A COMPETITION is putting Southampton schools to the test by encouraging them to create a robot that can "complete challenges" on planet Mars.

The national School Robot Competition 2020 has been created by educational publisher Twinkl and the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network to inspire children to take an interest in robotics from a young age.

The overall competition winner will receive a MiRo-E Robot from Consequential Robotics, an engaging robot that responds to human interaction.

It challenges school groups to create robots online or by using a free app, and is open to groups of pupils aged between eight and 14.

Each of the robots must be able to cross challenging space environments and complete a range of tasks.

Jonathan Seaton, CEO and co-founder of Twinkl, said: “The competition is a really exciting way for children to explore STEM and test their collaboration and design skills.

"We hope that the competition once again gets children thinking about the future of robotics and inspires them to explore the subject further. We are really grateful to all the partners that have been involved and can’t wait to join them later in the year to judge the entries.”

Other prizes up for grabs, which have been donated by partners, include robot kits for students, robot laboratory tours, Lego EV3 systems and educational support for schools.

Dr James Law, director of innovation and knowledge exchange, Sheffield Robotics and member of the UK-RAS Network said: “We’ve had quite a few children ask whether they can buy a MiRo-E Robot and if they can take it home, they love it. That’s one of the important things about this competition though, to expose children to the opportunities within robotics and to inspire them to get involved.

“More than that, we’re coming to an age now where robots are becoming part of our everyday lives and this will only increase. Therefore, it’s important for children to learn about these technological developments as they’re going to get more exposure to them in the future.”

Schools can enter the competition for free at twinkl.co.uk/robotics until Friday May 8.