaker so they can talk. So they are pretty cool.

With Adoptabot pupils have to develop their own scenario where as many of the finch’s capabilities are programmed in as possible. In the pilot we had scenarios and sets that could not have been more wildly different – the only limit a team’s imagination.

Another beauty of Adoptabot is that pupils in year seven or eight can see almost immediate results with no prior coding knowledge yet the finch is challenging enough for our undergraduates to use in final-year projects!

In the pilot we had students from years seven to thirteen equally challenged, enthused and engaged. In these days of incredibly tight school budgets that’s an important consideration. And from the teacher’s point of view it means he or she doesn’t have to manage and juggle a variety of different projects. With Adoptabot it’s one almost infinitely adjustable size that can fit all.

Apart from some of our local schools who have Adoptabot undergraduate computer science mentors, support comes primarily via wikis.

Adoptabot is designed to be enjoyed in teams and teams should not only support their members but also be prepared to help outside their group. We strongly suggest an “ask at least two peers, before asking teacher” approach!


Adoptabot has been developed with colleagues from Brunel’s Department of Computer Science and School of Education.

As we teach how to teach on our PG Cert Secondary Education in Computer Science we believe Adoptabot is the best possible introduction to introducing coding post the ICT curriculum changes.

We would expect a mixed ability class to be putting finches through their paces within minutes of set-up. Simply follow our first lesson plan.

The scheme is team-based and we would suggest no more than four or five pupils in each team. One unexpected side-effect of Adoptabot is that it helps teenagers with great computer knowledge but less developed social skills integrate with their classmates.

Just as in the playground where team captains choose the best players, in Adoptabot the skills that may have previously set individuals apart are suddenly immensely valuable. But Adoptabot is carefully constructed so that all team members must learn the basics of programming.

On a practical note the finches are easy to carry from class to class, require no batteries, and do not need to be wiped from session to session.

Support comes primarily via wiki and Adoptabot teams are encouraged to set up their own wiki and become part of a UK-wide Adoptabot community. Access to the wikis apart from read only is only via a email address to avoid safeguarding issues.


Within minutes of plugging your finch into a tablet, laptop or PC you’ll be able to tell it what to do. Congratulations you’ll be writing your first ever computer programme! How cool is that?

As you dig deeper into Adoptabot you’ll be asked as part of a team to come up with an imaginary situation where you make use of as many of the finch’s abilities as possible. Unlike us it can see in the dark and sense temperatures accurately to a fraction of a degree.

It also does not get bored or fed-up with repeating the same things over and over again!

Previous Adoptabot teams have programmed finches to act as “babysitters”, repair crew on space craft working in a vacuum, nuclear power station engineers and as night watchmen able to raise the alarm in burglaries and to spot the earliest sign of fire. So even the sky is not the limit in Adoptabot.

Once your team has decided you’ll need to work together to develop your programme. It’s not a one person job – you’ll all need to work together.


Adoptabot relies heavily on wikis. We ask every team to create their own and we have “how to” guide on Adoptabots own wiki.

We use it for support, FAQ’s and to spread the Adoptabot word! We’ve chose wikis as they can be seen by anyone but can only be edited by authorised editors.