Back to overview

2016 Nanoline Contest

Why enter the Nanoline Contest?

The Nanoline Contest gives students the opportunity to showcase their talent and technical skills by designing and building an automation project.  This provides students the opportunity to work in a team environment enhancing not just their technical skills, but also their personal skills and project management skills as they work together to finalize their entry.  Students learn that the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be fun and exciting. This contest can also open many doors for the students as they begin to develop relationships within our organization that can be beneficial to their future goals.  After high school graduation, students can apply to our apprentice program in the fields of Mechatronics, IT, and Quality.  These apprenticeships include full-time employment, and a fully-funded degree from Harrisburg Area Community College.  Additionally, if students chose to continue their education at a technical school or college, we offer summer internships to college-aged students.

Back to top

2016 contest timeline

August 1, 2015Registration: Opens 
October 16, 2015Registration: Closes 
October 24, 2015Midwest region 2016 Nanoline Contest regional jump-start workshop (Nanoline Controller )Purdue University
West Lafayette,  IN
October 31, 2015Southeast region 2016 Nanoline Contest regional jump-start workshop (Nanoline Controller )College of Charleston
Charleston,  SC
November, 2015Educator and mentor updates 
December 12, 2015First round selection 
January 20-22, 2016YouTube/PPT submittal 
January 25, 2016Regional invitations sent to qualifying teams 
February 6, 2016Regional Nanoline Contest: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest 
February 20, 2016National Nanoline ContestHarrisburg, PA
June 12-18, 2016Winners tripOrlando, FL
Back to top

Contest overview

Your team will use the Nanoline and nanoNavigator software to build a working automation system. Students in middle, high or vocational-technical schools based in the continental U.S. are eligible for the contest. Maximum team size is six students. All team members must be 18 or younger.

Back to top

What is the Nanoline?

Nanoline is an intelligent and compact controller that automates multiple basic tasks.
It is programmed with the intuitive nanoNavigator software, and no previous programming experience is necessary.

Analog and digital I/O - The Nanoline controller is well suited to monitoring and controlling both on/off circuits (known as digital I/O) and measurement or control circuits that operate in a range from 0 percent to 100 percent of scale (called analog I/O). Your idea should use these capabilities and apply them in a practical and exciting way for an audience of school students of your own age.

Back to top

How does the Nanoline Controller work?

Watch this video to see how the Nanoline Controller works.

Watch video
Back to top

Project ideas

The Nanoline controller is used in many practical applications around the world: dispensers, access control, irrigation systems, lighting controls, energy monitoring, and the like. The Nanoline controller can be networked via the Internet, SMS, or Wi-Fi media, so it is also appropriate to develop a project that interfaces to an Android, Apple iPad or iPhone, PC, or other device. Your mission is to creatively design something novel, appealing, and exciting. It is OK to find ideas on the Internet or ask friends and family for suggestions. Just remember the project must be all your own work.

So choose an application that is both practical and fun. If your project can be replicated and built in other school districts, it scores additional points.

The judges are looking for original work, so what better way to keep the information handy? Assign one person to manage your team journal. And assign one person to keep your PowerPoint slide set or videos (for future posting on YouTube) up-to-date. Most importantly, create a team name and theme for your project.

After the competition is complete, you might want to publish your journal online, but you’ll probably want to protect your ideas prior to the competition.

Back to top

Starter Kit

After registration and once your team has decided on a project, please e-mail us and we will send you both a Starter Kit and Gift Card. The Starter Kit will contain the material required to get started with your project, and we will also provide you with additional Phoenix Contact product if needed. The gift card will allow you to buy non-Phoenix Contact product your project may need. Feel free to look for additional sponsors for materials you require for your project.

Back to top

Judging criteria

Entries will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Excitement and attractiveness to teenage students
  • Level of creativity
  • Possibility to replicate at other schools
  • Practicality (conversion to use in daily life)
  • Inspiration and attraction to technology for other students
Back to top

Project size

The project space is a 1 meter by 2 meter (39x78 inches) table top. The project must fit inside an envelope height of 1.2 meters (47 inches). If your design stands on the floor, it may not exceed a height of 1.9 meters (74 inches).

Back to top


To assist you in remembering how your project developed, we ask you to keep a journal of all the events, ideas and decisions your team members make. Keep digital pictures of the team at work on the project. Photos of team members brainstorming and developing software are well worth keeping. Use those details and photos in your presentation.

Back to top

Other things to consider

  • The Nanoline controller has a GSM/SMS unit that requires a SIM card.
  • If you are using batteries or other consumable elements, we will work with you to ensure that you have a sufficient back-up, chargers and spares.
  • We recommend that you avoid working with any flammable materials, fuel, or open flame. Liquids and fluids should be avoided, unless you will control the project remotely.
  • You may want to demonstrate the project from a distance, and also consider the use of webcam and true remote control. The Nanoline can be networked and connected to the Internet. It has its own IP address, so it can be part of an interesting global installation.
  • Please avoid using our corporate logo and slogans on your project. It is your idea that you are promoting, not ours. If in doubt, ask.
Back to top

The grand prize

The winning team will receive a trip to sunny and warm Orlando, Florida, June 12 – 18, 2016.  Team members will have a chance to visit some of Orlando’s finest attractions including Walt Disney World, Cape Canaveral, and other mind-stimulating activities.  This will be a chance of a lifetime to learn many new things, all while having loads of fun.

Back to top

For parents and educators

The Nanoline contest should be treated as an extramural event. Students’ creativity and technical skills can shine in a team setting. Virtually all careers today require teamwork, creative problem-solving, and design freedom. Tomorrow’s knowledge workers do not normally learn these skills in the existing class room environment. Opportunities that let students experience the real world will help them excel both in school and when they enter the workforce.

The contest is ideal for girls and boys who enjoy robotics, computers, mathematics, or technical trades.

Since the Nanoline contest started in 2009, the student participants, along with their parents, educators and siblings, have had the opportunity to get a close-up look at the exciting world of industrial automation. The world of mechatronics, robotics and automation is clean and exciting. It should not be confused with the dirty, dull and dangerous applications of the previous millennium.

Phoenix Contact has a host of electrical and electronic products that could be used with your project. Let us know what you need and we will provide those parts too. More products can be seen our corporate website at

Back to top

About Phoenix Contact and our STEM initiatives

Phoenix Contact is a leading developer of industrial electrical and electronic technology. Founded in 1923 in Germany, Phoenix Contact employs 14,000 people in more than 50 subsidiaries around the world.

Phoenix Contact USA, founded in 1981, now employs more than 675 people in sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and other related activities. Both the Nanoline controller and the nanoNavigator software were developed in the U.S.A.

Phoenix Contact’s success is built upon the innovative designs of our talented engineers. Our staff wants to share their love of science with young people. The Nanoline Contest is just one of our STEM activities that we participate in. Through these programs, we hope that teenagers will see the enormous potential in technical and engineering careers.

Back to top

800-888-7388 x3412

Jerry Wise

Jerry Wise

Technical Training Specialist