Robario Kart: A Speed Boost for STEM Education

Move over Mario, there are some new racers on the track—and they’re not clambering along in an old go-kart. They are operating highly-agile robotic vehicles in an attempt to outwit obstacles, save Princess Peach and cross the finish line first.

Off the track, these racers aren’t your typical video game characters. They’re 175 Central Florida high school students, competing in a Mario Kart-themed “Robario Kart” robotics competition for National Engineers Week.

National Engineers Week

Each year, Lockheed Martin engineers celebrate National Engineers Week by sharing their passion for engineering with local students to encourage their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Through the use of video games and robotics, Lockheed Martin engineers excite and inspire the students to engage in hands-on, team-oriented activities aimed at meeting requirements, managing financial constraints and sharing knowledge, all of which are essential skills in engineering disciplines.  

Why Robotics?

Robots are literally out of this world. From satellite-operated unmanned vehicles to rovers on Mars, robots are changing the way we do things—and they’re making science and technology cool while they’re at it.

Feedback from FIRST Robotics competition participants from 1999 to 2003 proves that robotics increases interest in math and science. In fact, 69 percent of respondents said they had an increased interest in science and technology careers.

Robario Kart Competition

On Thursday, Feb. 21, the 24 student teams gathered at Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control facility in Orlando, Fla., for a Robario Kart showdown. To demonstrate their engineering prowess, the students put their robots to the test, darting in and out of some of Mario’s favorite obstacles. This was no easy feat.

The students were provided only a set of rules and a completion date at the beginning of the project. It was up to them to design, build, and test their robots within the allotted seven week time period before the final competition. Lockheed Martin engineers worked with the teams as mentors to provide answers to technical questions and challenge the students to think about their design decisions, but they were not there to help design and build the actual robots.

Student Quote

On the final competition day, the teams and their robots endured three races before advancing to the Star Cup, or championship round. In the end, it was Ocoee Team 3 who defeated Mario and his friends, saved Princess Peach and went home with the gold trophy.

Following the competition, the Lockheed Martin engineers provided their advice on how they would have attempted to walk away with the Star Cup. Their advice was simple, put more focus on the vehicle’s drive system. With so many obstacles and opponents on the track, the probability of a crash was rather high. However, a fast, maneuverable vehicle would have allowed the driver to separate their robot from the others early on, avoid the congestion at the first turn by the banana peels, and bring the team to victory by snatching up the coins before the others could catch up.