AFRON — the African Robotics Network — has recently launched a new contest that it hopes will encourage educational interest in robotics in Africa and other emerging countries. The brainchild of professors Ken Goldberg and Ayorkor Korsah, AFRON's Ten Dollar Robot Design Challenge encourages students, individuals, professionals, and organizations to build a robot for a target price of $10. Three different categories of devices will be judged: robots tethered directly to a computer for functionality, stand-alone devices that are programmed externally on a computer, and all-in-ones where all programming and processing happens on the robot itself. First, second, and third place prizes will be bestowed upon the winners, who will receive cash prizes of $500, $250, and $100, respectively — along with a Raspberry Pi. The designs will be judged on their cost, how easy it would be to reproduce them, and their utility in educational settings.

While the contest will accept entries that cost more than ten dollars, the goal is to help generate designs that would be inexpensive enough that schools and educational insitutions that don't have access to high-end fiscal support could take advantage, using them as teaching tools, helping spur interest in science, mathematics, engineering, and other related fields. "My hunch is that this will be really inspirational," Goldberg recently told Wired. The challenge, which is open to tinkerers and engineers worldwide, closes on September 15th, with the results to be announced in October. To learn more — or to sign up for the challenge yourself — you can visit AFRON's website.