Robot Balloon Challenge!

Mission Objective

Build an autonomous robot that will pop all of the balloons with pushpins/skewers while staying inside a given area.

Figure 1 Balloon Challenge Starting Position

Race Rules

  • The robot must pass an inspection before the race starts to ensure no construction rules have been violated. The robot team will have a chance to make modifications before the race starts.
  • The robot is placed in the center of the challenge area facing a pre-determined direction.
  • When commanded, the robot driver will press the green “run” button and the clock will start.
  • The robot must pop all of the balloons while staying in the challenge area.
  • If a robot pushes a balloon off its base, then the balloon is reset by the driver as fast as they can.
  • Each robot’s run is timed from the time the run button is hit to the time last balloon is popped.

Robot Construction

  • The robot must be based on the Standard mBot robot.
  • The robot must be less than 10×10 inches wide including any extensions.
  • The robot is allowed up to 5 pushpins for popping balloons. These pins may be attached to the robot by any means as long as the robot doesn’t violate the height and width restrictions.
  • The robot must be programmed using mBlock code programming.
  • Once started, the robot must be completely autonomous.


Major Infraction

  • When a major infraction occurs, the robot must be restarted from the beginning of the track without stopping the clock.
  • Once the robot is moving, there can be no human intervention until the robot completes the task.
  • Losing pieces while the robot is running.
  • Leaving the challenge area.

Minor infractions

  • None.

Determining the winner

  • The robot with the shortest time is declared the winner.
  • In case of a tie, the tied contestants are allowed a run-off. The racer with the shortest run-off time is declared the winner regardless of their initial time.

Play field


  • A large table or flat ground with consistent coloring.
  • White or black tape, whichever has more contrast against the playing surface.
  • Round balloons, up to 5” in diameter.
  • Packing tape, or other strong tape to attach the balloons to the playing surface.
  • Push pins and tape or rubber bands to attach the pushpins.


  • Layout a closed area using white or black tape.
  • In this area, place 3 or 4 balloons for the robot to pop.
  • The balloons should be placed consistently between runs so that every robot competes on the same layout.

Figure 2 About to pop a balloon


  • There are many ways to solve this problem. Experiment to find the best solution.
  • Attaching your pins to extensions can be tricky. If you use extensions, make sure they are placed tight on the robot.
  • Sometimes you can get lucky by using a little random behavior in your robot’s program.