Carnegie-Mellon has a venture capital competition specifically for robotics, called RoboBowl. This is not exactly a student competition, but an early-stage startup competition, as entrants must be for-profit companies with less than $5million from all sources of funding. and “prizes are not intended to subsidize corporate or university projects.”
IEEE Spectrum made the competition sound exciting in RoboBowl: Carnegie Mellon Makes Awesome Robot Ideas Real, but the $25,000 first prize is not likely to excite anyone but a group of students just starting up.
Currently, the only RoboBowl competition is in Pittsburgh, but they plan to open up other locations—perhaps UCSC should look into joining the competition, now that they have a robotics major. It would be cool to have some robotics start-ups in Santa Cruz