Vital Link and UC Irvine Host the Rescue Robotics Competition for High School and College Students

On a windy Saturday morning on May 20th, seven teams of students from UC Irvine (2 teams), Santiago Canyon College, Laguna Hills High School, Tesoro High School, Mission Viejo High School, and Irvine Unified School District arrived for Vital Link and UC Irvine’s Rescue Robotics competition held at UCI.

Teams of students perform the final check on their autonomous robots.

Leading up to the competition, students spent months designing, building, and programming a ground or aerial robot to autonomously locate survivors (or in this case, 5-gallon Home Depot buckets) in a 120’ x 120’ simulated disaster setting (a grassy open field).

Their mission? Program their robot to identify and scan the QR code on each of the 50 buckets that were randomly placed throughout the field.

Students prepared their robots in the Final Practice Demonstration Day on April 23rd at the OC Fair & Event Center before arriving at UCI for the final Competition on May 20th.

A total of 14 heats were scheduled throughout the day, with each team of students being allotted two 15-minute heats. In the first ten minutes, the robots autonomously identified and scanned the QR codes based on the students’ computer programming ability. In the final five minutes of the heat, the students manually piloted their robot to detect and scan QR codes on the buckets.

As is comparable to any disaster situation, adversity also struck on that Saturday morning. Windy weather tested the flying capability of the aerial drones, as locating the QR codes on the buckets from the air became a challenge with the disagreeable weather.

This student steers his robot towards the red bucket, hoping to scan as many QR codes as possible.

Congratulations to the following champions in the three different divisions: Laguna Hills High School, Mission Viejo High School, and Tesoro High School.   

Finally, Vital Link and UC Irvine would like to extend a huge thank you to the following sponsors that made this event possible: OC Pathways and the Pacific Life Foundation.


Interested in sponsoring a 2017-2018 Vital Link event or registering a middle school, high school, or college team for the 2017–2018 Rescue Robotics Competition? Contact to learn more details for next year.


Vital Link is a 501c3 non-profit organization (Tax ID# 33-0632256) that provides both student and professional programs that focus on leading edge job skills and job development curriculum. We reach over 40,000 students each year through Career Exploration Programs, support services and use of the Vital Link curriculum. Encouraging students to make the connection between their education and their future career is foundational to Vital Link and will impact lives today and in the future.