The Linking Engineering and Philanthropy 2018 season has concluded. You may view the results of the competition along with the submitted projects below.

Stay tuned for LEAP 2019, Details to be released mid-september, 2019.

Hydroponic 3674.JPG

1st Place Winner:

Cloverbots Team 3674

The Cloverbots Team proposed a vertical tower hydroponics system consisting of trays to grow microgreens. The tower system consists of large, vertical 4” PVC pipes so that water can trickle down the pipe using gravity. Holes along the pipe allow for the insertion of plastic mesh and microgreen grow baskets. These grow baskets use a heavy fabric, such as burlap, as the growth medium. A vertical hydroponics system allows more towers to be placed within limited space. There are many advantages to growing microgreens, including a high nutrient content, a short ten-day harvest period, and no soil is required. Ideally, this hydroponics system would be housed in a greenhouse to regulate environmental factors such as temperature and wind, and to eliminate pests. The cost to build one 10 by 12 foot greenhouse with this hydroponics system is estimated at $315. With microgreens selling for approximately $20 per kg, earnings are expected to be $80 for each harvest. The team focused on Nepal as their target country.


2nd Place Winner:

Aembots Team 6443

The Aembots Team proposed a humidity-controlled evaporative refrigerator using Zeer Pots to reduce harvest spoilage, thereby increasing overall farming output productivity for the smallholder vegetable grower. The team identified a need for low-cost refrigeration that does not require access to power. Aembots’ design consists of three processes: (1) dehumidification to increase evaporation by using salt to act as a dessicant, (2) watering of the sand surrounding the Zeer Pots using drip-irrigation, and (3) an internal output fan powered by an external windmill to ensure constant air flow. The team’s solution focused on using locally sourced materials. The team focused on Mali as their target country.


LEAF Team Mean Machine 2471

The LEAF Mean Machine Team proposed utilizing three ancient ideas: (1) the Native American Three Sisters theory, (2) Roman fertilizers, and (3) Chinese waterways to increase crop yields and protect crops from the flooding caused by monsoon rains. The team experimented with different fertilizers, including a dead fish, to evaluate potential beneficial partnerships between fishermen and farmers. In their prototype, the stalks and roots of plants were used to add nutrients to the soil. Just like the Native Americans grew corn, squash, and beans, the team proposed that resource-poor countries plant sugar cane, beans, and rice.


3rd Place Winner:

MAU Team Mean Machine 2471

The MAU Mean proposed Modular Agricultural Units (MAU) that can be assembled and stacked as different configurations of planters. The prototype structure is 24x24 inch box with a depth of 12” of soil. Included in the MAU package are seeds customized for the customer’s geographical location and climate to maximize nutritional value. An app allows customers to trade produce, troubleshoot problems, read assembly instructions, and connect with a community of MAU farmers.


TME Team Mean Machine 2471

The TME Mean Machine Team proposed increasing plant growth by adding a low voltage connection with electricity to decrease the overall time from seed to harvest. Their prototype consisted of a planter box with custom-made copper wiring that was submerged into the dirt and connected to a 9V DC power supply. Their proposed design would utilize solar cells to charge reused laptop batteries, which would provide a continuous current to the roots of the plants. Their research suggested a 10-12% growth increase using their system, and a return on investment within a year.

Feel free to peruse the competition details for LEAP 2018!

LEAP gives FIRST Robotics teams a chance to put their skills to use in the real world, and shows high school students that they don't have to wait until after college to make a real a difference in their community through engineering.


We are excited to announce the 2018 Linking Engineering and Philanthropy(LEAP) competition in partnership with global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, with $6000 in prizes sponsored by Autodesk. The LEAP 2018 competition challenges FRC teams to develop new technologies to engage and assist resource-poor youth in farming and agriculture. From September to the LEAP Finale at the Mercy Corps Action Center in Portland, Oregon on December 15th, participants will learn more about the target area of agriculture in developing countries, and will work alongside Mercy Corps to develop an innovative solution to solve a real world problem.

1st Place Prize

$3000 and Exhibit Installation at the Mercy Corps Action Center

2nd Place Prize


3rd Place Prize


FIRST Robotics provides opportunities for high school students to develop interest and skills in engineering; however, in the heat of the competition, the primary intent of this program can be obscured. As a result, we developed a program that encourages students to apply their engineering skills to real world problems, and to make a difference in their communities.

Linking Engineering and Philanthropy (LEAP) is an off season event for FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams designed to get students to apply their engineering skills to real-world problems in their communities. Over the course of a three month competition beginning in September, teams research, design, and prototype a solution to a given humanitarian problem provided by a partnering nonprofit. As FIRST likes to say, “It’s more than just robots.” 

By the end of a LEAP competition, teams will have fleshed out a tangible product or design to improves their community, but LEAP has an impact far beyond the single invention that teams come up with for the competition. Once teams have competed in LEAP, they will be able to further their project and implement in their communities on a larger scale. Through LEAP, students will have the necessary experience in developing and inventing for their own community, what we like to call, "Community Engineering."

The Beginning of LEAP: Our experience with projects like JuiceBox inspired us to connect yet again with the FRC community to address a new issue: other teams have the skills to engineer for their communities, but don’t know where to start. Using the same strategy that has worked so well with our BunnyBots and Girls’ Generation events, in 2014 we partnered with Autodesk and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to create Linking Engineering and Philanthropy (LEAP), a new preseason event to help FIRST teams apply their skills to make a difference. During LEAP, teams spend four days responding to a community engineering challenge. This prompt supplied removes the daunting task of starting a project and instead gives teams a scaffolding within which they apply their FIRST skills to make a difference. In 2014 Teams designed an exhibit for OMSI, and one of the winning teams used their experience and the confidence they gained to propel their own community-focused project the next year. Although LEAP ran into funding issues after the pilot competition, we worked hard to bring it back. In 2017 LEAP returned partnering with Autodesk and OMSI once again. LEAP 2018 partnered with Mercy Corps and Autodesk to create an event that stretched from September to December. LEAP 2019 is already in the planning stages.