Oakton engineering students will be heading back to the Kennedy Space Center in May to compete in NASA's 3rd Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition thanks to a $4,000 grant from the National Space Grant Foundation. The grant, which encourages robotic exploration, is part of the NASA/Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Space Grant Program. To win the NASA competition, participants must design and build a remote-controlled excavator, known as a "lunabot," capable of digging and depositing 10 kilograms of simulated lunar materials at least 60 meters away in 15 minutes. In 2011, the Oakton team was the only community college to compete. Its lunabot, HOPE, was one of 18 to make it into the final portion of the competition. Last year, the team did the job on a shoestring budget. To get the grant, Oakton worked with its Engineering and Physics Club to reformat the project into a class. Funds will make it possible to have a mentor, as well as provide necessary parts and tools to build the lunabot, and help cover travel expenses.
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