« Back to News

UCF at NASA Robotic Mining Competition

May 2017:

Congrats to the UCF Robotic Mining team and to Addie Dove for her role co-advising them at the 2017 NASA Robotic Mining Competition.

The UCF team successfully mined the regolith, which is a significant accomplishment considering it is a rather young team in the competition. Typically it takes a school several years to learn how to build a functioning robot that avoids getting stuck in the soft lunar-like soil and that avoids breaking down as it mines. (Note for comparison that China’s Yutu lunar rover got stuck after just a few meters of driving in lunar regolith, showing how hard it is for a small robot to drive in that stuff.)

This is UCF’s third year, but it is their first year returning from a hiatus, so it is more like a first-year team. I have been a judge at the competition for 7 years now, and I can attest that it is a very significant accomplishment for a school to successfully mine the harsh regolith. Most teams at the competition have robots that break or catch fire or that fail to move at all or that get stuck in the soft soil. In the first year of the competition in 2009, in the first round there was no school at all that successfully mined the regolith. (And in the prior, corporate version of this competition, before it was made a university event, NASA chose not to award a winner to any team in the first year, since no corporate robot could mine regolith.)

Since then, the successful teams have been improving year-by-year. For a young team to break in with a competent robot is an outstanding achievement. It is now something they can build upon. I’m really proud of the UCF team under Addie’s leadership for what they have done.

The UCF team also received an award from NASA for its effective social media outreach program during the year-long project.