From NIWeek: The X
PRIZE Foundation, Google, LEGO Systems, National Instruments and Wired's
GeekDad announced today a new global competition, called MoonBots,
that challenges student teams to design robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS to perform
simulated lunar missions.
with the explicit goal of getting kids interested in learning about technology
and robotics, the contest is modeled after the Google Lunar X Prize Competition,
which will award a $30M prize to the first privately funded team to make it to
teams will do here on earth what the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition is doing
in space," said Steven Canvin, Marketing Manager for LEGO MINDSTORMS.
the first phase of the four-month competition, teams are required to submit a
project description and concept drawings for their lunar mission. A smaller
number of entries will then advance to the second round, where they will build
MINDSTORMS robots and test them on a model lunar landscape.
in 1998, LEGO MINDSTORMS is a line of Lego sets that include programmable
Lego bricks with electric motors, sensors, and
mechanical parts such as gears and axels. NI's LabVIEW software is used to program the devices.
The product has had broad reach into kindergarten through middle school-age
group, through programs such as the First LEGO League. Approximately 150,000 kids
globally now participate annually in the robotics competition.
kids from the local Insta-gator First LEGO League team, representing Gattis Elementary school
in Austin, were
on hand at the press conference to consume the free astronaut ice cream and
discuss tactics for the upcoming competition. "I'd just do a regular rocket,
but with more engines," declared one eager contender.
Insta-gator team is taking the MoonBots competition seriously as it looks to
extend its current winning streak. Coach Mary Dubois says the team beat out the
older and more experienced middle school team in the most recent FIRST LEGO
League competition - a performance so outstanding that the team is eligible for
funding from the Round
District for the coming year.
so great about the competition is that it's treated just like any other sport.
Kids have to be in good standing with teachers, try out for the team (by
writing an essay on why they should participate), come to practice, wear
uniforms, and compete - and they handle it all very professionally," says
The MoonBots challenge will
not be the first time that LEGOs robots have been designed for space, and in
fact a few of them have actually made it up there. "In a High Altitude Lego
Extravaganza a few years back, 8 robots went up to an altitude of 100,000 ft," recalled
Canvin. One of the robots, he noted, survived the ultimate drop test when its
parachute failed to deploy on descent. Fortunately, that's one environmental
hazard MoonBots teams won't have to design for.
The MoonBots Challenge is
open to teams globally and there is no charge to enter. Competition rules and
details can be found at www.moonbots.org.