denkbots presents R3bots

Hello combots friends!

Here at denkbots we believe STEM education is for everyone.  We think one of the most effective tools for immersive STEM education is robotic competition.  That is why we are proud to present R3bots!


R3bots (Reduce, Reuse, destroy Robots) is a combat robotics education program that challenges builders of all ages to build three (3) lbs, beetle weight, combots from eTrash.


The guiding principle of this program is that we should own our technology:  If we don’t understand our technology, we don’t truly own it.

As technology rapidly advances, each generation is slowly losing the ability to understand the underlying concepts this technology runs on, or troubleshoot and fix the technology around them, causing them to spend precious resources on replacing the technology around them wholesale.  This idea, that if our technology breaks we simply buy new technology, has been described as a “throw-away” culture of convenience in our society.

The rate of functional obsolesce is increasing quickly and everyone has old printers, DVD players, computers, and other electronics sitting in a closet in their house.  Organizations of all size are constantly replacing out-dated technology for newer and more efficient products.

This eTrash is a growing issue across the world; eTrash contains lead and other heavy metals, which negatively affects the environment, like your drinking water.

One way to combat this problem is to educate people on the technology they use everyday; technology which is the foundation of our modern society.  This can be accomplished through STEM education programs, but many of these are cost prohibitive for the communities most adversely affected by the cost of constantly replacing our technology: The middle class and working poor across the world.

reduce, reuse, destroy

Our solution to the issues of eTrash, “throw-away” culture, and costly STEM education programs is to build combots using the following process:

  • reduce
    • Collect this eTrash
      • Reduces the amount making its way into landfills and removes clutter from homes
  • reuse
    • Harvest the functional components
      • Educates participants on how the core components work
    • Reuse those components to build combots
      • Increases technical literacy and teaches real world skills
  • destroy
    • Compete with other builders
      • This builds community and develops critical soft skills

Anyone can follow this simple method to create a “rebot” and use it to compete in their local community which connects builders and empowers them to share ideas, knowledge, and skills; Building a network of like minded problem solvers that might just be inspired to work together to solve other problems in their community.


denkbots present R3bots


Below is an example implementation of R3bots as week long camp for high school students.

Before the camp, facilitators will ask the community to donate eTrash

  • On Day One the class dissects and categorizes parts
    1. Learning how to use tools
    2. Learning about components
    3. Understanding technology
  • On Day Two the class breaks into teams, brainstorms, and then has auction* for components
    1. Learning the design process
    2. Learning team communication and negotiation
    3. Developing strategic planning and resource management
  • On Day Three and Day Four teams build and test their rebots
    1. Learning about basic mechanics
    2. Learning about basic electronics
    3. Developing soft skills around teamwork and leadership
  • On Day Five teams compete** for the <think of cool name for championship trophy>
    1. Learning tenacity
    2. Learning humility
    3. Developing grit

*Auction: Each team gets and equal number of credits and has to budget those credits for parts.
**Competition: Each team will be randomly seeded into a standard double elimination bracket.


Students should keep an “engineering” notebook from start to finish of their project. The engineering notebook should be a graph-ruled composition notebook [example]. This helps students organize their thoughts, understand the design process, track their progress, and capture the experience in a format they can revisit when needed.

Teachers and mentors should encourage students with technical or strategy questions to “figure it out” before giving any answer.  This includes directing students to work through the problem in their notebook (scientific method or design process),  instructing them to “look it up” online, or advising them to “ask other teams” before asking again.  This helps students develop open-ended problem solving skills, grow higher level thinking skills, and build true independence.

Facilitators should award creativity, tenacity, and humility.  Along with the <think of cool name for championship trophy>, students will be competing for the MacGyver Award which recognizes a team for innovative use of a component or novel system design, the Never Give Up, Never Surrender Award which recognizes a team for fighting through unexpected challenges or overwhelming odds, and the Nothing But Love award which recognizes a team for lifting other teams up by sharing resources or knowledge.


  1. R3bots uses the standard Robot Fighting League rules used in the RoboGames unless otherwise stated below
  2. R3bots should only be built from recovered components (or if available to everyone, 3D printed parts).  This includes structural components, locomotion, and weapons
  3. R3bots is about learning, creating, and inspiring. If participants stray from that mission use it as a teaching moment to create a new perception for that participant that inspires them to embrace the mission.


Junkbots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels

denkbots’ combots meta analysis

next steps

We will be running a R3bots pilot program with our high school students this summer and will be posting regular updates on their journey.  As we run through this pilot program we will solidify our suggest program implementation, rules, and resources.

If this concept sparked your curiosity and would like to follow along with our R3bots  please like us on Facebook; follow us on TwitterInstagram, Flickr, and Google+; subscribe on YouTube; and fumble us on Tumblr!

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