Valiant Technology Ltd

Feedback Form

Roamer Pentathlon

For the past few years Steve Woolley, Head of Technology at Bancroft's School, Essex, has run Roamer Pentathlon for the local Primary Schools. It has proved to be very successful, being both educational and enjoyable. Here he explains the format of the Games.

There will be five separate games, these are described in more detail below. The object will be to complete the games in the shortest possible time. The winning team will be the one with the fastest overall time for the five games.

A team will be comprised of four children. Each team will have a Bancroft's pupil to act as its "shepherd" and time keeper. Please allow your teams to arrive at their own solutions! Each game will be allowed a maximum time (10 - 15 minutes); any team failing to complete the task will be given the maximum time for that task.

Word Game

The playing board for this game consists of a 120cm square board (4 Roamer lengths) with 16 squares - one start square and 15 others with letters (see figure 1). The letters are given a point score, as in Scrabble. One version of the game is to get Roamer to spell out as many words as possible in a given time to create the highest score. Roamer should pause on each letter it is "picking up" and beep at the end of the word.

The alternative game is to give the teams an envelope with specific words which must be spelled out by Roamer. The Roamer must be programmed to move to the appropriate letter squares on the board in the correct order. The Roamer must pause on each letter and emit a beep at the end of each word. The time from receiving the envelope from the "shepherd" to successfully spelling out the given word(s) and returning to the Start square will be noted. If Roamer fails to spell the word out correctly, or runs off the board it must be retrieved and returned to the start for reprogramming and a new attempt. The Roamer is not restricted to moving along columns and rows in the grid, but it might be simpler for your teams to do so!

Q10 K5 A1 U1
start W C P

Fig 1.

Maths Game

This uses another 120cm square board with 16 squares, this time a "Start" square and 15 numbered squares. The squares are separated by a mathematical operator ( +, -, x, -) as shown here.

One version of this game is for the teams to create the highest possible total by passing through the squares and operators in the most effective order in a given time.

In the alternative version the teams are given an envelope with specific totals to be achieved by passing through the numbered squares and doing the required calculations as Roamer passes over the operators. A course to achieve the answer 42 is marked on the example board. Again the team will be timed from receiving the envelope to the successful return to the start square. Roamers that run off the board or do not achieve the required total must be retrieved and returned to the start for reprogramming and subsequent attempts. In this game Roamer must move along rows or up and down columns.

Coded Messages

For this game the teams will be divided into two groups of two and will position themselves 9 metres apart. One pair will be given an envelope containing a word and will be required to programme the Roamer to travel to the other pair and to transmit the coded message using any feature of the Roamer that you care to devise. One obvious way of transmitting the message is to code it in Morse code and get Roamer to play the coded message at the end of its run. On correct receipt of the message the receiving pair will be required to return the Roamer carrying a short coded message of acknowledgement. The time from receiving the initial envelope to receiving the coded message will be noted. Any teams communicating the message by any other means (verbally, in writing etc.) will receive the maximum time allowed for this event. It is important that teams devise and practice their codes before the event; they will be able to bring written details of their codes for use during the competition.


For this game the Roamers should be fitted with a pen holder and working pen. The teams will be given an envelope containing some shapes and characters (could be numbers, letters or shapes) which they must then program their Roamers to draw out on a sheet of paper provided. Again the time will start when they receive their envelope and finish when they have successfully executed the set figures.


This is an exercise to program Roamer to negotiate a number of ski slalom style gates. Penalties will be incurred for missing gates or hitting the posts! The course will include a number of gates. The gate post will be no more than 8cm wide and the gap between the posts will be at least 50cm. The path will be designed to be negotiable by Roamer moving in standard units of movement (one Roamer length - 30cm) and only turning right angles, but ambitious teams may try to improve their times by modifying the units of movement and turning through other angles. Measuring tapes are allowed. Once programmed and started, any contact with the Roamer before it completes the course will incur a time penalty. Teams will have to decide whether to incur a time penalty and reprogram/restart their Roamers or let the run continue incurring missed/hit gate penalties.

  © 2004. Amethyst Consultancy Ltd.