NASA seeks young engineers to help design a new robot for an excavation mission on the Moon. The Lunabotics Junior Contest, open to K-12 students in U.S. public, private, and homeschools, starts accepting entries on Wednesday, Oct. 20, and runs through Jan. 25, 2022. The competition, which is a collaboration between NASA and Future Engineers, asks students to design a robot that digs and moves lunar soil called regolith from an area of the lunar south pole to a holding container near a future Artemis Moon base.
“Developing mining capabilities on the Moon will require innovation and creativity, and students are some of the most creative thinkers,” said Mike Kincaid, NASA’s associate administrator for the Office of STEM Engagement. “The next generation always brings new perspectives, inventive ideas, and a sense of optimism to the challenges NASA puts in front of them. I’m really looking forward to seeing the designs they submit to Lunabotics Junior.”
NASA’s Artemis missions are returning to the Moon with the first woman and first person of color, and will create a long-term human presence that will serve as a springboard for future Martian exploration. Lunar regolith is instrumental in this development, and could be used to create lunar concrete, reducing the amount and cost of materials that need to be transported from Earth. Artemis Student Challenges such as the Lunabotics Junior Contest create unique opportunities for a diverse group of students to contribute to NASA's work in exploration and discovery while celebrating their creativity and innovation.
To enter the contest, students must submit by Jan. 25, 2022, an image of the robot design and a written summary that explains how the design is intended to operate on the Moon. While students are not tasked to actually build a robot, they are asked to envision a robot design that is no larger than 3.5 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet and addresses three main design features: how the physical design of the robot will enable it to scoop/dig and move the lunar regolith, whether the robot will operate by moving large amounts of dirt per trip or transporting less dirt in more trips, and how the design and operation of the robot will meet the big challenge of lunar dust that is stirred up and can “stick” to surfaces when lunar regolith is moved.
Students can sign up individually or teachers can register their entire class. Entries will be split into two categories – grades K-5 and grades 6-12. Ten semifinalists will receive a Lunabotics Junior prize pack and four national finalists from each category will win a virtual session with a NASA subject matter expert. The national winner from each category will be announced on March 29, 2022, and will be awarded a virtual chat for their class with Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro. For all contest and prize details, including education resources, visit: https://www.futureengineers.org/lunaboticsjunior
NASA and Future Engineers are seeking volunteers to help judge the entries anticipated to be submitted from around the country. U.S. residents interested in offering approximately five hours of their time completed over a 10-day period should register to be a judge at: https://www.futureengineers.org/registration/judge/lunaboticsjunior