Design It, Build It, Dig It: The 2012 Lunabotics Competition

The 2012 Lunabotics Competition was held at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex from May 21-26. Photo Credit: Julian Leek

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — This year’s Lunabotics Mining Competition had a simple, yet accurate motto: “Design it, Build it, Dig it!” This event is held annually among college-aged students from points across the globe. Starting last year, the competition has been held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

The primary objective of this competition – is inspiration. With students in High School and College foregoing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math or “STEM” as it is more commonly referred to. It is hoped that competitions re-engage and retain student interest in these areas.

A competitor during this year's Lunabotics Competition churns up simulated lunar dust. The fake regolith has been specially designed to be as close to the real thing - as possible. Photo Credit:Julian Leek

The Lunabotics competition also has side benefits. The equipment proven in the “lunar” pits – could be so clever as to have never been thought of before – and might one day be used on actual NASA mission to the Moon.

The challenge is for students was to design and build a remote controlled or autonomous excavator, called a Lunabot, that can collect and deposit a minimum of 10 kilograms of lunar simulant within 10 minutes. The complexities of the challenge include the abrasive characteristics of the lunar simulant, the weight and size limitations placed on the robots that are entered into the competition and the ability to control the robot from a remote control center.

Like actual lunar regolith, the simulant is very detrimental to breathe in. When participants enter into the "pit" they are required to wear protective gear. Photo Credit: Julian Leek

This year’s competition has had the mining category’s scoring altered, placing the emphasis on the  number of design operation factors such as dust tolerance and projection, communications, vehicle mass, energy required, and level of autonomy.

The competition’s grand prize, The Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, is given to the team that scores the most points during the competition. Winners will be given a school trophy, $5000 team scholarship Kennedy Space Center launch invitations and up to $1000 travel expenses for each team member and one faculty advisor to attend one of NASA’s remote research tests.

The University of North Florida’s (UNF) team is called “The Ospreys.” The team’s entry is named ‘Thoth’ after the Egyptian God of the Moon. Mark McCombs the student team leader adjusts the wheels on their entry. His goal is to work for SpaceX as he just graduated from UNF. Photo Credit: Julian Leek

2012 Lunabotics Mining Competition Winning Teams

Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence (Grand Prize)
The University of Alabama in collaboration with Shelton State Community College

On-Site Mining Award
First Place – Iowa State University in collaboration with Wartburg College
Second Place – The University of Alabama with Shelton State Community College
Third Place – Milwaukee School of Engineering

Judges Innovation Award
Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Efficient Use of Communications Power Award
Iowa State University in collaboration with Wartburg College

Best Use of Social Media
Universidad de Los Andes of Colombia

Slide Presentation and Demonstration Award
First Place – The University of Alabama in collaboration with Shelton State Community College
Second Place – West Virginia University
Third Place – Universidad de Los Andes of Colombia

Outreach Project Report Award
First Place – Iowa State University in collaboration with Wartburg College
Second Place – Montana State University – Bozeman
Third Place – John Brown University

Systems Engineering Paper Award
First Place – Montana State University – Bozeman
Second Place – John Brown University
Third Place – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Team Spirit Award
First Place – The University of Alabama in collaboration with Shelton State Community College
Second Place – Instituto de Astrobiologia Colombia IAC
Third Place – Polytechnic Institute of NYU

[youtube_video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYo00dzeluQ[/youtube_video]

Video Courtesy of NASA

2 comments to Design It, Build It, Dig It: The 2012 Lunabotics Competition

  • AeroDoctor

    Congrats to WVU for their 2nd place finish!! Congrats to all of the teams!

  • Mary Kanian

    And the pics tell A LOT of the story! If I didn’t SEE what these young people came up with & the lunar dust conditions….etc…I would have thought the competition would have more resembled leggos & tinker toys!! GREAT PICS!