NASA announces Lunabotics Junior Contest to design moon robots

NASA has announced a new contest open to students in grades K-12 in public and private schools around the country, as well as homeschooled children. The contest is called the Lunabotics Junior Contest and seeks input from students to design a robot concept to support excavation on the moon. NASA knows in the future, when travel to the moon is again common, we will need to be able to construct habitats and other structures on the moon.

NASA's competition is a collaboration between the space agency and Future Engineers and seeks to get students to design a robot able to dig and move lunar soil. The contest will have the robots move soil from the lunar South Pole to a holding container close to where the Artemis astronauts will land in the future. Lunar regolith is an important material for astronauts and researchers to leverage for future missions to the moon and beyond.

The material could be used to create concrete on the moon to reduce the amount and cost of material needed to be transported from the Earth. Students can submit entries, including an image of the robot design and a written summary explaining how to operate by January 25, 2022. For the contest, students aren't supposed to build the robot.

Rather, they will be envisioning a design for a robot no more than 3.5 feet by two feet by two feet. Required design elements include an ability to scoop/dig and move lunar regolith, a description of if the robot will move small amounts of soil over multiple trips or a large amount of soil on a single trip, and how the robot would deal with the lunar dust that can stick to surfaces as the regolith is moved.

The contest is open to individual students or entire classes. There will be two categories for entries covering grades K through five and grades six through 12. Ten semifinalists will receive a prize package, and four finalists from the categories will win a virtual session with a NASA subject matter expert.