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Vorpal Hexapod Activity: Search and Rescue

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Robots are being used increasingly in search and rescue operations around the world. For example, when buildings collapse after powerful earthquakes, search robots can get into tight or dangerous places to search for survivors. Robots are also being used to search buildings in fires and other disasters.

In this activity you will simulate a search and rescue situation.

Required Items

  • One or more large cardboard boxes, two feet cube is a great size but they could be larger or somewhat smaller. Two to three boxes is probably the best number.
  • Shipping tape or any tape that works well with cardboard.
  • Scissors
  • Obstacles such as blocks of wood, books, erasers, etc. Obstacles should not be too large.
  • Capture the Flag accessories (flags and flag attachments)
  • A timer of some kind, such as a stopwatch or a timer app on a smartphone or tablet computer.
  • Some way of keeping track of team times, such as pencil and paper, whiteboard, etc.

Activity Procedure

  • Build a disaster area using the cardboard boxes.
    • There need to be holes cut in the boxes so Vorpal can walk inside, some holes could be larger than others. Each box could have several holes on different sides, or could only have a single hole.
    • The boxes can be set next to each other, about a foot apart, to simulate multiple rooms in a building, with the space between the boxes representing walls.
    • Place obstacles on the floors of the boxes, or in the "hall" between the boxes.
    • Put a flag in each box. The flag represents a victim who needs to be rescued.
    • Using tape or some other method, mark a starting spot that is outside of any box. Vorpal starts in this starting spot.
  • One by one, teams start their Vorpal in the starting area, then are timed as they go through the obstacles, enter each "room", and pick up the flag (victim), then bring each victim back out of the building to the starting area. Once there, a human member of the team may take the flag off of Vorpal, then the robot goes back to rescue the next victim.
  • Fastest time wins.


  • Make sure contestants do not stall servo motors for long periods of time. If a hexapod gets hopelessly stuck, end that race rather than risk damaging the robot. A fair way to handle this is for the referee to warn the contestant not to stall the motors, and if the contestant is unable to extract themselves, the clock is stopped, the robot is untangled from the obstacle, then the obstacle race continues.
  • High step walking mode may help you get over obstacles.
  • If you want to add Scratch programming to this activity, allow students to develop custom gamepad moves to aid them during the competition.


  • With a larger number of rooms (3 to 5) more than one Vorpal could run simultaneously from different starting positions. The team that rescues the most victims wins.