MOONBOTS, an international competition challenging youth to create their own lunar robotic missions inspired by the Google Lunar XPRIZE, has officially named the winner of the 2017 —and final—challenge: Team BuildersKids from Mexico.
Team BuildersKids belong to a small club whose purpose is to teach children in the area about educational robotics. Team members Sofia and Natalia, ages 12 and 13, respectively, participated in multiple competitions that put their learning to the test.
When presented with the MOONBOTS challenge question, “What would you leave as a legacy on the Moon?” the girls thought about the fragility of life on Earth in the face of nuclear wars, natural disasters, diseases and epidemics. With that in mind, they decided they wanted to preserve all life, from endangered species to humans, in some way.
To achieve that goal, the team’s winning idea was to send frozen DNA samples of everything they could preserve to the Moon. Their spaceship “Nodriza” would land on the Moon and, via robotic rovers, set up a cryogenic DNA bank on one of the Moon’s poles, chosen for its sub-zero temperatures. The rovers would also set up solar panels to keep the bank powered, as well as a communications system to keep in contact with Earth. The rovers would set up a security perimeter around the bank for added protection.
This year, 166 teams from 24 countries entered Phase One of the MOONBOTS competition, with only 12 teams selected to move onto Phase Two. But, in the end, Sofia and Natalia’s innovative idea made them the sole winners of the Grand Prize: a once-in-a-lifetime trip to meet the winning Google Lunar XPRIZE team, as well as free registration to the FIRST® LEGO® League challenge.
Over the years, the MOONBOTS competition successfully tapped into the enthusiasm for STEM and robotics in groups of youth globally, and was able to engage a considerable number of people through the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
“We have had over 40 countries, and over 1,000 teams, participate in MOONBOTS since 2010. We are really happy that students have been inspired by the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and want to work in this area when they grow up,” said Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, Prize Lead of the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Former MOONBOTS team members have gone on to become mentors of future teams, and have inspired robotics outreach programs based on what they learned during their involvement with the program.
Team Highlander—based out of Malaysia and finalists in the 2015 MOONBOTS challenge —started an initiative to give children in science-weak, remote areas of their country (including the deep jungle) opportunities to engage with STEM and robotics. Many other teams engaged with local robotics clubs and have led a variety of workshops to teach and involve other youth in conversations about STEM.
Other past participants have entered STEM-related fields of study and careers, with several alumni going on to study at MIT and other Ivy League schools within the U.S.
As mentioned, the MOONBOTS competition, created through a partnership between XPRIZE, Google, the LEGO Group, WIRED and National Instruments in 2010, is coming to an end with the announcement of this year’s winners. Partners for this year’s competition include VEX Robotics, Inc., MECCANO, Robomatter, Inc., FIRST®, Dexter Industries, LEGO® Education, GeekDad.com, GeekMom.com and Paréntesis.com.
“MOONBOTS was a great STEM project that impacted kids and adults from all parts of the world,” Gonzales-Mowrer said. “We are proud of this year’s winners and especially thankful to all of our partners over the years for making MOONBOTS an international success.”