Unique competition takes students to the Moon

Unique competition takes students to the Moon

An exciting robot design/build competition for Year 5 and 6 students, Robots in Space! has set its sights on the Moon.

The competition will see student teams designing and/or building their own robotic lunar explorers, imagining the challenges their robots could face on the Moon and coming up with creative solutions.

The initiative to stoke students’ interest in Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) was brought to life by a collaboration between PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Australia, the University of Canberra, Questacon, the Australian Space Agency and Robogals Canberra.

“It is crucial to foster an environment in which kids can be introduced to STEM at their own pace,” said Kate Gibbins, president of Robogals Canberra.

“There aren’t enough school students exposed to science and engineering in an exciting way – as a result, STEM fields are in desperate need of more passionate and creative minds.”

Professor Eileen McLaughlin, executive dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Canberra, said: “Encouraging young thinkers to undertake STEM activities is therefore very important for our future”.

As a member of the judging panel, Professor McLaughlin is excited to see what teams will come up with, particularly in the creative thinking underlying design. So is Anthony Murfett, Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency and another Robots in Space! judge.

“The STEM skills students develop from programs like this are a great introduction to the skills they’ll need for the jobs of the future,” Murfett said.

“With the rapid transformation of Australia’s space industry, these include a vast array of space-related jobs right here.”

This year, teams will register and submit entries for the Canberra-based competition via the Robots in Space! website, hosted by the University of Canberra.

Students can participate in one of two categories. Teams in the General category will create a non-functional robot; the Open category is for schools that have access to robot kits, and will see teams build functional robots.

“We know how important it is to get students interested in STEM, and we wanted to make the competition accessible to everyone, as well as collaborative, educational and fun,” said Gavin Fairlamb, senior manager of technology consulting at PwC Australia and the Robots in Space! project leader.

Teams in both categories will build obstacle courses, created around their robots’ perceived challenges.

The lunar focus of Robots in Space! is particularly timely – the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing this year.

“The Moon landing epitomises what STEM is all about – a group of people coming together with a common purpose, collaborating to answer one of humanity’s big questions,” Sam Hardwicke, educator program manager at Questacon, said.

“Robots in Space! is a terrific platform for participants to engage in meaningful inquiry learning, building knowledge, skills and dispositions that are – and will continue to be – integral to solving some really wicked problems.”

Participants will need to register for the competition before submitting their work. Registration is now open and will close on 16 August 2019. Competition submissions are due by 27 September 2019.

Prizes include Questacon family tickets, the chance to have the winning robots hosted at Q Lab, and more. The top five winning teams in each category will be invited to an awards night at Questacon on 4 November 2019.