X PRIZE, LEGO Announce Winners of MoonBots Competition

Sept. 1, 2010

Today, the X PRIZE Foundation, an educational non-profit organization that drives innovation through incentive prizes , and LEGO Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials for children, announced the winners of MoonBots, a global educational contest.

The competition partnered with major technology leaders including Google, Inc., National Instruments and Wired Magazine’s GeekDad blog and challenged students, ranging from ages 9 – 18, to create simulated lunar rovers, using LEGO bricks and MINDSTORM components, similar to those competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an international competition for privately funded teams to build a rover to land on and explore the surface of the Moon. More than 200 teams from 16 nations representing every continent but Antarctica registered for MoonBots.

Team Landroids of New Jersey, a group of five 8th-grade neighborhood friends who participate in various science competitions and robotics challenges, was named the grand winner of MoonBots. As part of their reward, the team will travel to LEGO’s world headquarters in BIllund, Denmark to tour the LEGO factory and meet with company executives.

Second place was awarded to team Shadowed Craters of California and third place was claimed by Team Moonwalk, jointly of New Jersey and Connecticut. All three finalist teams also received registrations and start up kits to compete in the FIRST robotics competitions.

Winners were selected by a team of expert judges including X PRIZE Foundation Trustees Anousheh Ansari, entrepreneur and private astronaut and Dean Kamen, inventor, entrepreneur and founder of the FIRST robotics competitions. Other judges included Master LEGO robot builder Steve Hassenplug and Jeff Kodosky, co-Founder of the engineering firm National Instruments.

“We were overwhelmed by the achievements of the MoonBots finalists,” noted Steven Canvin, Community Manager for LEGO MINDSTORMS. “Watching these teams of students—plus their adult coaches and mentors—make their LEGO MINDSTORMS robots autonomously navigate a simulated lunar landscape built from LEGO elements, we have seen firsthand how teams of children engage complex problems and actually find viable solutions.

“Putting a robot on the surface of the Moon is a tremendous feat, and it was wonderful to give these students a taste of what that would entail. Hopefully, this gives them the confidence and passion move onwards to very successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

The first phase of the competition required students to conduct in-depth research about lunar exploration as well as use Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software mock up a lunar robot. From there, the top 20 teams advanced to the second stage where finalists  spent the summer preparing for a live “Mission Webcast,” in which each team’s robot performed a variety of tasks meant to simulate the requirements of the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Each team also completed a video essay about Lunar Exploration as well as a video documentary about their process in the journey of learning about the Google Lunar X PRIZE and STEM related lessons.

“The work these students did this summer was truly spectacular” said William Pomerantz, Senior Director of Space Prizes for the X PRIZE Foundation.  “The mission very closely paralleled the work our Google Lunar X PRIZE teams were doing, so we greatly enjoyed watching those technical challenges worked out on a different scale. The new era of lunar exploration is being built on the contribution of people of all ages and nationalities, and it is clear that the MoonBots participants have what it takes to make important contributions.”

For more information about MoonBots and to read about the three winners and all of the other competitors, please visit: www.moonbots.org.