The Student Design Competition has two primary goals:

  • To provide graduate, undergraduate, and high school students with a hands-on introduction to HRI through a team-based design project.
  • To engage students of diverse backgrounds working in technical, art/design, or social science disciplines.


Building upon the conference theme of Real World Human-Robot Interaction, this year’s student design competition theme is Robotic Objects in Our Daily Life / or Everyday “Robotic” Products. We encourage teams to focus on a particular interaction context, develop their interactive robotic objects for this context, and create scenarios that illustrate how their robots fit within the lives of the humans involved.

Robots: We are communicating with conference organizers now to specify the materials for the prototypes. But usually, we imagine teams sourcing small products from stores like IKEA or MUJI, hacking toys, or using everyday objects from their homes or labs, then actuating them using purchased or homemade hardware and software (perhaps using open-source tools) to add movement, visual indicators, or sound, so the robot can express itself and/or communicate its use or purpose. Don’t feel limited by any of these suggestions: be creative! The competition focuses less on demonstrations of technical proficiency and more on the design of compelling interactions that inspire, surprise, and delight.

Design: We recommend that teams consider the following design questions:

  • In what setting(s) will the robot exist? Choose a real world setting that is familiar to your team. Possible settings include the home, office, city park, commuter train, car, and so on.
  • Who are the stakeholders who live, work, travel, or relax in that setting?
  • What activities do people engage in within those settings? Activities might range from commuting to work, exercising, sightseeing, or having a meal.
  • How will the robot contribute to the activities that these people engage in, and what need(s) will it fill?

Competition: Teams will show their interactive robotic objects during the Student Design Competition session at the conference, and winners will be announced afterward. A jury of HRI luminaries will select winners in several categories. Conference attendees will also vote for their favorite entries during the Student Design Competition session.


10 December 2019 (23:59 PDT): Submission Deadline
3 January 2020: Acceptance Notification
8 January 2020: Camera-ready Deadline


Procedure: Teams should design, build and document their projects during the timeframe prior to the HRI 2020 conference. We encourage teams to photograph and video record their design and development process, to include as learnings during final presentations.

Participants: We invite students from all stages of their university careers, from undergraduate to postgraduate, and high school students from any disciplinary focus area. While not required, we encourage multidisciplinary, even international, team membership.

Team Size: Please form teams of no more than 5 members. If your team has reason to exceed this number, please check with the Chairs at first.

Registration: Registration for the competition itself is free, although at least 1 member of each team must register for, and attend, the HRI 2020 conference.

Submissions: There is no limit to the number of entries per university or organization. We encourage each student to focus on a single team entry, although students are permitted to join multiple teams.

Expenses: We are communicating with conference organizers now, but thus far, there is no sponsorship or reimbursement available for competition costs, such as developing design prototypes, or for travel or conference registration. We will post an update to this site if funding becomes available.

Jury and Judging: A jury composed of experts in design, robotics and/or interaction will assess each entry during a judging session held at the conference. The jury’s evaluations, plus voting from conference attendees, will determine the winners in several categories of the competition (discussed below).


Initial Submissions: Student Design Competition teams should prepare an initial submission and submit it via the paper submission and review website (deadline: 10 December 2019). Creating and submitting an initial submission is how student teams enter the competition and indicate that they are working on a project.

Each team’s initial submission should be a 1–2 page abstract, with open format, that includes:

  • Project title and authors (names, affiliations, and email addresses).
  • An abstract of 100 words or fewer.
  • A brief description of the design context, the people involved, and the activities in which they, and the interactive robotic object, will engage. The description can be technical and/or behavioral, but should allow the Chairs to evaluate the proposed or ongoing project.
  • One or more rough or refined representative images of the interactive robotic object, which can include hand-drawn sketches, digital renderings, CAD models, and/or photographs.

Camera-Ready Submissions: Teams whose submissions are accepted should submit a 1–2 page camera-ready version, updated to reflect the team’s progress to that date, for inclusion in the ACM digital library and IEEE Xplore. The abstract should follow the ACM SIG proceedings specifications. Please note that we are following the general ACM SIG format, not the SIGCHI format. Authors should use the sample-sigconf.tex or interim_layout.docx template files.

Presentations: We expect that the Student Design Competition session will coincide with the Demonstrations session, but will announce details later. During the session, student teams will present their interactive everyday objects to the competition jury as well as conference attendees. The form of presentation will be similar to a Technology Demonstration, with each team showing and describing their project as the jury and conference attendees pass by.

At the conference, each team should present:

  • A poster or banner (we’ll determine specifications shortly) that includes the project title, authors and affiliations, describes the design concept, shows the interactive everyday object within an interaction context, and includes other background that the team feels is relevant to communicate their efforts. We encourage teams to build upon the content included in their initial and camera-ready submissions.
  • Five or more images (renderings or photographs) that show the project in various stages of design development. The first should include the original, unmodified state of the purchased or found object, and the last should show its final, interactive form. The idea is to communicate the team’s design process, including (highlighting!) failures, learnings and successes along the way. While most conference venues emphasize completed works, we celebrate the design process itself.
  • Either (a) the interactive everyday object itself to demonstrate in person, or (b) a video that shows the project in context and in action, interacting with people. We strongly encourage teams to bring and show their interactive everyday objects in person, as the most informative and entertaining representation of their work. We understand that some projects may be too large or delicate to travel well, and ask teams in this situation to focus their videos on demonstrating interactions.


The HRI community is very diverse, including researchers and practitioners from computer science and engineering, social science, art and design, and a goal of the competition is to recognize outstanding contributions from any of these disciplines.

We will add further detail regarding jury composition and awards as we learn more about the number and diversity of teams participating. For now, we expect that there will be several awards, representing both juried and people’s choice, along several categories that include interaction, design, creativity, and implementation.


Interactive Everyday Objects

Q: What are interactive everyday objects?

A: We want to encourage broad interpretation of what interactive everyday objects might be to each team. They could be custom-built objects or components, repurposed products or furnishings, hacked toys or appliances, or whatever teams have on-hand. We recommend letting the context, people, and interaction guide the design.

Q: Can teams use any hardware or software on their project?

A: Teams may use any physical platform for their interactive robotic objects, and should choose based on their chosen interaction context, the people involved, and the activities in which their objects will engage. To control their interactive robotic objects, teams may use any software platform, open or closed source, or even no software if that suits their design.

Development Expense

Q: Is there any sponsorship for expenses to develop interactive everyday objects, or to attend the HRI conference?

A: We are trying to arrange a way to cover (or to offset) teams’ development expense, and/or attendance expense, but it is still not certain. We will post updates here as we learn more.

Student Teams

Q: How many teams will participate in the competition?

A: Given our initial sense of interest, as well as space available at the conference venue, we plan to select 10 teams to present at the conference. We may change this number based on registration, ideas submitted, or team composition, and will post any changes here.

Q: Can any student be a member of more than one team?

A: Students may join more than 1 team. If only a few students from a lab or institution can attend the HRI conference (for example, due to schedule or expense), it might be more convenient to form larger teams (up to a maximum of 5 members), so that more students can participate.

Q: Can teams be composed of students from different schools?

A: Yes. Just include the (different) school affiliations of your team members in the application materials.

Q: Is there a social platform or service for finding teammates?

A: We don’t have a platform set up to help teams form, although you’re welcome to take the initiative. Let us know, and we will post details here. If we receive enough interest from individuals or small teams, we may collect and send your email addresses to each other.

Q: Can student members join or leave teams after submitting a proposal?

A: Individual members may be added or removed from teams up until 2 weeks prior to the conference. To make such changes, please email the Chairs at as soon as possible.

Eligibility and Registration

Q: Can someone who isn’t a student participate?

A: The HRI 2020 Student Design Competition is only open to students, although students at any university level (bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD) may participate.

Q: Can other people, or advisors, help with the competition project?

A: It is alright to seek external help for bugs and other issues, however, people external to the team should not contribute significantly to the project’s ideas or implementation. Advisors may advise on ideas, designs and approach, but team members should be the primary source of conceptual and execution effort in developing the project.

Q: Can a team withdraw after submitting a proposal?

A: Teams are able to withdraw. In this case, please notify the Student Design Competition Chairs at at least 2 weeks prior to the conference. For team members seeking reimbursement for conference registration fees, please contact the Registration Chairs at

Q: How many teams will participate in the competition?

A: There is no limit on the number of teams who may enter an initial submission. The Chairs will then select a subset of these submissions as finalists, to prepare camera-ready versions and present their projects during the conference.


Augusto Esteves, IST – University of Lisbon, Portugal
Denise Geiskkovitch, University of Manitoba, Canada 
Yunkyung Kim, NASA, USA