Pine Beetle Challenge

Please find a PDF version of this page HERE.

Task Description

In a remote region of Northern Canada, there is a pine beetle infestation that is threatening the entire forest, and poses a fire risk for a nearby community. The ground crews in the area are overwhelmed, and are in dire need of assistance. Your task is to design and build an automated robot that can go into the forest and remove the red infested trees, without hurting the ground crew, healthy trees, or underbrush in the forest. The infection is clustered around an old but well marked logging road, which could help a robot to find the diseased trees.

In order to avoid scaring the local wildlife it is imperative that your robot only spends 6 minutes in the forest, which is the home of the elusive and endangered polar moose mosquito. The robot can’t venture outside of the designated forest except through the START/FINISH zones. Since the terrain is dangerous, you may only interact with your robot within the START/FINISH zones (Grey areas at either end). 

Before the government invests in your robot, they have asked you to build a prototype using the EV3 Mindstorms Robotics kit. Prototypes will work in a simulated forest, and will be scored based on the rubric below.


After your prototype demonstration on the final day, each group will have to give a 2-minute presentation about their design. This will be done before a panel of judges, and should include each member of the team. Some topics that might be worth presenting are:

  • Design features and flaws
  • How you identified sick trees
  • How you programmed the robot to complete the task

Each team must prepare a minimum 2-slide PowerPoint to be shown during their presentation.

Materials Needed

  • Vinyl Mat. We suggest printing a high-resolution copy of the mat, using a 4ft by 5ft format. It will cost approximately CAD 200 to print on smooth vinyl at a local print shop.
    – Please find a copy in standard resolution HERE (2 MB),
    – and high-resolution copy is available for download HERE (42.4 MB).
    You may also need some tape to fixate the mat to the floor.
  • Basic EV3 Robot built from the Instruction Manual.
  • An attached color sensor. It can be forward facing (detecting the color of the tree when approaching), or downward facing (detecting the color of the field on the mat).
  • An attached arm or gripper designed and built with the medium motor. This arm/gripper will need to be able to pick up and carry a tree.
  • Trees. We once made trees out of Lego – but they needed to be glued. Our new favorite is the hexacubes that can be shaped to have a hole in the center that makes pick up easier.
  • Scoring Sheet. Please find our scoring sheet HERE.

Design Notes

The color sensor has a limited range. On our first attempt at this challenge, the robot needed to detect the color of the tree. This proved challenging because the robot had to get close enough, but not too close. We revised this challenge, so the robot can detect the color of the tree on the mat.

Here are a couple of videos of Grade 5 students’ robots completing the first turn and

Scoring Sheet

We suggest the scoring sheet below for the student co-opetition and their presentations. A printable version can be accessed HERE.

A printable version of the Pine Beetle Challenge can be found HERE.

© 2022 Dr. Krista Francis, Stefan Rothschuh & Michael Poscente