MoonBots Competition: "You Know, For Kids!"

Incentive prizes like those we run here at the X PRIZE Foundation are focused on results, not process. We pride ourselves in the fact that prizes reward only productive solutions, rather than mere attempts. The entire structure and culture of a prize is set up around the end game of a particular technology or system development.

There is, however, one key exception. In one area, we and others who have put forth incentive prizes are very concerned with the process rather than just the end goal. That area is education. A desire to use our prizes and our brand name to educate and inspire is written into the core charter of the organization (indeed, we are officially registered as a 501(c)3 educational not-for-profit, meaning that your donations are tax deductable!) That desire is shared by our partners, especially in the case of Google and the Google Lunar X PRIZE (see their one line answer for why they sponsor the Lunar X PRIZE--it's all about the education!

Educating people of all ages and all background to get excited about science, technology, mathematics, and engineering will have enormous benefits for all of us. In the space community, we'll benefit from the passion and the ideas that fresh talent bring in; outside of the community of space enthusiasts, people will still benefit from the productivity of the inventing class. Spreading the STEM bug--or, more specifically, the space bug--is a very, very good thing.

With this in mind, today, we announce a new game of skill we call MoonBots. A partnership between the X PRIZE Foundation, Google, LEGO MINDSTORMS, National Instruments, and 's GeekDad blog, MoonBots will require 6-member teams of both children and adults to essentially conduct Google Lunar X PRIZE missions using LEGO components.

I've had a chance to run through the game play myself, and I can tell you it's a lot of fun. I can also assure you that the children and the parents will learn a lot while doing it: impressive and varied skills like robotics, computer aided design, program management, team building, and promotion. The experience will bear some similiarities to FIRST LEGO League (and with good reason, as the idea really kicked into high gear when I had a chance to meet with our friends at LEGO during earlier this year, but with a Google Lunar X PRIZE twist.

The contest is open to anyone who isn't employed by one of the groups conducting the game. Teams will be composed of students and adults as well, meaning this is a prefect chance to serve as a mentor to young family members, to local Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops, or to your friendly neighborhood robotics club. We'll be announcing the full rules soon, so check this space often--and if you'd like, sign up to the email list at the website to get an email when all of the information is available online!

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