AWS Public Sector Blog

Students across Arizona participate in a statewide robotics hackathon

Photo courtesy Grace Lieberman, The State Press

Photo courtesy Grace Lieberman, The State Press

In collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and NVIDIA, Arizona State University (ASU) hosted its first-ever robotics hackathon. At the Arizona Robo Hackathon, 64 undergraduate and graduate students across seven institutions came together to compete in an Arizona statewide competition hosted on AWS.

Inside the Hackathon

Students formed 15 teams and spent the weekend competing in four missions:

  1. Assemble a SparkFun JetBot AI Kit powered by NVIDIA Jetson Nano
  2. Bring the NVIDIA JetBot to life and make it spin on its own
  3. Have the NVIDIA JetBot autonomously navigate a LEGO track
  4. Design, develop, and deploy new capabilities to the NVIDIA JetBot using the AWS Cloud

By the end of the hackathon, students successfully applied their knowledge of computer science, engineering, and programming skills in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) application development. The first-place team, Light Speed, showcased an NVIDIA JetBot that navigated a LEGO track in under 10 seconds and could recognize and locate a picture of Jeff Bezos. Their solution used technologies like Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an Amazon SageMaker Jupyter notebook powered by Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), and AWS RoboMaker. Light Speed team members Christopher Harsh, Riley Tallman, Shabab Siddique, Tyriq Hayes, and Xina Tang won a $5,000 prize. The second-place team received a prize of $2,500 and the third-place team received a prize of $1,000.

“It’s amazing to see what students accomplished in a single weekend,” said John Rome, Deputy CIO at Arizona State University. “In addition to robot assembly, students leveraged the AWS Cloud to give their robots new capabilities, like identifying objects, spelling words, and even singing classic rock songs. It was great that the AWS team and NVIDIA team supported students throughout the weekend – including nights with no sleep – providing expertise through technical training sessions, encouragement, and mentorship.”

AWS and NVIDIA sponsored the event, donating the time of several solutions architects, engineers, and program managers. These stakeholders led pre-hackathon training sessions on AWS Cloud basics, Python, Amazon SageMaker, Robot Operating System (ROS), AWS RoboMaker, and NVIDIA JetBot assembly. Students also signed up for AWS Educate, Amazon’s global initiative that provides students and educators with the resources needed to accelerate cloud-related learning.

“We worked hard throughout the hackathon, but it was worth it. We enjoyed applying machine learning on AWS to the NVIDIA JetBot and it was rewarding to show it off moving intelligently in real space,” said Christopher Harsh, a student at ASU and member of Light Speed.

Interested in hosting a robotics hackathon at your institution? Contact

ASU Robo Hackathon. Photo courtesy Erika Gronek, ASU

Arizona Robo Hackathon. Photo courtesy Erika Gronek, ASU

Arizona Robo Hackathon; photo courtesy Erika Gronek, ASU

Arizona Robo Hackathon. Photo courtesy Erika Gronek, ASU