Spring 2018 we will launch a robotics challenge. We call our robotics challenge #EcoBot, the first-ever robotics challenge for hybrid soft/rigid robots (10% soft/90% rigid) and with partially recycled parts (10% recycled material). #EcoBot is a fun, dynamic way to promote grass-root engagement in harnessing robotics for social good. Robots will run in an obstacle course inspired by the DARPA robotics challenge.

Date, time and place for #EcoBot is TBD. Inquire by email to decathlon@cypher-international.org. Studica and Cagebot can take care of your robotics kit needs.

Technical Details and #EcoBot Application. To be released in early 2018.

Target Number of Members Per Team. Each team will be capped at 8 members. 




  • Applicants must be 12-18 years old. 
  • Teams should have between 4-8 members.


GRAND PRIZE & awards 

Obstacle course performance will be scored, and the best score will earn the grand prize: a cash award. A variety of other non-cash prizes will also be awarded. Details, terms, and conditions of grand prize subject to change.  


NOTE WELL: CYPHER reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to change, modify, add, or remove details related to its robotics challenge ("#EcoBot"). It is your responsibility to check this site periodically for changes.

designing your #ecobot

Follow our 3-step approach, which we call nexus solution-making, to end up with an #EcoBot! Nexus solution-making helps you develop your ability for nexus thinking and design thinking. Our approach helps you identify a problem where food-energy-water systems overlap, develop a solution that people will use, and find the right robot technology to make your solution accessible.

Through the design and function of your #EcoBot, nexus solution-making also enables you to tell a story about how climate change is impacting your community. Everyone likes a background story!




Apply nexus thinking here to understand a problem right where systems overlap. Nexus thinking is a way of thinking that accounts for how systems--particularly food, energy, and water systems--are interconnected, as opposed to disconnected; it is a key problem-solving approach in the era of climate change and 'information and communication technology' (ICT).

a. Identify a specific problem related to the intersection of the food system and energy system and water system in your community, also known as the food, energy, and water nexus (FEWS nexus).

b. Understand the nature of the nexus problem in your community. What are the root causes of the problem? How are these root causes related to food, energy, and water? What were the barriers that prevented other innovators from succeeding in addressing these root causes before?

Example: Farmers in my beach community are closing down their farms because they can't grow enough product to sell. The five summers of extreme heat wave has made access to water a major problem. Fruits and vegetables are wilting and rotting in the fields. Past efforts to drill for water and desalinate sea water have failed because of the cost associated with them. Finding a way to bring more water in to my community would improve the lives of thousands of families and hundreds of farmers.



Apply design thinking here to make sure your solution will be used by ordinary people. Design thinking ("human-centered" design) is an approach to problem-solving that pays close attention to the needs and motivations of regular people, who are the end-users. If we solve complex problems without design that ensures people will use our solutions, then our solutions will not be adopted, and we will not have solved the problem, at all.

a. Based on your understanding of the nexus problem and its root causes, find a solution that directly addresses a root cause or an aspect of the problem prominent in your community. 

b. Optimize the input of your team members by integrating new ideas that refine good ideas into great ideas.

Example: Indigenous peoples used to hang fur on trees to gather water from the fog that rolls in every morning and night; they came up with a way to collect the water and store them in wooden containers, which also were used to collect rain water. They used the water to irrigate their farms and meet the daily water needs of their households. This local knowledge deserves to be reconsidered; it could be scaled up if I could find a material that is more effective than fur to gather water from fog. I read that a group of scientists in ABC University published a list of hydrophilic materials. If a few of these materials are affordable to access and then put together, I might be able to collect water from fog in higher quantity.
Resource for real-world grass-root CleanTech: UNFCCC ICT



Apply design thinking once more to make sure you pick the right technology that enhances the likelihood that ordinary people will adopt your nexus solution or innovation.

a. Figure out how automation best serves your nexus solution.

b. What kind of #EcoBot (hybrid/soft/rigid robot with recycled materials)  will make sense for the automation of your solution? What part will be made of soft material? Of recycled material?

c. How will your #EcoBot empower your local community to take action together and policy-makers to take notice? 

Example: If I could develop a water collection kit that is made up of hydrophilic materials and includes a sensor that measures the amount of water each user collects each day, I could inspire my community to start collecting water from fog in a way that is coordinated. The sensors could be networked via a mobile app that tracks how much water is being collected from where and which direction so everyone with the kit could position their water collection kits optimally. We could store and manage the data collected by networked sensors to better strategize as a community where to position our water collection rigs. Every step appropriate for automation will have a robot doing the work.



Fill-out the #EcoBot application form and email to decathlon@cypher-international.org by a deadline to be determined soon.


Battle other robots in the #EcoBot Obstacle Course. Your robot design and performance will be scored by a panel of judges. 


1. Weightlifting Event

Pick up 1 pound of eggs at floor level. Each broken egg constitutes a point deduction. Human assistance eliminates score.


2. Linked Incline Event

Go up a ramp, cross a bridge, go down a ramp. Both inclines are 15 degrees. A bypass is available.


3. Surprise Challenge

Opt out available.


4. Seeking Event

Follow a specified path. Event could include walls and/or a line to follow on the floor.


5. Balancing Event

Traverse an uneven or littered terrain.  A bypass is available.


6. jarvis challenge

Deliver eggs to a height of 3 feet and unload them into a tray. Each broken egg constitutes a point deduction. Option to deliver at floor level leads to lower points.


Cagebot & #cypherBot

In partnership with Cagebot, we are building a special robot we fondly call #cypherBot. We're dreaming of a developer's edition so you, too, could work alongside us! For more info on Cagebot, or to order your own Cagebot, visit www.cagebot.com.