NASA contest asks K-12 students to create Moon-digging robots

The agency wants to inspire the next wave of robot designers.


NASA doesn't just want adults learning how to work with lunar soil. The space agency has launched a Lunabotics Junior contest that tasks K-12 students in the US with designing (but not manufacturing) a Moon-digging robot. They have to envision a compact (3.5ft by 2ft by 2ft) automaton that can dig and move lunar regolith while dealing with the stickiness of that soil.

Kids have until January 25th, 2022 to submit both an image of the robot and a summary of how it's meant to operate. The two winners for the K-5 and 6-12 categories will each get a virtual classroom chat with Kennedy Space Center director Janet Petro, while four finalists in each group will have virtual sessions with a NASA expert. Ten semifinalists will get an unspecified prize pack. NASA will announce the semifinalists on March 8th, the finalists on March 22nd and the winners on March 29th.

No, NASA isn't trying to crowdsource Artemis program ideas from children. This is more about inspiring a new wave of engineers who could one day lead Moon colonization efforts. It's a relatively modest investment that could pay dividends for NASA's long-term plans.