The future is bright for two young inventors from the Garden State.
Nine-year-old Lucia Grisanti from Toms River won the K-5 division of NASA’s Lunabotics Junior Contest, a national competition that tasked K-12 students with designing a robot that can dig and move lunar soil from one area of the moon’s South Pole to a holding container near a future Artemis Moon base.
Students needed to consider factors unique to the lunar environment when creating their designs.
According to the March 29 announcement from NASA, Lucia’s solar-powered Olympus robot was designed with spiked wheels to traverse the lunar surface and scoop the soil — or regolith, as it’s known — into a cone-shaped collector to separate large rocks from dust. Her robot was named after the home of Greek mythology’s Apollo and Artemis, which also are the names of NASA’s original and current lunar exploration programs.
Ayaansh Jain from Glen Rock was named a semifinalist in the K-5 division with the design titled DIANA (Roman Goddess of Moon).
Through its Artemis challenges, NASA is encouraging students to learn more about the mission that will pave the way to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon. According to the statement, NASA will establish a sustainable presence on the moon to prepare for missions to Mars, with the help of commercial and international partners.
“Looking at the designs these students submitted for Lunabotics Junior, it’s impossible not to be excited about the future of the Artemis Generation,” Mike Kincaid, NASA’s associate administrator for the Office of STEM Engagement, said in a statement. “Their creativity and enthusiasm shine through in their ideas for a robot capable of mining lunar regolith.”
One national winner from each grade division was selected from approximately 2,300 submitted designs. Shriya Sawant, 15, of Cumming, Ga., was the winner from grades 6-12 with her RAD: Regolith Accretion Device design. The two awardees earned a virtual chat for their classrooms with Janet Petro, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Nearly 500 educators, professionals and space enthusiasts served as volunteer judges to review student submissions.