Ready, set, robot! National Robot Drawing and Story Competitions for Primary Schoolchildren Now Officially Open For Entries

2022 “Once Upon A Robot” writing competition and “Draw A Robot” design challenge launch today, offering unique prizes; budding artists and authors invited to enter

London, United Kingdom, January 11th 2022—The EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network is today pleased to announce the official launch of its 2022 competitions to get the UK’s primary schoolchildren drawing and writing about all things “robot”. Key Stage 1 & 2 children from 5 – 11 years old are invited to share their robot-inspired designs and creative writing with an expert panel – including top robotics researchers and very special guest judges from the creative and literary arts. This annual competition has proved highly popular with budding artists and authors nationwide and is now returning for its third successive year.

For the “Draw A Robot” competition, children in Key Stage 1 (aged 5 – 7 years old) have the chance to draw a robot that they’d like to see in the future. The robot could be designed to accomplish any task or job – the sky’s the limit! The children can use pencils, pens, paints, or even natural materials to design their robot, and they can explain its functions by labelling key features and special gadgets on the drawing and writing a short design spec. The “Once Upon A Robot” writing competition is open to all Key Stage 2 children (aged 7-11 years old), and challenges competition participants to write a creative short story featuring any kind of robot – or robots – their imagination can conjure! The story could be an action-packed thriller, a compelling mystery, or even a light-hearted comedy – the children will have 800-words to tell their creative tales.

The two competitions will be judged by robotics experts from the organising ESPRC UK-RAS Network, plus two very special invited judges. The writing competition will be judged this year by writer Radiya Hafiza, whose debut novel – the magical, empowering story Rumaysa: A Fairytale – was published in 2021 to wide acclaim. The drawing competition will be judged by Irish author and illustrator Chris Haughton, whose bold and brilliant books for children include A BIT LOST, OH NO GEORGE! and SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN.

This year’s exclusive prize packages include:

  • Draw A Robot Competition winner
    • Thames & Kosmos Coding and Robotics kit – contributed by sponsoring partner the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)
    • A tour of the AMRC’s Factory 2050 in Sheffield, the UK’s first state-of-the-art factory dedicated to reconfigurable digitally assisted assembly
    • Bespoke animation of the winning drawing by top animator Jody Clarke
    • Copy of the book “Maybe…”, signed by competition judge Chris Haughton
  • Draw A Robot Competition runner-up
    • 4M Green Science Solar Hybrid Power Aqua Robot – contributed by sponsoring partner the Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) Hub
    • Copy of the book “Maybe…”, signed by competition judge Chris Haughton
  • Once Upon A Robot Competition winner
    • MakeBlock Codey Rocky Educational Coding Robot – contributed by sponsoring partner Pipebots
    • A tour of Heriot-Watt University’s National Robotarium in Edinburgh, a world-leading centre for robotics and artificial intelligence.
    • Printed copy of the winning story with bespoke illustrations by illustrator and science communicator Hana Ayoob
    • A copy of “Rumaysa: A Fairytale” signed by competition judge Radiya Hafiza
  • Once Upon A Robot Competition runner-up
    • 4M Solar Robot – contributed by sponsoring partner The National Robotarium
    • A copy of “Rumaysa: A Fairytale” signed by competition judge Radiya Hafiza

For more information, details of prizes, judging criteria and to submit an entry, please visit

Both competitions are open for entry now and will close for submissions on 24th April 2021. The winners will be announced at a special virtual award ceremony due to be held on June 21st 2022.

EPSRC UK-RAS Network Chair Robert Richardson comments: “It’s once again our great pleasure to be launching these fantastic competitions, which have become a firm favourite in the calendar of many primary schools, and which offer a really unique opportunity to engage children creatively in the world of robotics and automation. We’re hugely looking forward to seeing what ideas our next generation of authors and designers come up with, and to the enjoyable and inspiring task of judging all the many superb entries as they roll in.”

The two creative competitions for young children were first launched in 2020 for UK Robotics Week, now the UK Festival of Robotics – an annual 7-day celebration of robotics and intelligent systems held at the end of June. This annual celebration is hosted by the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network, which provides academic leadership in robotics and coordinates activities at over 30 partner universities across the UK.


Notes to editors:

Draw A Robot judging panel

Chris Haughton (
Chris Haughton is an Irish author/illustrator based in London. He was listed in Time magazine's 'DESIGN 100' for the work he has been doing for fair trade clothing company People Tree. He has written and illustrated six books A BIT LOST, OH NO GEORGE!, SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN, GOODNIGHT EVERYONE, DON’T WORRY LITTLE CRAB and MAYBE. His iOS app, HATMONKEY came out in 2014 and virtual reality experience LITTLE EARTH launched in August 2017. Chris has also created a social business, to connect design and fair trade and make rugs and toys.

Dr Daniela Sawyer is the Technical Lead in Robotic Machining at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), leading a variety of projects related to machining with robots, improving robotic accuracy and developing robotic additive manufacturing cells. Daniela started her journey in the field of engineering in 2008 when she began her BEng degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Since then, she has completed a doctoral degree in structural dynamics and a postgraduate diploma in management for engineers. Daniela has been working at the AMRC since 2017 and has been part of a variety of projects related to conventional and non-conventional manufacturing techniques.

Sarah Parker is an Assistant Project Manager at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)’s Factory 2050 where engineers carry out research projects in various sectors such as aerospace, automation, digital, rail and construction. Sarah has worked at the AMRC for over eight years in various administration and event management roles. This requires a high level of organisation supporting the management of projects in terms of planning, finances and project plans. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her cockapoo Dexter, gardening, and spending time with her husband and two teenage sons. She also has a keen interest in Art and Design.

Dr. Sen Wang is an Associate Professor in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Heriot-Watt University, a lead in the ORCA Hub and lead of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the National Robotarium. Previously, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, working on mobile robotics. His research focuses on robot perception and autonomy using autonomous navigation, robotic vision, SLAM and robot learning, and has been published in a number of major venues in robotics, computer vision and machine learning. He also serves as an Associate Editor for three academic journals: IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) and IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS).

Once Upon A Robot judging panel

Radiya Hafiza (
Radiya Hafiza studied English Language and Literature at King’s College London and worked in publishing for a few years. Radiya grew up reading classic fairy tales that never had any brown girls in them – Rumaysa is her debut novel, bringing such stories to children who need to see themselves represented.

Dr Viktor Doychinov is a Research Engineer at the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Leeds, where he is currently working on the Pipebots project, which aims to send small robots inside our water and sewer pipes to inspect them for water leaks and blockages. In this project, he is responsible for researching and developing wireless communications to make sure the robots can talk to one another and send information back to humans above ground. His other research interests include biomedical and sensing applications of wireless technology and radio electronics.

Dr Mauro Dragone is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering and Physical Science at Heriot-Watt University. Dr. Dragone worked on the Internet of Things (IoT) for smart environments, before leading the project RUBICON (Robotic UBIquitous Cognitive Network), a 2.5 million European project that posed the foundations for self-adaptive robotic systems for assisted living applications. At Heriot-Watt, Dr. Dragone set up the Robotic Assisted Living Testbed, a ‘Living-Lab” designed for user-driven design and testing of innovative and more practical solutions for healthy ageing and independent living by harnessing IoT and Robotic technologies working together. His current research activities include cloud-robotics, tele-presence robotics, and integration of robot technology in smart homes to assess and assist people living with conditions such as dementia and frailty.

Dr Theo Lim's research covers developing and profiling non-conventional interfaces and applications for virtual reality environments, knowledge engineering, and human factors evaluation. His research emphasis is on the conceptual design of products and integrated systems, game-based approaches for engineering, and neurometrics. He is currently investigating the impact of novel digitization methods that enable symbiotic services between humans and machines, which can be applied to Industry 4.0, bio-cybernetics, and the development of nature-inspired micro and macro-scale robots. His applied approach has seen his work commercialized by industries such as Renishaw, Pathtrace and RPLogic.

Story prize illustrator

Hana Ayoob (
Hana Ayoob is a science communicator and illustrator. She has produced illustrations for a range of books, industry publications, logos and more and was awarded one of The Big Draw’s artists’ residencies in 2021. She speaks at a range of events, performs science-inspired comedy and co-hosts the science and tech podcast ‘Why Aren’t You a Doctor Yet?. Hana also produces events, runs creative workshops and provides public engagement and science communication training and consultancy.

Drawing prize animator

Jody Clarke (
Jody has been in the animation industry for over 15 years. With a huge list of varied clients including London Zoo, National Trust and ITV, Jody mainly works on high profile adverts to be displayed in and around large cities, but also loves being involved in smaller independent jobs that really scratch that creative itch.


About the EPSRC UK-RAS Network (
The EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network) is dedicated to robotics innovation across the UK, with a mission to provide academic leadership in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), expand collaboration with industry, and integrate and coordinate activities at eight Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded RAS capital facilities and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) across the country.

Sponsoring Partners

About AMRC (
The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is a world-class centre for research into advanced manufacturing technologies used in the aerospace, automotive, medical and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It has a global reputation for helping companies overcome manufacturing problems and is a model for collaborative research involving universities, academics and industry worldwide.

About ORCA Hub (
The ORCA Hub is the largest academic centre in the world for research into robotics technology for offshore energy infrastructure. The ORCA Hub’s aim is to advance robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies for the inspection, repair, maintenance and certification of offshore energy platforms and assets. The Hub, a strategic project within the National Robotarium, is led by Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. The academic consortium also includes Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, and the University of Liverpool.

About Pipebots (
Pipebots is a large UK government-funded programme grant, involving the universities of Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol which aims to revolutionise buried pipe infrastructure management with the development of micro-robots designed to work in underground pipe networks and dangerous sites. This work is supported by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Programme Grant EP/S016813/1.

About the National Robotarium (
The National Robotarium is a world-leading centre for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, creating innovative solutions to global challenges. Pioneering research moves rapidly from laboratory to market, developing skilled visionaries and delivering substantial benefits for society. As global leaders in robotics and autonomous systems, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh are partners in this national, and international, hub. Opening on Heriot-Watt's Edinburgh Campus in 2022, the purpose-built building will have unrivalled facilities, adding to existing laboratories in ocean systems, human robotic interaction and assisted living. Home to world-leading experts in data analytics, the National Robotarium is exploring collaborative interaction between humans, robots and their environments, translating cutting-edge research into new technologies.


Nicky Denovan


Email: nicky[@]evokedset[dot]com

Phone: +44 (0) 118 328 2782

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