Under the mentorship of former astronaut Jon McBride, West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will compete in its first Lunabotics Mining Competition this spring.

NASA’s second annual Lunabotics Competition challenges teams from around the world to design and build a remote controlled excavation robot that is capable of collecting and depositing a minimum of 10 kilograms of “lunar simulant”—simulated moon soil—within 15 minutes. Other competition categories include a technical paper, outreach project, slide presentation and team spirit.

So far, 54 teams are registered for the competition, which is May 23-28, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“The reason for this competition is to prepare for mining of minerals and various raw material that are essential to the long-term human presence on the moon and other planetary bodies,” said Dr. Majid Jaraiedi, director of NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium/NASA West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. “Eventually, technologies such as this will make sustainable human settlement on the moon and Mars a possibility.”

The WVU Lunabotics team, formed at the beginning of the year, consists of 15 engineering students—six graduate and nine undergraduate—and faculty advisor, Dr. Powsiri Klinkhachorn, a professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The team, a multidisciplinary group, represents computer and electrical engineering, as well as mechanical and aerospace engineering. The team is also collaborating with the mining and civil engineering departments.

At a recent meeting, the Lunabotics team presented its design and initial planning to McBride, a 1964 CEMR graduate. As an unofficial technical advisor and mentor, McBride, a member of the Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Encounter team, was able to offer critiques and advice to the team.

“I am honored that McBride, a son of West Virginia that has achieved so much for his country and state, would take the time to mentor us,” said Ben Knabenshue , student team leader. “The meeting was great; he gave us a very inspiring talk and some great feedback on our preliminary designs.”

“We have an amazing team, and I think that we have an excellent opportunity to bring home a victory for WVU,” Knabenshue.

WVU’s Lunabotics team is sponsored by the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium, WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

For more information about the competition, visit http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/centers/kennedy/technology/lunabotics.html.


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Mary Dillon
Communications, Marketing and Public Relations
College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
(304) 293-4086