An autonomous, outdoor, robot design competition, named the "Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge," was developed at the Penn State Abington campus to promote advances in robot technology. Robots must navigate unmarked paths, take off-road detours, and entertain spectators. The contest encourages the use of low-cost robot platforms and is suitable for research and education. An example of a low-cost robot platform has been designed to facilitate student participation in the contest. The robot platform consists of a modified electric car robot base, servo-controlled steering and motor drive, vision system, GPS, sonar, and a text-to-speech engine with a speaker for interaction with the contest spectators. The expected applications and outcomes of the robot platform and Mini Grand Challenge include curriculum enhancement, increased interest in undergraduate research, recruitment and retention, and K-12 outreach.