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Again, the primary goal of Lunabotics is STEM education.
The teams learn engineering in a hands-on way by designing
and building lunar rover prototypes. At the Lunabotics
competition, they put their machines to the test in a pit of
simulated regolith, competing with other teams to mine the
most soil. In previous years, mining regolith was the only goal.
Since NASA scientists won’t have the
luxury of being in the same room — or
even the same planet — as a lunar rover,
the same rules apply to the Lunabotics
students. They must operate their bot
from a command center bus, where they
view the LunArena and their Lunabot on
small, closed circuit television screens.
The bots must operate wirelessly. One
change that NASA made to the
competition this year was giving the
teams added points for making their bots
autonomous — just as an actual lunar
rover would be.
Team members from Florida State
University (FSU) waited — excited and
anxious — for their turn in the LunArena.
The teams are required to mine a
minimum of 10 kg of regolith, and pass
through some lunar obstacles during
their turn in the regolith pit. The FSU
students decorated their suits with the
school’s logo, as well as with phrases
such as “Go ‘Noles!” (an abbreviation
for the school’s mascot, the Seminole),
and “Hi mom!” Although wearing the
thick white suits in the middle of Central
Florida’s 90° heat was uncomfortable —
to say the least — they are a necessary
safety requirement. The simulated
regolith could easily get into the
student’s eyes and throats when they
brought their robots into the LunArena.
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