College students from around the globe gathered at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week to participate in NASA's fourth annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The competition - designed to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) - challenges teams to design and build a remote controlled or autonomous excavator.
These excavators, called Lunabots, must be capable of mining and depositing simulated lunar soil. The complexities of the challenge include the abrasive characteristics of the lunar soil, the weight and size limitations of the Lunabot, time restrictions and the ability to control the Lunabot from a remote station.
Fifty-one teams from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Mexico, Poland and the U.S. participated this year. As an enthusiastic supporter of STEM initiatives, Caterpillar sponsored three teams from the University of Illinois, Iowa State University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The Iowa State University team took the grand prize, winning a $5,000 scholarship and personal invitation to view an upcoming launch at the Kennedy Space Center.
"Caterpillar has a long history of supporting educational opportunities that promote STEM," said Eric Reiners, an engineering manager who served as a judge at the event. "We need to encourage technology, innovation and ingenuity to students of all ages. Lunabotics is a fun way to engage with the technical talent of the future to help solve problems here on earth and beyond."