Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2012 Lunabotics In Progress

The Lunabotics competition, similar to the Regolith Excavation Challenge but specifically for university students, is now in progress (May 21-26).  This was a lucky schedule for teams that wanted to see the Falcon 9/Dragon launch.  Current activities include inspections and practice in the sand pit.  The official competition starts today at 2:00 KSC time.  There are activities for K-12 students like working on LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT robots, college recruitment for high school students, FIRST robot displays, and more.

Practice Day 1: Lunabotics Mining Competition
Practice Day 2: Lunabotics Mining Competition - lots of pictures from NASA Lunabotics Facebook

The teams are already sending out a flood of twitter tweets.  You can follow them (or the ones I found a few weeks ago) on my Lunabotics twitter list or use hashtag #lunaboticsNASA Edge is supposed to start broadcasting from the event today at 12:00.

Lunabotics is a great example of a NASA Centennial Challenge that successfully transitioned to a student competition after the original Centennial Challenge completed.  I wonder if any other Centennial Challenges will be able to make this transition?  The Sample Return Challenge strikes me as one that would be likely to work in some form this way, since student competitions are well established in the area of robotics.  For example, WPI, which is running the Sample Return Challenge, is also involved with FIRST robotics.  The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge always struck me as a difficult one to form into a student challenge, but maybe with the Masten GN&C testbed, teams could test landing software for places like the Moon and Mars using real hardware in an environment with a software supervisor that makes sure the student software doesn't go out of bounds.