Open Roberta Challenge started

And they're off! Today's youth designs the automobile of the future

For more than ten years now Open Roberta has been encouraging youthful enthusiasm for technology. The initiative "Germany – The Land of Ideas" ("Deutschland – Land der Ideen") has recognized the Fraunhofer project "Open Roberta – Learning Programming Playfully" for its work. Now Roberta is once again drawing on the inspired ideas of young people: Secondary school students can contribute their own ideas in a competition on designing a self-driving car.

Sit back, have a nap while the car independently drives you from Munich to Hamburg. Or relax comfortably in the back seat while answering e-mails as the autopilot navigates you along the fastest route from home to the office. There are no limits to ideas about how the self-driving vehicle of the future could look and what it should be able to do. The Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS, Google, Daimler and LEGO Education have set out to collect these ideas in the Germany-wide Open Roberta Challenge "Our Self-Driving Car". They want to find about the vehicles young people are dreaming about.

Open Roberta brings digital change to mainstream society

The "Our Self-Driving Car" Challenge is part of the "Open Roberta" project in which the Roberta team from the Fraunhofer IAIS, with the support of Google, has developed a cloud-based intuitive programming platform for robots. In the past Roberta has reached approximately 30,000 secondary school students every year.

Now the Open Roberta project has earned the Fraunhofer IAIS an award from the initiative "Germany - Land the Ideas" and Deutsche Bank as "Outstanding Location in the Land of Ideas". A jury of expert scientists, business executives, journalists and politicians joined a five-member expert advisory committee to select the project "Open Roberta – Spielerisch Programmieren lernen" from among over 1,000 entries. The decision was made in favor of the Fraunhofer IAIS because "Open Roberta takes young people along on the journey to a new digital world. The Fraunhofer IAIS has also demonstrated to us that digital changes should not be shaped in the laboratory, but much more in the midst of society," says Frank Tanaka, Deutsche Bank Berlin, commenting on the decision.

To actively participate in shaping the digital future, it's important that children and youth encounter the impacts of new technologies on their lives at an early stage. The Open Roberta Challenge "Our Self-Driving Car" contributes to this process.

Designing the car of the future yourself

"The assignment in the competition is to conceive a future scenario building on the technology of the self-driving car," explains Thorsten Leimbach, head of the Roberta Initiative at the Fraunhofer IAIS. "Here the conceptual process is completely open: The participants can draw, build, take photographs or write programs. We don't want to place any limits on the creativity of the competitors." In addition to technological aspects, the teams can also give thought to the effects that self-driving cars can have for example on society and on the environment. Here groups of secondary school students from ten to eighteen years of age can address the possibilities of autonomous vehicles creatively. "With the Open Roberta Challenge we want to encourage secondary school students who are excited about technology to expand their horizons and to become aware of the opportunities awaiting them as the future designers of new technologies. The objective is to acquire a fundamental understanding of how computers and robots think and work, since in the future almost every profession will involve these aspects in one form or another," emphasizes Dr. Wieland Holfelder, Engineering Director at Google Germany.

The competition will end on December 31, 2015. Young participants can present their ideas about the self-driving car of the future in a brief video. A jury consisting of Fraunhofer, Google, Daimler and LEGO Education representatives will choose and reward the best ideas. A winning team is chosen in each German state. Each of the winning teams will then receive ten robot construction sets from Lego for its school or educational institution.The national winning team will furthermore have the chance to spend a day taking a look behind the scenes in the development laboratory for the self-driving car at Daimler AG.