Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Our “brilliant” decision to avoid the crowds during the hands-on portion of our last Virginia Tech Kids’ University program landed us in a fantastic Lunabotics program. Picture this: 100 kids plus their parents squeezing their way between double doors into the exhibit hall to explore the dozens of tables set-up to enhance the science fun. Most parents are finding it difficult to convince their kids to spread out and not crowd in front of the first few tables in eyesight. We saw the opportunity and quickly proceeded to the back of the hall. There we found very cool water property experiments and what…? Robots?!? I’m sorry folks, but counting the number of water droplets that the surface of a penny can hold (one kid got twelve, btw) has got nothing on robots.
Over at the table there was a sign “Lubanotics” — um, okay, I’m thinking I missed a day of science somewhere along the lines because aside from the -otics I have no idea what this exhibit is showing the kids. Upon further examination one of the presenters had taken a pencil and corrected the sign to read Lunabotics. Ah hah! Now I’ve got it. Cool. Moon robots. So here we’ve got a couple of Virginia Tech students explaining how cool robots are to a bunch of 3rd – 5th graders. Simple, right? Yes, because robots are cool. Robots on the moon are even cooler. A program sponsored by NASA to design mining robots to go to the moon is, by far, the coolest.
NASA’s Third Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition is a university-level competition designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). NASA will directly benefit from the competition by encouraging the development of innovative lunar excavation concepts from universities which may result in clever ideas and solutions which could be applied to an actual lunar excavation device or payload.
For this purpose, the Virginia Tech – Lunabotics team has created a program to inspire and educate elementary school students about robotics, engineering, and lunar activities by engaging the students in hands-on activities.
Students will design, build, and test a lunabot which will be made of LEGOs. This will help the students use their imagination and expose them to skills that will help them in the fields of STEM.
The best part, because we went to the back of the exhibit hall first we were able to get a guaranteed spot in the first come – first serve program that is capped at 50 students. Oh wait, the best best part — It’s free. How cool is that?
In our excitement we checked out bunches of books on robotics and lunabotics (surprisingly few on that specific topic), got some TED Talks lined up, and will be doing lots and lots of LEGO building. Going to be so much fun.