Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finalist MoonBots teams down to the Wire

Twenty finalist MoonBots teams continue preparations for their "final mission challenge" in the student competition, complimentary to the Google Lunar X PRIZE contest. More than two hundred teams from sixteen nations originally completed requirements for the first phase of the MoonBots Challenge before the final twenty qualified last April. The contest was open to students between the ages of nine and eighteen.

Using LEGO bricks and MINDSTORMS components, the MoonBots contest requires the teams to create simulated lunar rovers and use them to complete a series of predetermined tasks.

As the contest comes down to the last lap, teams are very busy blogging about their experiences, writing about obstacles overcome lessons learned. Some teams are completing their live missions a bit early to prevent any clash with school schedules.

Judges mentioned being impressed with results from all entries during earlier rounds. “Teams with little or no previous experience with robotics or with CAD software are engaging in this competition on equal terms with veterans,” said Steven Canvin, marketing manager for LEGO MINDSTORMS.

Surveys of participating students reveal nearly half report significant increases in understanding of the Moon and lunar exploration and skills gained using a variety of professional software applications.

“The students are learning to combine several challenging skills and to apply them in a new way. The MoonBots Challenge has required them to get creative, to find imaginative ways to express how they’ve used science, technology, engineering and mathematics to solve problems,” Canvin said.
The twenty finalists MoonBots teams are: ARES (Texas, USA); Coastal Quarks (California, USA); Cougar LEGO Robotics Team (Ohio, USA); Crandroids (Michigan, USA); G.I.R.L.S. (Missouri, USA); got robot? (Illinois, USA); Intergalactic Bacon (Florida, USA); Just Ducky (Minnesota, USA); Landroids (New Jersey, USA); LegoAces (Ohio, USA); Lunar Horizon (California, USA); Milkyway Monsters (Massachusetts, USA); Moonwalk (New Jersey/Connecticut, USA); New Hartford RoboSpartans (New York, USA); OABB 4-H Lego Robots (California, USA); Pushing Frontiers (Lovenjoel, Belguim); Team Tater Tot (Minnesota, USA); The Shadowed Craters (California, USA); WEBstormers (Cape Town, South Africa); and Yellow Jackets (Michigan, USA).
All twenty finalist teams will receive a LEGO MINDSTORMS kit, two-year subscriptions to WIRED and all of the LEGO bricks used to build the simulated lunar surface necessary in the final phase of the competition.