ChemBot tops VEXplorer contest winners robotic creations

Aug. 25, 2008
Quadruped dinosaur stomps the rest of the competition

Explosions, noxious fumes, burns, stains, and all manner of unpleasantness…there are times when chemists simply don’t want to get too close to the stuff they’re mixing. Offering a potential solution is ChemBot, the $5,000 first-place winner in the Grant Imahara VEXplorer Robot Challenge, sponsored by Revell, Innovation First, Inc., Robot magazine and Dassault Systmes SolidWorks Corp.

“Sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take before conducting an experiment, something might go wrong,” contest winner and Broward Virtual School senior Gustavo Goretkin said in his YouTube demonstration.

“Being in a remote location is a surefire safe way for preventing accidents from potentially dangerous experiments. The solution is ChemBot, a remotely controlled robotic arm mounted on a mobile base with a wireless video camera.” Like other contest entries, ChemBot was designed in SolidWorks 3D CAD software.

Out of dozens of applications, the contest gave 25 semifinalist robot enthusiasts a chance to compete for a $5,000 scholarship grand prize and a $2,000 second-place scholarship. Ten more contestants were given a chance to win $200 gift certificates redeemable at(

Contestants used the VEXplorer robotics kit, which includes the SolidWorks Student Design Kit, and any additional robotics parts (up to a limit of $100) from to create a unique and original application. Entrants then had to post a video demonstration on YouTube. Several competitors included SolidWorks designs and animations in their videos.

ChemBot blended baking soda and vinegar to prompt the familiar fizzing reaction. The second-place winners, Jared Schwartz and Tom Lundberg, filmed their Walking Quadruped Dinosaur tromping through an ancient jungle – or perhaps suburban garden – rotating an observation camera on its head and neck and nuzzling up to shade plants. Jared is a senior at Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School in Bloomsfield Hills, Mich., and Tom is a sophomore there. Recent graduate Andrew Bates is credited with developing the CAD model. Although the second prize was initially set at $2,000 for a single contestant, Imahara and the contest sponsors were so impressed by Tom and Jared’s robot that they awarded each a $2,000 scholarship.

“ChemBot is a sophisticated design that parallels what we see in law enforcement, military, and emergency response applications, and the Quadruped Dinosaur demonstrates the designers’ considerable potential for simulating natural movement,” Imahara, chief judge, sponsor, and a host of Discovery Channel’s hit show “Mythbusters” said. “These are the best of many exciting entries that prove what motivated young people can do with the right tools and a little ingenuity.”

The VEXplorer Robotics Design System is a remote control robot kit from model icon Revell sold directly to consumers through online and traditional retailers. The included SolidWorks Student Design Kit provides numerous 3D CAD, rendering, and animation options, including the ability to download add-on parts from the Internet using the same tools as engineering professionals.

The SolidWorks Student Design Kit helps students create, visualize, change, and refine plans before they assemble their robots, ensuring the design comes together as intended. The kit also connects students to Dassault Systmes SolidWorks Corp.’s 3D ContentCentral ( parts service, where students can download official VEXplorer parts and millions of others.

“Take one look at these incredible videos and you can see that students are getting the most out of their VEXplorer kits, which is the purpose for including SolidWorks inside,” Marie Planchard, Dassault Systmes SolidWorks Corp.’s director of worldwide education markets said. “These inventions are inspiring to observe, and they give you reason to feel good about the future of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and the young people who are participating.”