Marion-Based National Robotics Challenge Prepares Students for Careers of Tomorrow


As America’s Workforce Development Capital, Marion is dedicated to connecting businesses with quality workforce solutions while preparing local talent for the careers of tomorrow. One way Marion does this is by hosting the National Robotics Challenge (NRC) — an annual competition for young engineers with an interest in robotics.

Since 1986, the NRC has been cultivating budding engineers by making robotics fun, affordable and educational. Hosted in cooperation with the Marion-based Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Training Collaborative (RAMTEC), the competition is designed to help students from third grade through graduate school explore their passion for engineering.

“Last year alone, the event brought more than 1,400 participants from across the country to Marion,” said Rich Ramey, RAMTEC’s engineering coordinator. “The competition’s structure allows students to pursue and explore their interests over time while connecting students of all ages and experience levels that can inspire and encourage them.”

With low entry fees and no equipment requirements, the NRC aims to remove participation barriers while allowing students to invest in their own creations. The Challenge also encourages problem solving by challenging students to decipher complex situations and develop unique solutions through personal research.

“Engineering isn’t about taking the same parts as someone else and changing how they’re put together — it’s about problem solving,” said Tad Douce, Director of Events for the NRC. “We really try to encourage that mindset in our participants.”

This year, the event features more than 11 different open source robotics contests with names such as Sumo Robots, IoT, Autonomous Vehicles, Robot Maze, Robotic Workcells, Robo Hockey and Combat Robot.

“Students often don’t know the specific tasks their robot will be asked to complete until they attend the competition,” said Ramey. “Because of this, they have to build robots that can adapt to a variety of situations. For example, last year we had robots that could do everything from climb stairs to flip pancakes.”

Local companies like Honda, MTD, RobotWorx and Whirlpool provide judges, booths and funding for the event in search of budding engineering talent.

“I love how involved our community employers have become,” said Ramey. “There are people who come every year to judge the competition because they love seeing students pursue a topic that they’re interested in.”

The 2019 Annual National Robotics Challenge is open to the general public and will take place at the Marion County Fairgrounds on April 11-13. Lt. Governor Jon Husted will be speaking at the April 13th awards ceremony and helping present the Dr. James Hannemann Leadership and Service Award.

To learn more about the National Robotics Challenge, visit