The timer rang, and Eileen turned the box on its side. An eclectic arrange of toys and small devices spilled out. She paused, processing them.

The parameters for this contest were vague. The items needed to be “solved,” but it was up to the robots to determine what that meant. Luke had said that was the real test here. Her ability to put those solutions into effect was just a metric.

She identified one item as a Rubik’s Cube. Six sides, nine squares to a side. Nine squares of six different colors. It would be trivial to figure out even if it wasn’t already in her database.

The sub-process only took a few milliseconds to calculate. She committed each side to memory. She let the process take over her hands as she looked at the other objects.

A chime went off and people cheered. Eileen looked up at the scoreboard. A white dot had appeared next to Atlas’s name. She turned to face the partition that separated her from him.

It was a waste of processing. The purpose of the partitions was to prevent robots from imitating the progress of others.

She had finished the cube, so she put it aside. None of the other items were in her database, so she grabbed the nearest one to study.

Four buttons in the standard four colors made a circle around the middle. Green meant go. She pressed that one, but nothing happened. She worked in a clockwise circle. The small device made no response.

There was another chime. Pandora had a dot next to her name now. It took Eileen a moment to process that she didn’t have a dot. She dropped the device and picked up the Rubik’s cube again.

Her sub-process had been sloppy, and stopped one step short. Some people laughed as she made the last rotation to complete the puzzle. This time, there was a chime, and she looked up again. Now she had a dot, but so did most of the other robots, and both Atlas and Pandora had two dots now.

She examined the device again. There was a switch on the bottom. She flipped that, and the buttons lit up. She pressed the green one again, and the yellow button across from it lit up with a beep. She ran through several dozen meanings for green and yellow before settling on traffic lights. Next came red.

She pressed the button, and it made a harsh buzz and all the lights flickered. Eileen recognized that meant she had made a mistake.

She pressed the green button again. This time the blue button lit up. That was to the right of the green button, and the yellow button was to the right of that.

Wrong again.

More chimes came. She should move on to a different object. She wasn’t certain why she didn’t.

This time, when she hit the green button, it lit up again. She pressed it one more time, and the green button followed by the blue button lit up. Pressing those two buttons got the sequence to repeat itself with a third button added on—green again.

She smiled, understanding now. Each of the buttons had a different tone, too, so she sub-processed this to her left hand. She took a few extra milliseconds to double-check it. Then she reached for the next object: a box filled with plastic polygons.

“And Buzz has completed the challenge!” Jordan Day announced. Eileen looked up at the scoreboard. Buzz’s name had changed to a gold color with sparkles rendered across it. Six dots were next to it. Atlas and Pandora were both at four. Six robots had three dots and two robots were still at two. Only Eileen was at one.

She confirmed that her sub-process hadn’t made any errors, then dumped the box out in front of her. Getting higher than eight place at this point was statistically unlikely, but she wouldn’t let herself come in last.