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MoonBots Challenges Parent-Child Teams to Conduct Google Lunar XPrize Missions With Lego Robots

MoonBots Challenges Parent-Child Teams to Conduct Google Lunar XPrize Missions With Lego Robots

Austin, TX (August 04, 2009) — The XPRIZE Foundation, Google Inc., LEGO Systems, National Instruments, and Wired’s GeekDad will announce “MoonBots: A Google Lunar XPRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge” today at National Instruments NIWeek 2009. The new contest will challenge small teams comprised of children and adults to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public. To further this purpose, the XPRIZE Foundation and Google have now joined forces with three other well known technology companies to offer a competition that will stimulate learning of robotics and team building while exciting students and their families about their potential roles in the new Moon race.

“The Google Lunar XPRIZE is helping to open a new era of lunar exploration that will involve much broader participation than the first Moon race,” said William Pomerantz, Senior Director for Space Prizes at the XPRIZE Foundation. “We want students and their parents to understand that they can tackle difficult engineering problems and generate important new ideas regardless of their age or their background—and that they can have fun doing so. This contest is quite accessible for even very young children, but still demands creativity, intelligence, and hard work. It’s a perfect starting point for the next generation of rocket scientists!”

Once registration for the contest opens, teams will be asked to submit designs illustrating how they will build, program and operate their robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS robotic kits. There will be no charge to enter the contest and registration will be open to teams across the globe.

The competition will encourage the participants to use free software tools such as Google’s SketchUp, LEGO’s Digital Designer, National Instruments LabVIEW, and Google’s YouTube platform to delineate how their entry will be constructed and how their team will function. From these submissions, a select group will be chosen as finalists and provided with free LEGO components to construct a large Moonscape that will serve as the competition’s ‘playing field.’ Finalists will then construct, program and demonstrate their robots to be judged.

For more than a decade, the LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics toolkits have given children of all ages the best of both the physical and virtual world, combining LEGO bricks with state-of-the-art hardware and easy-to-use programming software. LEGO MINDSTORMS empowers users to conceive, build and program robotic inventions for both play and learning purposes. In just 30 minutes, young robot creators can build and program their first working LEGO robot.

“Thanks to the many thousands of users in the LEGO MINDSTORMS community, we have an impressive track record when it comes to amazing, imaginative robotic inventions and applications,” said Steven Canvin, Marketing Manager for LEGO MINDSTORMS. “Users have in the past decade created LEGO MINDSTORMS robots that have been into space twice, so creating the MoonBots contest together with the partners around the Google Lunar XPRIZE is a natural choice”.

The teams of children and adults around the world will be challenged to use their imagination and problem-solving skills to develop a robot for a complex mission, and we hope that their work will encourage and inspire others to explore their creativity”.

“The mission of the LEGO Group is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and we hope that the MoonBots Challenge can be part of fulfilling that mission”.

"We hope competitions like the Google Lunar XPRIZE will revolutionize space exploration, and we want everyone to be as excited about space as we are," said Tiffany Montague, Technical Program Manager of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. "MoonBots is an important next step in this ongoing effort because it will help better our understanding of the challenges of working, and eventually living, in space. The participants in the MoonBots competition may become the future technologists and engineers that ultimately help us return the Moon - we're looking forward to seeing their work."

"Travel to the Moon holds a unique place in childrens' imaginations, and using LEGO to bring our kids' imaginations to life is one of a GeekDad's favorite pastimes." says Ken Denmead, Editor for the GeekDad blog at WIRED. "WIRED and its GeekDad parenting blog look forward to working with our partners on the MoonBots challenge to inspire the next generation of lunar explorers to build their dreams with one hand while they reach for the stars with the other."

“Today's students are tomorrow's innovators,” said Ray Almgren, Vice President of Academic Relations at National Instruments. “National Instruments is committed to inspiring children to develop their creativity and explore the wonders of science and engineering through hands-on experiences such as the MoonBots contest. MoonBots participants will program their robots with easy-to-use, graphical software powered by National Instruments LabVIEW – the same software used by engineers and scientists around the world for innovative applications such as testing next-generation gaming systems and creating breakthrough medical devices."

To learn more about the MoonBots competition and to find out upcoming information when to register to compete, please visit

For more information about the Google Lunar XPRIZE and the teams currently registered in the competition, please visit High resolution photographs, video and other team materials are available upon request.

LabVIEW, National Instruments, NI, and NIWeek are trademarks of National Instruments. LEGO, MINDSTORMS, and the LEGO logo are trademarks of the LEGO Group. Other product and company names listed are trademarks or trade names of their respective companies.


The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters (1/3 of a mile) and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission. To date, more than 20 teams from a dozen countries around the world have registered to compete for the prize. The Google Lunar XPRIZE is available to be claimed until the end of the year 2015.


Founded in 1995, the XPRIZE Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The XPRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration (Ocean and Deep Space). Prizes won include the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private, suborbital space flight; the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive XPRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent (MPGe); and the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE for advanced rocket development. Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics XPRIZE, and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE. For more information, visit


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


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

ABOUT WIRED / CONDE NAST is your essential daily guide to what's next, delivering the most original and complete take you'll find anywhere on innovation's impact on technology, science, business and culture.'s award-winning news reporting, unique commentary, authoritative reviews and practical hands-on tutorials make it the go-to site for thoughtful and comprehensive coverage of innovation's impact on all aspects of our lives. Join 14 million of the smartest readers on the planet. is part of the Condé Nast Digital Business Group, comprised of,,, and


National Instruments is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype and deploy systems for measurement, automation and embedded applications. NI empowers customers with off-the-shelf software such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective hardware, and sells to a broad base of more than 30,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 15 percent of revenue. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 5,000 employees and direct operations in more than 40 countries. For the past 10 years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. For more information, please visit

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