After months of competing, the first MoonBots Challenge has come to a close with Team Landroids, a group from Livingston, New Jersey, taking first place. The team is made up of five eighth-grade neighborhood friends named Karlin, Stanley, Brian, Gage and Jeffrey. The Landroids were captained by dad John Yeh. The winning team’s members are veterans of FIRST Lego League and are no strangers to science and robotic competitions. You can learn more about the Landroids and the prototypes they worked with by watching their documentary or visiting their website.
While the Landroids’ final run for the points makes the competition look easy (watch their video after the jump), it was anything but simple. All of their plans were nearly dashed as problem after problem popped up for the Landroids. But in the end, all was good and the Landroids emerged victorious.
Master Lego robot builder and MoonBots judge, Steve Hassenplug, talked about what set Team Landroids apart from the others. “I am very impressed with the results from all the finalists. Clearly all the teams worked hard and had a great deal of fun, but it appeared Landroids approached the competition with a level of professionalism unmatched by any other team, and they truly earned first place. I enjoyed the opportunity to judge the excellent work the teams did. They were all very impressive.”
Also recognized were the Shadowed Craters, who captured second place, and Team Moonwalk, which grabbed third. The Shadowed Craters were profiled here a couple weeks ago and are from the Miramar area of San Diego. Team Moonwalk is another New Jersey team (with part of the team hailing from Connecticut).
Anousheh Ansari, another MoonBots judge, commented on third place winners, Team Moonwalk: “Two things stood out for me in this team. One was because they used their technical knowledge to outline the scientific benefits of space exploration but also looked into the social benefits of space exploration and the opportunity for different nations to collaborate and create a lasting peace. This was one of my personal experiences on my flight to ISS. This collaborative aspect of space is what most people forget about.”
The long road to the finals began with more than 200 applications from around the globe, but mainly from the United States. These teams were tasked with creating a documentary about their team, creating a prototype using Lego Digital Designer, Google Sketchup or LDraw and create a website to share information about their team.
From there, the field was narrowed down to 20 teams for Phase Two. (You can review the documentary entries from the top 20 teams who made it into Phase Two here and here.) These Phase Two teams were given Mindstorms kits and a set of objectives to complete within a three-minute time period. Based on the team’s performance and some other criteria, a winner was chosen by a panel. Judges for this final phase included Anousheh Ansari, Steve Hassenplug, Dean Kamen and Jeff Kodosky.
“Congratulations to all of the MoonBots winners and finalists,” said Jeff Kodosky, co-founder and NI Business and Technology Fellow at National Instruments. “NI is proud to join with all the other MoonBots sponsors and partners in this incredibly innovative challenge that will help advance science, technology, engineering and math education throughout the world.”
Team Landroids will enjoy the grand prize of a trip to Billund, Denmark, to visit Lego headquarters, as well as a kit and registration for either FIRST Robotics FRC or FTC. The Shadowed Craters receive a 64-GB iPod Touch for each team member and a kit and registration for FIRST competition. Team Moonwalk receives a kit and registration for a FIRST competition too.
Thanks to all teams who entered. Every team did a fantastic job, according to William Pomerantz, senior director of space prizes for the X Prize Foundation. “The work these students did this summer was truly spectacular. 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.”