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  1. Introduction
  2. Treatment Area
  3. Operation Overview
  4. Operation Rules
  5. Technical Specificaitons
  6. Event
  7. Awards


Nanorobots, a hundred times smaller than a human hair, are currently being developed in research labs around the world for eventual use in the diagnosis and treatment of many medical conditions. By navigating through the body using magnetic fields they can target only the sites where treatment is needed thus reducing the exposure of healthy cells to drugs and radiation.

Figure 1.1 – Nanorobot under the microscope (Credit: Polytechnic Montréal)

The theme this year was inspired by the research of Dr. Sylvain Martel of the Polytechnique Montreal into nanorobots and their use in Cancer treatment which has earned their lab international recognition. [Fig 1.1]

In this video Dean Kamen, founder of the FIRST Robotics Competition, pays a visit to Dr. Sangheeta Bhatia and Jeff van Moulton, researchers at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

NanoDose, the 2019 BetaBots challenge, simulates the actions of these nanobots. In this challenge students must build (at a slightly larger scale!) robots that effectively and quickly deliver nanoparticles to target cells in the treatment area throughout a series of operations. The more particles that are delivered and bound to the cell, the higher the chance that the treatment will be successful.

The BetaBots challenge is intended as a learning vehicle for FIRST robotics teams, where students develop their skills and apply their knowledge in a low-stress, fun environment, in preparation for the upcoming FIRST Robotics Competition season. To this end the BetaBots team would like to encourage teams to prioritize student involvement during the strategizing, designing, building, and competing phases.

Treatment Area

Figure 2.1 – The Treatment Area

Each operation takes place in the treatment area [Fig 2–1], a 14′ x 38′ carpeted field divided along most of its length into two narrow capillaries. In the middle of the treatment area are three target cells, each with multiple receptor locations. Robots must carry a therapeutic particle, balanced on a sterile plate, from the access port to one of the cells’ receptors. The farther the cell is from the access port, the more points the team will receive. At the end of the operation, the more particles that have bound to a cell, the higher the chance teams will receive bonus points.

As always, teams should consult the Field Drawings, as well as the Operation Rules and the Technical Specifications below, for full details on specific game elements and their usage.

2.1 Access Ports

The Access Ports are 6′ x 6′ areas at the start of each Capillary where teams load their Particles onto their robot. Robots begin the match in the Access Port, and receive a bonus for returning to the Access Port before the match ends.

2.2 Particles

Teams start with 10 capsule-shaped Particles [Fig 2–2], one of which is pre-loaded onto their robot’s Sterile Plate. Additional particles can be earned through Autonomous Bonuses. Particles are stored on the Particle Stand next to the Access Port.

Figure 2.2 – Typical Particle dimensions

2.3 Particle Manipulator

Human players place Particles onto their robots using a Particle Manipulator. In order to meet their specific needs, each team may design their own, however, a generic Manipulator is provided [Fig 2–3] at the competition.

Generic Particle Manipulator
Figure 2.3 – A generic Particle Manipulator

2.4 Cells

Within the Treatment Area are three Cells, numbered 1 to 3, each with a number of Receptor locations. The farther a Cell is from the Access Port, the more its Receptors are worth. The more Particles the teams bind to Receptors, the more likely the treatment will be successful.

2.5 Collision Detectors

The exterior walls of the Treatment Area are equipped with Collision Detectors. Knocking these over may adversely affect your team’s performance.

Operation Overview

  • Each operation lasts 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The operation begins with a 15 second Autonomous Period (Auto) where teams can earn extra Particles, followed by a 135 second Teleoperated Period (Teleop).

  • Robots begin each operation entirely within their Access Port, pre-loaded with one Particle. Teams may not bring devices (e.g. tape measures, squares) to assist the placement of their robots in the Access Port.

  • During the operation, robots carry Particles from the Access Port to bind to Receptors on the Cells.

  • The effectiveness of the operation is evaluated, once the Treatment Area has come to rest.

3.1 Autonomous Bonus

  • If a team successfully binds a Particle to a Receptor during Auto, then they are awarded extra Particles based on the Cell ’s location. A delivery to:
    • Cell 1 (Pink) awards 1 additional Particle,
    • Cell 2 (Blue) awards 2 additional Particles, and
    • Cell 3 (Purple) awards 3 additional Particles.

3.2 Evaluation

  • Operation Points (MP) are scored during an operation. The team with the most MP wins that operation.

    • 1 MP is scored for every Particle bound to a Cell 1 Receptor.
    • 2 MP are scored for every Particle bound to a Cell 2 Receptor.
    • 3 MP are scored for every Particle bound to a Cell 3 Receptor.
    • 2 MP are scored if the robot finishes the Operation entirely in the Access Port.
  • Ranking Points (RP) determine a team’s overall classification during the qualifying round, and determine which teams proceed to the playoff rounds.

    • 2 RP are awarded for a win, 1 RP for a tie, and 0 RP for a loss.
    • 1 RP is awarded for each Cell that has been successfully treated. To determine if a treatment has been successful, a six-sided die [Fig 3–2] is rolled for each Cell. If the number rolled is less than the combined total number of bound Particles, then each team with at least one Particle in that Cell will receive a Ranking Point [Table 3–2].
  • Note: the Purple die is modified to show the following values: 1,2,2,3,3,4. This alters the chances of earning a Ranking Point for Cell 3.

Figure 3.1 – Dice used to determine treatment success at each Cell

Operation Rules

  1. Keep Particles Sterile. Particles can only touch the single Sterile Plate mounted onto a team’s robot, otherwise they are considered contaminated and are out of play. Additionally, Particles not properly bound to Receptors are also out of play; they will not be scored.
    • Yellow Card if strategic

    One official Sterile Plate will be provided by the BetaBots organizers; Sterile Plates are nominally 9.25″ diameter flying discs. See Section 5 - Technical Specifications for more details.

  2. Particle Manipulators must be used to load the Particles onto robots’ Sterile Plates. Particles that have come closer than 18″ to humans or have touched the carpet are considered contaminated and are out of play.
    • Yellow Card
  3. Humans: Stay out of the Treatment Area. Drive Teams may not reach over the outer walls during the operation. Human Players have limited, indirect contact with the robots via their Particle Manipulators.
    • Yellow Card
  4. Robots: Reload in the Access Port. Robots must be fully within the infinite vertical projections of the Access Port borders before a Particle may be loaded via human player’s Particle Manipulator.
    • Yellow Card
  5. Robots: Stay in the Treatment Area. Robots may not reach over the outer walls.
    • Disabled
  6. Robots operate in their Access Ports, their Capillary, and the Neutral Zone, but their wheels may not cross into their opponent’s Capillary.
    • If <5 seconds, foul (2pts);
    • If >5 seconds or completely inside the opponent’s Capillary, disabled
  7. Do no harm. Do not damage the carpet, ram the outer walls with the robot, etc.
    • Foul (2pts) for each Collision Detector activated
    • Disabled if 3 or more Detectors are activated in a single operation
  8. Pushing is ok, poking and grappling are not. Initiating deliberate or damaging contact with another robot within its perimeter is not allowed; nor are strategies aimed at damaging other robots.
    • Red Card

    Teams should be cautious when engaging directly with other robots. Robots with mechanisms outside the frame perimeter should be able to withstand legal contact.

  9. Keep pinning to <5 seconds. If a team’s robot is immobilized by another, the referee will begin a five second countdown (5-count). The pinning robot must back away at least five feet from the pinned robot and wait at least three seconds to reset the referee’s 5-count.
    • Foul (2pts)

    Pinning does not require contact between robots; e.g. a robot “blockaded” between an opponent and a field element could be considered pinned if the robot is prevented from any meaningful movement.

  10. Auto means no humans. During the Autonomous Period, Drive Teams may not touch the Driver Station laptop or controls, the Particle Manipulator, or otherwise control the robot.
    • Yellow Card

Technical Specifications

  1. The robot perimeter can be up to 120″. There is no height limit.

    To determine the robot perimeter, wrap a piece of string around the robot (excluding bumpers) at the Bumper Zone described in [R6] and pull it taut. Wheels mounted in cantilever, i.e. outside of the robot frame, must be included in this robot perimeter

    Note: Minor protrusions such as bolt heads, rivets, etc. are excluded.

    Robot perimeter in red
    Figure 5.1 – Perimeter of a robot in red
  2. There is no weight limit. That said, a maximum of two people must be able to safely lift the robot.
  3. Robot mechanisms may extend up to 12″ past the robot perimeter. The Sterile Plates are considered part of the robot and must be inside the 12″ limit
    Robot perimeter extension
    Figure 5.2 – Robot perimeter extension

    In this year’s BetaBots competition, a robot may begin the match outside its robot perimeter; note that this is different from typical FIRST Robotics Competition rules.

  4. Particles contact the Sterile Plate only. Particles may not touch any other part of the robot, this includes fasteners, adhesives, textiles, tape, bumpers, etc.
  5. The Sterile Plate must be the highest component of the robot at all times. Some part of the Sterile Plate must always be above the rest of the robot.
  6. Sterile Plates must be unmodified. Sterile plates must be used in their original, unaltered condition. We suggest using epoxy or double-sided tape to secure it to the robot.
  7. Humans: Keep your distance. Teams may make and use Particle Manipulators of their own design, provided the human players’ hands are no closer than 18″ to the Particle. Teams have the option of using the standard Particle Manipulator provided at the competition.

    Teams should consult the Field Drawings for details about the Particle Manipulator.

  8. Robots must have bumpers. Bumpers must be in the style of the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition bumper rules: using 5″ tall, ¾″ plywood, 2½″ pool noodles, and a fabric covering. Only one set of bumpers is required. Markings and team numbers are optional. Compliant FIRST Robotics Competition bumpers may be reused. Any combination of the following two bumper configurations is allowed:
    • Full-width bumpers covering the entire front and/or rear robot perimeter.
    • Corner bumpers covering at least 6″ from each exposed corner of the robot perimeter.
    Omni-directional robots (mecanum, swerve, etc.) must fully cover all sides, or all corners.

    Please note that BetaBots Bumper Rules are less extensive than in FIRST Robotics Competition. It is strongly advised to be familiar with the Bumper Rules in Section 10.5 Bumper Rules on page 72 of the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition Robot Rules.

  9. Example robot bumpers
    Figure 5.3 – Example bumpers on a robot. Note A: if the robot’s wheels are outside the frame, then the bumper must extend to cover the full width including wheels
  10. The bumper zone is 0″ to 8″ from the ground. ALL of the bumpers, including mounting hardware outside the robot perimeter, must be entirely within this zone.
    Zone de pare-chocs
    Figure 5.4 – Bumper zone within 8” from the ground
  11. 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition electrical, control, and pneumatic system rules apply.
  12. Robots must be safe. Robots must not pose a hazard to the Treatment Area, Particles, the internals of other robots, or people.

    See Section 10.3 Robot Safety & Damage Prevention on page 65 of the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition Robot Rules. Robot Inspectors have final say on what is considered safe.

  13. The robot must be inspected prior to its first operation by a Robot Inspector. Any required changes must be made before a robot is allowed to compete. Any significant changes made during the competition must be re-inspected.
    • Red Card for starting a match without prior (re)inspection

    While a non-conforming robot may participate at the discretion of the Lead Robot Inspector and the Head Referee, it will not be permitted to advance to the playoffs, and may not be eligible for awards. A robot that doesn’t follow Technical Specifications likely won’t win any technical awards.

  14. Components from previous robots may be reused, however old assemblies must be completely taken apart, then reassembled, before use in your 2019 BetaBots Competition robot. This does not apply to bumpers.
    • Judged on a case-by-case basis

    BetaBots is meant to be less taxing on a team’s resources, but should still be an opportunity for students to learn.


  1. The event is divided into two parts, the qualification and the playoff rounds.
  2. During qualifications, teams compete against each other in pre-assigned operations.

    The operation schedule will be provided to teams at the beginning of the event. Teams play an equal number of qualifying operations.

  3. Each team must have four Drive Teams (red, blue, purple and orange), each with up to two student drivers. Drive Teams are identified by coloured wristbands.
  4. A student may only be on one Drive Team, and may only wear one wristband. Students may not swap drive teams, or swap wristbands, during the event. A team may only begin an operation with the correct Drive Team. The operation may begin without that team.
    • Yellow Card if prior to an operation
    • Red Card if after an operation, repeated, or egregious

    Drive Team colours will be listed in the match schedule. Coloured wristbands will be given to teams at the beginning of the event. If a team is unable to meet these requirements due to extenuating circumstances, they are asked to contact a BetaBots organizer ahead of the competition.

  5. Teams must send a drive team member to their operation if their robot has passed an initial, complete inspection.
    • Red Card
  6. In the event that only one robot shows up for an operation, the participating team will be given three Particles to distribute as they wish between Cells 1 and 2. These Particles don’t count for Operation Points, but are used to calculate Ranking Points.
  7. There are no restrictions on Drive Teams during playoffs.
  8. Only Drivers may touch the robot controls including the Driver Station laptop at any point during the operation. Coaches may disable the robot for a safety-related emergency.
    • Red Card
  9. Drive Teams and Coaches must remain at their station during the entire operation.
  10. One student, one Head Referee. A team may only send one student from its drive team to address the Head Ref. They should indicate their intention to speak with the referee, to the referee, immediately after the operation.
  11. At the end of the qualification round, the final ranking will determine which teams move on to the playoffs. Ranking is determined by the teams’ cumulative Ranking Points. Tie breaks are first determined by the cumulative number of Operation Points scored during Autonomous, followed by the total cumulative number of Operation Points scored.
  12. Ranking determination
    Team Ranking
    1st sort Cumulative RP
    2nd sort Cumulative MP scored during Auto
    3rd sort Cumulative total MP scored
  13. The top six teams advance to the playoffs. Teams ranked first and second automatically advance to the semifinals. Teams ranked third to sixth play in the quarterfinals to secure their place in the semifinals. [Fig 6.1]
  14. Playoff round structure
    Figure 6.1 – Playoff round structure
  15. During the playoff round, operation winners are determined by the number of Operation Points scored. Tie breaks are determined using Table 7-2 below. Ranking Points are not considered, i.e. there will be no rolling of dice.
  16. Playoff Tie-break determination
    Playoff Tie-breaking
    1st condition Particles scored during Auto
    2nd condition Particles scored in Cell 3
    3rd condition Particles scored in Cell 2
  17. In the QFs and SFs, teams play head-to-head in a single deciding operation.
  18. In the finals, teams play a best-of-three series. The first team to win two operations wins the event.


  1. At the event, all teams will have a private meeting with the judges, with two to four students. A team can make a presentation (preferred) or simply have an open discussion about their team, their robot, and their implication in the FIRST Community.

    If a team attends multiple events, different team members should present at each event, and a different presentation should be given.

  2. Judges may also be present in the pits to observe and interact with teams. Only student team members may answer questions from judges.
  3. Judges will recognize teams’ special accomplishments by presenting Machine, Creativity, or Team attributes awards based on the FIRST criteria.

For more information about the criteria for FIRST Robotics Competition awards see:[aa]