2021 Game Design Challenge: GRO-MARS


For the 2021 competition season we decided to compete in the game design challenge. This involved the creation of a game concept intended to be a future FIRST® Robotics Competition game. Game designs, which included documents describing the game, images of the field and game pieces, and other optional files, such as a video or animation, were submitted to FIRST. All entries were divided into divisions named for various elements. There would be winners in each of these divisions, some of which would advance to further judging. Before this, however, teams would need to participate in an interview with 2 – 3 judges in a scheduled event consisting of seven minutes of time allotted to presentation as well as five minutes of time for questioning. 

The premise of the game was as follows:

A gro-dome has been built on Mars in order to alleviate a food shortage. Two alliances of three teams each rush their gro-bots to take plants from a cargo drop and place them in the vertical hydroponic farms and on gro-beds before they freeze. The vertical hydroponic farms are designed to swing if disturbed which causes the plants to have stronger stems. Teams must be wary of the sprinklers in the gro-dome as gro-bots could become damaged. At the end of the match, alliances compete over a special yield-increasing fertilized gro-bed. They also store their gro-bots in or on top of the gro-bay as there is limited space inside the gro-dome. The alliance who grows the most plants to produce food wins.

Some considerations were:
  • Points are increased in both autonomous periods and are at their greatest during the endgame autonomous period.                                         
  • Plants on gro-beds will not be scored unless they exist inside the gro-bay and are supported only by the gro-bed.
  • Plants on vertical hydroponic farms will be scored immediately, however any points gained will be subtracted if the plant is removed.
  • The gro-bay has a limited amount of space which should be used to its fullest.
  • The sprinklers may entangle unprotected gro-bots.
  • The chains on vertical hydroponic farms will swing and twist if disturbed. Higher levels exhibit this to a greater extent.
  • The alliance with the most points at the end of the match wins.


We won the highest award, the “Designer’s Award”, in our 31 team bracket. This award is given to teams who have outstanding success in more than one design area, and they would be eligible for other awards that were given. The other awards that were given are:

  • Concept Award – Celebrates a team that creates an interesting, realistic game concept. To be eligible for this award a team is required to use the Game Design Challenge ELEMENT.
  • Imagery Award in honor of Jack Kamen – In honor of Jack Kamen, Dean’s father, for his dedication to art and illustration and his devotion to FIRST. This award celebrates attractiveness in visual aesthetic integration.
  • Creativity Award sponsored by Rockwell Automation – Celebrates creativity that enhances the overall game design concept. 

  • Engineering Design Award – Celebrates the team that demonstrates sound engineering in the design process.

    Rookie Design Award (optional) – Celebrates the rookie team’s outstanding success in the Game Design Challenge.

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