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X PRIZE Foundation and LEGO Group Announce Winners in “MoonBots” Educational Contest


PLAYA VISTA, CA (September 1, 2010) – Today, the X PRIZE Foundation, an educational non-profit organization that drives innovation through incentive prizes , and LEGO Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials for children, announced the winners of MoonBots, a global educational contest. The competition partnered with major technology leaders including Google, Inc., National Instruments and Wired Magazine’s GeekDad blog and challenged students, ranging from ages 9 – 18, to create simulated lunar rovers, using LEGO bricks and MINDSTORM components, similar to those competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an international competition for privately funded teams to build a rover to land on and explore the surface of the Moon. More than 200 teams from 16 nations representing every continent but Antarctica registered for MoonBots.

Team Landroids of New Jersey, a group of five 8th-grade neighborhood friends who participate in various science competitions and robotics challenges, was named the grand winner of MoonBots. As part of their reward, the team will travel to LEGO’s world headquarters in BIllund, Denmark to tour the LEGO factory and meet with company executives. Second place was awarded to team Shadowed Craters of California and third place was claimed by Team Moonwalk, jointly of New Jersey and Connecticut. All three finalist teams also received registrations and start up kits to compete in the FIRST robotics competitions. 

Winners were selected by a team of expert judges including X PRIZE Foundation Trustees Anousheh Ansari, entrepreneur and private astronaut and Dean Kamen, inventor, entrepreneur and founder of the FIRST robotics competitions. Other judges included Master LEGO robot builder Steve Hassenplug and Jeff Kodosky, co-Founder of the engineering firm National Instruments.

“We were overwhelmed by the achievements of the MoonBots finalists,” noted Steven Canvin, Community Manager for LEGO MINDSTORMS. “Watching these teams of students—plus their adult coaches and mentors—make their LEGO MINDSTORMS robots autonomously navigate a simulated lunar landscape built from LEGO elements, we have seen firsthand how teams of children engage complex problems and actually find viable solutions. Putting a robot on the surface of the Moon is a tremendous feat, and it was wonderful to give these students a taste of what that would entail. Hopefully, this gives them the confidence and passion move onwards to very successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”  The first phase of the competition required students to conduct in-depth research about lunar exploration as well as use Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software mock up a lunar robot. From there, the top 20 teams advanced to the second stage where finalists  spent the summer preparing for a live “Mission Webcast,” in which each team’s robot performed a variety of tasks meant to simulate the requirements of the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Each team also completed a video essay about Lunar Exploration as well as a video documentary about their process in the journey of learning about the Google Lunar X PRIZE and STEM related lessons.

“The work these students did this summer was truly spectacular” said William Pomerantz, Senior Director of Space Prizes for the X PRIZE Foundation.  “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.”

For more information about MoonBots and to read about the three winners and all of the other competitors, please visit: www.moonbots.org.

The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition that challenges and inspires engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. The $30 million prize purse is segmented into a $20 million Grand Prize, a $5 million Second Prize and $5 million in bonus prizes. To win the Grand Prize, a team must successfully soft land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon, rove on the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters, and transmit a specific set of video, images and data back to the Earth. The Grand Prize is $20 million until December 31st 2012; thereafter it will drop to $15 million until December 31st 2014 at which point the competition will be terminated unless extended by Google and the X PRIZE Foundation. For more information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE, please visit www.googlelunarxprize.org.

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured the world’s attention when the Burt Rutan-led team, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private spaceship to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for suborbital spaceflight.  The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation, with the support of its partner, BT Global Services, is creating prizes in Space and Ocean Exploration, Life Sciences, Energy and Environment, Education and Global Development.  The Foundation is widely recognized as a leader in fostering innovation through competition.  For more information, please visit www.xprize.org.

The LEGO Group is a privately held, family-owned company based in Billund, Denmark. It was founded in 1932, and today, the group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials for children, employing approximately 5,600 people globally. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children’s creative and imaginative abilities. LEGO products can be purchased in more than 130 countries. For more information, please visit www.lego.com.

In 1998, The LEGO Group spearheaded the consumer robotics category the company with the launch of the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robotics Invention System,  that introduced children to the world of robotics, and offering the ability to create their own intelligent, interactive, autonomous LEGO robots. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics toolkits allow children of all ages to design, build, and program their own robots using LEGO building elements, customized hardware, and an easy-to-use icon-based graphical programming language.  For more information, please visit mindstorms.lego.com.

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