Time limit

5 minutes

Control method


Aim of the challenge

Robots will start outside the arena and collect and propel a light wooden ball, 74.3mm in diameter and weighing 114g, attempting to hit a set of 9 wooden “pins”, set approximately 2 inches apart. Each pin is 20.5cm (8″) tall and weighs 150g.

Each robot will attempt to knock down three sets of pins with up to two rolls per set. If the first ball roll knocks down all 9 pins then that finishes that set of pins.

The skittle set we are using was found on eBay.

We recommend that robots have some kind of bumper on the front so that impact with the ball causes no damage to the chassis or other parts of the robot.

Please note: heavy black lines are 64mm in height (2.5″).



Special rules

There will be a foul line almost halfway down the course beyond which no part of the robot is allowed to travel. This prevents the robot being used to push the ball all the way and prevents the robot itself being used to knock down the pins.

The mechanism can extend reasonably beyond the limits of the robot (perhaps exceeding the size category) but must not extend beyond the foul line.

You may pick the ball up using your robot to put it into the ‘correct’ position for bowling or simply push it.

The ball must roll towards the pins rather than being airborne (as fun as that might have been).

You will be allowed to handle your robot after each roll to reset it to the starting position. Resetting can also be achieved via remote control if you wish.

A practice set of pins, and corresponding practice two rolls, are permitted.

Ranking and points

5 points will be awarded for each skittle knocked down.

Additional points:

  • 10 points will be awarded for knocking all 9 pins down with one roll of the ball (i.e. a Strike).
  • 5 points will be awarded for knocking all 9 pins down with two rolls of the ball (i.e. a Spare).


  • Any robot who crosses the “stop line” will forfeit the points for the current roll. However, if the second roll is due, the robot may still use this second roll after resetting the robot, pins and ball.

24 thoughts on “Skittles

  1. Are there any limits to the method of propulsion of the ball ?
    I’m thinking of springs ? (like a bagatelle plunger).
    Or perhaps a cue and actuator ? (Pi snooker anyone)
    How about a pinball style flipper ?
    Push actuator ?
    Air power ?
    Ramp and gravity ?
    Croquet style hammer ? (or a flamingo)

    1. We’ve left it deliberately broad to encourage invention. So, any of those would be fine. Last year we had a double-flywheel that spun up to 90 mph and blasted the ball, for example. We did not expect that. We’re hoping to be surprised 🙂

  2. Next year … how about an autonomous category, using Pi camera for ball identification, collection, pin location, and targeting.

  3. Hi can you tell me what the dimensions of the course are please? I am unable to distinguish them on the photo. Thanks.

  4. Hi, one of our students was asking if it we could have some external device to push up against? For example, when collecting the ball you could push into this device (it could be as simple as a heavy brick that doesn’t move), moving the ball into position, rather than have the robot scoop the ball into itself?

    1. Hi. We won’t add anything to the course specifically for this as we’d need to keep removing it for anyone who didn’t want it. HOWEVER, you can push the ball up against the “wall” that is next to the ball in the diagram. (You have to start in the position indicated, but where you go from there is up to you!) That should keep the ball steady enough to scoop. Does that make sense, and is that good enough for your team’s purpose?

  5. “You will be allowed to handle your robot after each roll to reset it to the starting position. ” – Can this include handling the robot to reset the ball firing mechanism, or does it only allow resetting the physical location of the robot? (Should have read the rules more carefully earlier!!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.