The Regolith Raiders took the third place 2012 On-site Mining Award at the NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition, which was the best MSOE has ever done. The senior project objective was to engineer and build a lunar excavator that could mine and deposit a minimum of 10 kilograms of lunar regolith (moon dirt) simulant, called BP-1, within 10 minutes. Fifty-five teams competed and only 12 had a successful run during the competition, which was at the Kennedy Space Center.
A team of mechanical engineering seniors built the excavator as their senior design project. They reported that the complexities of the project included the abrasive characteristics of BP-1, the weight and size limitations for the Lunabot, and the ability to telerobotically control the Lunabot from an isolated mission control center. Taking these complexities into consideration, and all the competition rules and point system, the team ended up with two Lunabot designs. One approach applied heavy-duty materials, such as steel, to excavate large quantities of regolith in order to gain competition points in the mining category. The second approach optimized the size and weight of the Lunabot by using lightweight materials, such as aluminum, to gain competition points in the weight category. In the end, their best designs came together in an award-winning excavator.
In 2013 a team of computer engineering students designed a fully autonomous lunar mining robot to compete in the 2013 NASA Lunabotics competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They collaborated with a team of mechanical engineers to design as well as improve upon previous years’ attempts.