50 DAYS : 17 HOURS : 22 MINS LEFT
Challenge Details
YOUR CHALLENGE IS:

DESIGN A ROBOT THAT CAN DIG AND MOVE LUNAR SOIL

ENTRIES DUE: January 25, 2022 | 10:00 PM PT

VOLUNTEER TO JUDGE (18+)
K-12 US students: Your challenge is to design a robot that can dig and move lunar soil (regolith) from one area of the lunar South Pole to a holding container near a future Artemis Moon base. As NASA prepares to return to the Moon, lunar regolith will be needed for multiple purposes, like building a moon base using lunar concrete; harvesting water that can also be used for rocket fuel; and extracting possible metals or minerals. NASA will need robots that can help! Please create at least one drawing of your robot’s design (e.g., original work of art, 3D model, diagram, or photo of a prototype, etc.) and a written summary that explains your robot’s design in 150 words or less. Your robot must be no larger than 3.5 feet x 2 feet x 2 feet in size and should address three main design considerations: 

  • Physical Design: How will your robot scoop/dig and move lunar regolith?
  • Operational Design: Will your robot carry lots of dirt per trip, or transport less dirt in more trips, or somewhere in between?
  • Dealing with Dust: Lunar dust is a big challenge! Lunar regolith is easily disturbed and can coat everything with a fine layer of dust that “sticks” to surfaces like static cling. How will your robot design handle lunar dust?
Check out the EDUCATION SECTION and BRAINSTORMING resources to learn more about the Moon, NASA’s Artemis program, and the unique design considerations related to lunar robotics!

 

Selected semifinalists will win a Lunabotics Junior prize pack; finalists will win a virtual session with a NASA subject matter expert; and one winner from each grade category will win a virtual chat with Kennedy Space Center Director, Janet Petro. Please do NOT include your name or face or anyone else’s name or face in your entry!  For all entry requirements, please read the RULES. Get designing and good luck!

 
 

DATES / JUDGING CRITERIA / PRIZES

You have to play by the rules to win.

WHO CAN ENTER

Individual K-12 Students in US public, private, and home schools (including U.S. territories & possessions, and schools operated by the U.S. for the children of American personnel overseas). NO team entries allowed! Children and students who live in the same household with NASA employees cannot enter. For all eligibility details, please refer to the rules.
Grades K-5
Grades 6-12

JUDGING CRITERIA

Grades K-5
Grades 6-12
 
25
POINTS
Likelihood of your robot’s design to successfully move lunar soil
25
POINTS
Your design's consideration for the unique lunar environment and its challenges
25
POINTS
Creativity and originality of your design
25
POINTS
Communication of your robot’s design through image(s)/illustration(s) and text
25
POINTS
Likelihood of your robot’s design to successfully move lunar soil
25
POINTS
Your design's consideration for the unique lunar environment and its challenges
25
POINTS
Creativity and originality of your design
25
POINTS
Communication of your robot’s design through image(s)/illustration(s) and text

HOW TO ENTER

Please review the Challenge Rules and FAQ prior to creating your entry.

Challenge Rules FAQ

TEACHERS
Sign up to register your class and manage entries. We now support Google Classroom too!

STUDENTS
Sign up on your own, or use a code to participate with your class.

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STUDENT & TEACHER SIGN UP
PROGRAM DATES
Challenge Launch
20
October
Entries Close
25
January
Semifinalists Announced
08
March
Finalists Announced
22
March
Winners Announced
29
March
Challenge Launch
20
October
Entries Close
25
January
Semifinalists Announced
08
March
Finalists Announced
22
March
Winners Announced
29
March

PRIZES

 

Dive Into The Challenge

Lesson Plan Details and Challenge Tips!

1. Links & Lessons

Get to know the Moon

2. Brainstorm & Design

Plan your robot design
Links & Lessons
Brainstorm & Design
Links & Lessons
>
Links & Lessons
Brainstorm & Design

LEARN ABOUT THE CHALLENGE

The following links, lessons, and videos are provided to educate students about the Moon, NASA's Artemis program, NASA's Moon to Mars goals, lunar regolith, and dust mitigation.

Brainstorm & Design

Dig into these topics to learn about the Moon's environment and plan out your robot design.
Brainstorming Idea
Lunar Regolith (Soil)

When designing a robot to dig on the Moon, you need to think about lunar regolith, the soil of the Moon. Lunar soil (regolith) is very different from Earth soil. Lunar regolith is mostly made up of gray, powdery dust, and small broken rock, mineral, and glass fragments. The very fine lunar dust can range in size from .2 to 100 microns. To put this in perspective, 80 microns is about the diameter of a single human hair. The lunar dust can be finer than flour, while also being very sharp and jagged. It's also clingy! Lunar dust is electrostatically charged which makes it stick to everything. Like when a person rubs a balloon on their hair and the hair sticks to it, or like when your clothes have static cling and it sticks to your body. How will your robot dig and move lunar regolith? Will it kick up a lot of dust? If so, how will you deal with it?

Brainstorming Idea
Lunar South Pole

NASA is planning to build an Artemis base camp near the lunar South Pole, where the crater rims are in almost continual sunlight and the interior of the craters is home to "permanently shadowed regions” that never see sunlight. Your robot should be designed to operate on a crater rim, in sunlight, and transport lunar soil approximately 100 meters (328 feet), which is about the length of a football field. Since the Moon does not have an atmosphere like Earth that also means there is no protection from the sun and its radiation. Your robot should be able to handle midday temperatures that can reach 127°C (hotter than boiling water) and nightime temperatures as low as -173°C.

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
Digging & Excavating

How will your robot dig and excavate the lunar soil? Will it have a scooper arm, a drill, a conveyor system, or something else? Will you do one big excavation or lots of little digs to collect the soil? Will your robot be really zippy and fast when it digs or slow and steady? Think about the mechanics of how your robot will dig and excavate the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
Traction

The Moon has 1/6th of Earth’s gravity, so your robot won’t weigh as much as it would on Earth. This also means it will have less traction. How will you design your robot to ensure it has enough traction to move around the lunar surface? Will you make your robot heavier than it would be here on Earth? Will it have wheels, treads or move along the Moon in some other way? Keep in mind that your robot needs to transport lunar soil about the distance of a football field every time it makes a trip from the excavation site. How will you make sure it grips the surface and doesn’t just spin its wheels?

Brainstorming Idea
Balance & Center of Mass

When designing your robot, you will want to make sure it is balanced. Consider its center of mass and how that might change when your robot digs lunar soil. Will it tip over or stay upright? How about when it starts moving and transporting the soil? What about when it is empty and is making the return trip to the excavation site? There are a lot of creative ways to think about making a balanced robot that digs and moves soil!

 

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
Speed

Operational considerations are important. Of course, the overall goal is to be as efficient as possible with digging soil. What does an efficient design look like to you? Will your robot move slow, fast, or at varying speeds? If it moves fast, how will it combat the challenges of kicking up lunar dust?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Idea
Passive Dust Technologies

Since lunar dust is sharp, abrasive, and clingy, your robot must have ways to protect itself. Think about some passive ways your robot can keep itself safe from that pesky dust that can scratch important components or clog up joints and axles. What passive solutions might your robot use to protect itself from dust? Will it have covers, sleeves, or special coatings?

Brainstorming Idea
Active Dust Technologies

Since lunar dust is sharp, abrasive, and clingy, your robot must have ways to protect itself. What are some active ways your robot can combat dust? Will your robot use a dust brush or wiper? Or blast some compressed air? Or can you develop an electrical or magnetic dust removal system to keep your robot dust-free?

 

Brainstorming Idea
Power System

Your robot needs to operate for long durations in a far-away location on the Moon. How will your robot be powered? Will it use batteries that need to be recharged? What about solar or nuclear-powered designs? The Moon also has many in-situ resources. Is there a source of sustainable energy for your robot that can be harvested on the Moon itself?

Brainstorming Idea
Autonomous / Controlled

Will your robot operate on its own (autonomous), or will it be remote-controlled by an astronaut on the Moon or a robot driver here on Earth. If your robot is autonomous, how will it find its target drilling location and the Artemis base target drop-off location? NASA’s Mars rovers are remotely operated by drivers, but the Moon is different and there will be human presence there soon. There are so many factors to consider!

Digital Tools

Build & Iterate

FOR THE CLASSROOM

Group Size

Split into 8 teams

Approach

Assign each team a video lesson and have them present what they learned

Material

None

Educator tools

 
 
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INSPIRING AND ENGAGING THE NEXT GENERATION OF EXPLORERS

The Lunabotics Junior Contest is funded by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) and presented in support of the Office of STEM Engagement. This student challenge is part of NASA's efforts to engage the public in its missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA is returning to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation. Working with partners throughout NASA, the agency will fine-tune precision landing technologies and develop new mobility capabilities that allow robots and crew to travel greater distances and explore new regions of the Moon. On the surface, the agency has proposed building a new habitat and rovers, testing new power systems, and much more to get ready for human exploration of Mars. Charged with returning to the Moon in the next four years, NASA will reveal new knowledge about the Moon, Earth, and our origins in the solar system.

IN SUPPORT OF NASA'S HUMAN EXPLORATION AND OPERATIONS MISSION DIRECTORATE AND THE OFFICE OF STEM ENGAGEMENT