NASA has chosen two students as winners of the Lunabotics Junior Contest, a national competition for students K-12 featuring the space agency’s Artemis theme. Contestants were charged with designing a robot that can dig and move lunar soil, or regolith, from one area of the lunar South Pole to a holding container near a future Artemis Moon base.
Fifteen-year-old Shriya Sawant, of Cumming, Georgia, was the winner from Grades 6-12 with her RAD: Regolith Accretion Device design. Lucia Grisanti, 9, from Toms River, New Jersey, won for Grades K-5 with her design of Olympus. Each robot successfully accomplished the task of collecting and transporting regolith across rugged lunar terrain.
“Looking at the designs these students submitted for Lunabotics Junior, it’s impossible not to be excited about the future of the Artemis Generation,” said Mike Kincaid, NASA’s associate administrator for the Office of STEM Engagement. “Their creativity and enthusiasm shine through in their ideas for a robot capable of mining lunar regolith.”
One national winner from each grade division was selected from approximately 2,300 submitted designs. The two awardees earned a virtual chat for their classrooms with Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro.
Through its Artemis Student Challenges, NASA is welcoming the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – to learn more about the mission that will pave the way to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. Together with commercial and international partners, NASA will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars.
As NASA prepares to return to the Moon, lunar regolith will be needed for multiple purposes, such as building a Moon base using lunar concrete; harvesting water that also can be used for rocket fuel; and extracting possible metals or minerals. The contest asked students to consider factors unique to the lunar environment when imagining their designs.
Grisanti’s solar-powered robot would use spiked wheels to traverse the lunar surface and scoop regolith into a cone-shaped collector to separate large rocks from dust. She named it Olympus, after the home of Apollo and Artemis.
Sawant designed an autonomous robot that would utilize a bucket drum to excavate soil in a creative way. Her system addressed the challenges of reduced gravity on the Moon, lunar dust contamination, navigating rough terrain, and ensuring the robot stays balanced during excavation and transport.
Nearly 500 educators, professionals, and space enthusiasts served as volunteer judges to review student submissions. On March 15, judges selected 20 semifinalists, each of whom won a Lunabotics Junior Prize Pack. On March 22, eight finalists were announced and will receive a virtual education session with a NASA expert. The contest semifinalists and finalists are as follows:
The Lunabotics Junior contest was a collaboration between Future Engineers, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and the Office of STEM Engagement.
For more information on NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/stem
Kennedy Space Center, Florida