Press Release

The Challenge Is On: Robot Prize Competition Registration Opens

By SpaceRef Editor
September 19, 2011
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The Challenge Is On: Robot Prize Competition Registration Opens

NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass., are seeking teams to compete in a robot technology demonstration competition with a potential $1.5 million prize.

During the Sample Return Robot Challenge, teams will compete to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA’s capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation’s robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth.

“NASA’s Centennial Challenges competitions engage teams from across the country to solve the technology hurdles NASA faces as we explore new frontiers,” said Mike Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program in Washington. “We’re looking forward to teams registering to compete, so they can unleash their creative problem-solvers to take on this robotic technology challenge.”

NASA provides the prize money to the winning team as part of the agency’s Centennial Challenges competitions, which seek unconventional solutions to problems of interest to the agency and the nation. While NASA provides the prize purse, the competitions are managed by non-profit organizations that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private sponsorships. The competition is planned for June 2012 in Worcester and is anticipated to attract hundreds of competitors from industry and academia nationwide.

“WPI takes tremendous pride in being the first university selected by NASA as a partner for a Centennial Challenge,” said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey. “This university is a hub of expertise and innovation within the area of robotics, and like NASA, we believe strongly in the promise of this industry. Accordingly, we have invested deeply in growing our programs and growing interest in the field among young people. We are looking forward to an exciting competition.”

There have been 21 NASA Centennial Challenges competitions since 2005. Through this program, NASA has awarded $4.5 million to 13 different challenge-winning teams. Competitors have included private companies, student groups and independent inventors working outside the traditional aerospace industry. Unlike contracts or grants, prizes are awarded only after solutions are successfully demonstrated.

For more information about the Sample Return Robot Challenge, visit:

The Centennial Challenges program is part of NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. For more information about NASA’s Centennial Challenges and the Office of the Chief Technologist, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.