Girl-Led Teams Dominated Annual STEM-Based Competition, MOONBOTS

MoonBots

XPRIZE, the global leader in incentivized prize competitions, and Google today announced the winners of the 2015 MOONBOTS Challenge, also considered the “Google Lunar XPRIZE for Kids.” It is an international competition that inspires the next generation of space explorers and innovators by inviting kids ages 8-17 to design, create, and program their own lunar rover, based on a legend or theory that inspires them about the moon. 

Next month, the winning teams will embark upon a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan to meet the official teams competing for a $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition to land a privately funded robot on the moon.

For the first time since the inception of MOONBOTS in 2010, the majority of the winning teams’ members are female—breaking stereotypes in the typically male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The 2015 MOONBOTS winning teams, representing three countries are:

team_galactech

Team GalacTECHs (Tustin, Calif.) comprised of two girls and two boys ages 8-11, who imagined a future where it’s common practice for people to vacation at a resort on the moon.

team_linked_lunas-1

Linked Lunas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) comprised of twin sisters Hadley and Delaney, age 9. Their mission is based on a historical tale and scientific theory that hits close to home—that the Earth once had “twin” moons that collided and merged into one.

teammecaliks

Mecaliks (Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico) comprised of three girls ages 9-12, who were inspired by Mayan cultural beliefs that time is measured by lunar phases.

moonshot

Moonshot (Brooklyn, N.Y. and Naples, Italy) comprised of two boy cousins, ages 10 and 12, who live across the world from each other but share a similar interest in the moon and the way it brings people together—just as it does in their family.

“In addition to showing ingenuity and innovation in their robotic building and programming, all four grand prize winners were creative and imaginative in the way they interpreted their moon ‘tales,'” said Chanda Gonzales, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE. “While each entry was unique, they were all incredibly engaging and will provide inspiration for kids all over the world.”

The winning teams will travel to Japan in October to meet up with the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams who are gathering for an annual Team Summit in Tokyo.

“By inspiring and encouraging today’s youth, MOONBOTS is paving the way for the next generation of coders, innovators, space explorers, and dreamers,” said Yasemin Denari Southworth, brand marketing manager at Google. “We are proud to build both boys’ and girls’ confidence by supporting their imagination and creativity in a game of skill that’s collaborative and educational. By doing so, we hope to eliminate some environmental and social barriers that can block participation and progress in STEM, especially among young girls.”

The student competition, which began in April, attracted 235 teams from 29 countries who entered phase one by submitting a written or video entry about what inspires them about the moon. Teams are comprised of 2-4 members (ages 8-17) and one team captain at least 18 years old. A panel of judges selected 30 teams to qualify for phase two, each of which was provided one of three platform systems (LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, VEX IQ, MECCANO Meccanoid G15 KS) to build and program a unique simulated robotic mission based on the moon tale they submitted in phase one. In addition, they were asked provide a demonstration to the judges via live webcast and contribute to STEM education by sharing their innovation with children and adults in their community.

Since 2010, MOONBOTS has challenged thousands of young people from around the world. In addition to XPRIZE and Google, competition partners include FIRST® LEGO® League, Cogmation Robotics, VEX Robotics Inc., Spin-Master Ltd., the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (RECF), GeekDad, GeekMom, Robomatter Incorporated, and Dexter Industries. More information, including the full list of finalists, can be found at moonbots.org.

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Ken is a husband and father from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as civil engineer. He became the Publisher of GeekDad in 2007, and the owner in 2010. He also wrote the NYT bestselling GeekDad series of project books for parents and kids to share.