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12 jun 20235 min read


Fostering creativity, collaboration, and sustainable development.

The NAO Challenge 2023, a highly anticipated annual educational contest for secondary schools, took place in Florence, Italy, on May 22-23, 2023. Organized by Scuola di Robotica in collaboration with United Robotics Group and CampuStore. This year's challenge aimed to foster the learning of humanoid robotics while emphasizing the social potential of service robotics. With a focus on Sustainability and the 2030 Agenda, the competition inspired students to create innovative robotic applications that tackle real-world social issues. 

Emanuele Micheli, the president of Scuola di Robotica and one of the organizers of the NAO Challenge, expressed the significance and the importance of the event in connecting humanoid robots with pressing social concerns, enabling students to understand the ethical use of technology and robot services.

The NAO Challenge 2023 is the 8th consecutive edition of the event in Italy, providing a competition for secondary school students to showcase their creativity and innovation in humanoid robotics through a contest. Over 400 students from 32 different high schools across the country participated in the national final, hosted at the Innovation Centre of Fondazione CR Firenze and Teatro della Pergola, with the support of Terza Cultura Società Cooperativa.

Every year, a theme is chosen to link the contest and robotics to current real-world problems with strong social relevance and significance. The theme for this year is Sustainability. The contest focuses on developing functional applications that align with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which consist of: 

  1. Gender equality
  2. Clean water and hygiene
  3. Clean and accessible energy
  4. Sustainable cities and communities
  5. Responsible consumption and production
  6. Climate action 


In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly introduced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This "new global framework to steer humanity towards sustainability" aims to outline the major challenges facing humanity's development and identify critical global challenges crucial for humanity's survival. The agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals ‘SDG’ that establish environmental limits and critical thresholds for the use of natural resources.

For the NAO Challenge, we have selected six objectives from the 2030 Agenda, and teams developed projects related to these themes:

  1. SDG 1 | Gender Equality: Promote gender equality and empower all women and girls. 
  2. SDG 2 | Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  3. SDG 3 | Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
  4. SDG 4 | Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable
  5. SDG 5 | Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. 
  6. SDG 6 | Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. 

The contest offers several benefits to participants, as highlighted by Mr. Emanuele, who said, "Nao Challenge is a fantastic educational tool that is not only an event, not only the use of Nao, not only robotics, but more than this; it is education, it is fun, it is life learning." These benefits include the enhancement of students' knowledge in humanoid robotics and the promotion of the social potential of service robotics. It also provides valuable training opportunities for both students and teachers. Participants gain access to a dedicated platform with educational content, as well as the chance to attend webinars and online meetings with robotics experts and professionals. Teachers who take part in the contest can receive certification for their participation, further recognizing their engagement in the field of robotics education.

The rules of the contest NAO Challenge 2023:

 Team Formation: Each team can have up to 10 participants, and teachers can coach up to 3 teams.

Theme: Respect the chosen theme for NAO Challenge 2023, which is sustainability.

Training: Participants receive access to a dedicated platform with educational content. Students undergo technical and theme-specific training, while teachers receive their own training.

Selection and Events: Teams go through an online preselection process, submitting their projects and videos. Selected teams (40 in total) advance to the National Final, where they present their projects and participate in a hackathon.

Collaboration with Partner Institutions: Teams collaborate with professional institutions in sustainability and technology to develop their projects.

The Main Objectives of NAO in the Challenge:

Promoting Sustainability and the 2030 Agenda: With a focus on sustainability, NAO encourages students to leverage robotics in developing practical applications that address pressing societal issues that were selected as Sustainable Development Goals SDG.

Supporting the NAO Challenge: Scuola di Robotica, United Robotics Group, and CampuStore sponsor the NAO Challenge, providing essential support, resources, and expertise. Their collaboration fosters an environment that stimulates innovation, learning, and healthy competition among the participating teams. Together, they continue to inspire and promote the development of robotics and artificial intelligence in an educational setting by using NAO. 

The Role of NAO and Artificial Intelligence: The NAO robot plays a crucial role in the competition, engaging students in programming, problem-solving, and social interactions. It serves as a valuable tool in integrating robotics and STEM education, allowing teachers to incorporate NAO into their curriculum. Artificial intelligence (AI) is essential in enabling the robot to understand and respond to the tasks and situations presented in the competition, showcasing the significance of AI in the field of robotics. 

Beyond the Competition: In addition to the contest, the NAO Challenge 2023 offers workshops, seminars, and networking opportunities for students, teachers, and industry professionals. These activities foster collaboration and knowledge sharing, reinforcing the importance of cooperation in the field of humanoid robotics. Participants have the chance to connect with experts and gain further insights into the advancements and possibilities in robotics.

The Winning Opportunity : For the first time in NAO Challenge history, the winning team of the 2023 edition was awarded a sponsored trip to Bordeaux, France, that will occur in June 2023. The team will have the honor to participate in the RoboCup 2023, an international competition that brings together teams from around the world to compete in various robotic challenges. This visit presents an incredible opportunity for the winning NAO Challenge team to learn from and network with robotics experts from different countries, broadening their horizons and expanding their knowledge.

Mr. Michele expressed his aspiration for internationalization, aiming to include more European countries like France, Germany, Spain, and the UK in future editions. This expansion would create a multicultural and enriching experience for students, teachers, and industry professionals, fostering knowledge exchange and promoting diversity. The NAO Challenge plays a crucial role in preparing the next generation for the advancements in robotics and AI, equipping them with problem-solving skills and a passion for innovation.

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