Moonbots Competition Enters Final Week

Post written by Chanda Gonzales, Manager of Education for the Google Lunar X PRIZE

MoonBots: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge was launched this last April at the 2010 FIRST Championship in Atlanta, Georgia. X PRIZE Foundation, LEGO, Google, National Instruments, and WIRED- GeekDad partnered with each other to develop this STEM education challenge for youth. The MoonBots Challenge mirrors the requirements that teams of innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world are working toward right now in pursuit of the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE.

During Phase One of the MoonBots Challenge, 212 youth-adult teams created a design for a robot that they thought could explore a LEGO lunar surface as well as created an original video essay that discussed their thoughts about lunar exploration. Twenty teams were then selected to compete in Phase Two of the Challenge: 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)

Each team received a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 kit and enough LEGO bricks to build their replica lunar surface. They have spent their summer building a LEGO lunar surface, designing and programming the robot as well as producing their final lunar education video. This week marks the end of Phase Two. Teams will submit their video documentary and complete their live simulated final mission. Please enjoy viewing the components that teams will be judged on by our expert judges.

For more information about MoonBots, and to learn more about the twenty finalist teams, please visit: www.moonbots.org.

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Expert Judges:

Anousheh Ansari
Anousheh Ansari brings more than two decades as a successful serial entrepreneur to Prodea Systems, where she serves as chairman. Anousheh captured headlines around the world as the first female private space explorer. She earned a place in history as the fourth private explorer to visit space, and the first astronaut of Iranian descent.

An active proponent of world-changing technologies, Anousheh has dreamed of space exploration since childhood. Her family provided the title sponsorship for the Ansari X PRIZE, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. This feat was accomplished in 2004 by legendary aerospace designer Burt Rutan in 2004.

Steve Hassenplug
Steve Hassenplug is a Master LEGO robot builder who has been building with LEGO MINDSTORMS since 1999. He has created LEGO robots that can balance on two-wheels, play Connect Four, and nagivate outdoors using GPS. He also led the team that developed the Great Ball Contraption standard, and Monster Chess, a 150 sq ft chess game made with 32 robotic chess pieces.

Steve was selected by LEGO to participate in the MINDSTORMS User Panel (MUP), which was made of four adult LEGO builders who helped to develop the MINDSTORMS NXT, and continues to work with LEGO and other adult builders in the MINDSTORMS Community Partners (MCP).

Dean Kamen
As an inventor and physicist, Dean Kamen has dedicated his life to developing technologies that help people lead better lives. As an inventor, he holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of health care worldwide.

Among Dean’s proudest accomplishments is founding FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology. In 2010, its flagship program, the FIRST Robotics Competition, will reach more than 45,000 high-school students on more than 1,800 teams in 43 regional competitions, seven district competitions, and one national championship. The FIRST Robotics Competition teams professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. . In 1998, the FIRST LEGO League was created for children ages 9-14. Similar to the FIRST Robotics Competition, these young participants build a robot and compete in an event designed for their age group.

Jeff Kodosky
NI Business and Technology Fellow, Jeff Kodosky, cofounded National Instruments with Dr. James Truchard and William Nowlin in 1976 while working at The University of Texas at Austin. Today, he is a respected mentor in the NI global R&D organization and continues to chart new directions for the company's flagship product, the NI LabVIEW graphical development platform.

Kodosky, revered by engineers and scientists around the world as the "father of LabVIEW," invented the graphical programming language that defines the software, spurring the development and widespread adoption of virtual instrumentation and making instrument automation available to all engineers. Since the initial release of LabVIEW in 1986, Kodosky has developed more than 30 patented LabVIEW technologies and has used his LabVIEW expertise to help guide the development and expansion of LabVIEW to targets previously out of reach for many engineers, such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), smart sensors, microcontrollers, and other embedded devices. This ongoing work has helped NI grow this software into an award-winning industry standard programming environment that continuously addresses an ever-growing variety of industries and application areas.

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