Students from Embry Riddle
Aeronautical University in nearby Daytona
Beach used a bucket style design for their
Lunabot. Their machine used Jaguar
controllers and A123 batteries from De Walt
What set this bot apart from many of
the other Lunabots was that all of the
hardware for the bot was sealed inside the
chassis using a gasket. This was in line with
NASA’s desire for the Lunabots to be
designed in a dust-proof manner. Regolith is
extremely fine and can easily cause problems
for astronauts and lunar equipment alike;
Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt
reportedly suffered from an allergic reaction
after breathing in lunar regolith on the
moon. The Apollo astronauts also had
problems with the dust corroding and
scratching equipment. The Lunabots designed with exposed parts would not last very long on an extended trip to the
moon. By addressing this issue, Embry Riddle earned some extra design points.
Another positive design aspect for the team’s Lunabot was its size. At 45 kg, this bot was about half the weight of
some of the other competitor’s entries.
Practice Makes Perfect
Since lunar regolith is so different from any
soil on Earth, it can be difficult for teams to
prepare for the unique qualities of the BP-1
regolith simulant. So, to practice for the event,
teams have come up with some unique solutions
to this difficulty.
Teams living in a coastal region have an
automatic advantage over the landlocked teams.
They have free, unlimited access to beach sand.
Although sand is a lot different from regolith, it is
cheap and abundant. It was very common for
teams from Florida — as well as the coast of India
and other countries — to practice in this manner.
And, since the competition was held on the
coast of Florida, many teams practiced at local
Playalinda or Cocoa Beach the night before the
Another variation on this was the volleyball
court method. Teams not near a beach often use
the school’s volleyball pit. For many schools, this
is the only sand available to them. The Hanyang
University team from Seoul, Korea practiced in a
This is as far as most of the schools go to
practice for the competition. Others go to some
greater lengths to prepare.
Iowa State created their own mix to mimic
the BP-1 regolith simulant. They used a mix of five
parts Portland cement, three parts fly ash, and
one part sand. They collected the fly ash from
Iowa State’s own coal burning power plant. Since
the plant burns a different mix of materials every
day, the team had to get all they needed on one
day, so there wouldn’t be inconsistencies in the
Last year, Laurentian University was
sponsored by EVC Ltd., a company that produces
simulant. They provided the team with regolith
simulant to practice with. This year, Laurentian
tested their bot with crusher dust — a fine dust
that is the byproduct of some mining operations.
44 SERVO 08.2012
The team from Iowa State University considered a number of
different designs before deciding on a conveyor belt. They thought
about using a bucket, but decided to challenge themselves with a
more sophisticated design. They also made plans for a bucket-wheel
excavator — where a machine collects regolith by scooping it with
buckets attached to a spinning wheel — but calculated that they
could mine more soil by using a conveyor design. Whatever the
motive for choosing the design, it certainly paid off; the Iowa State
team came in first place in the mining category.