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A New Contest For LEGO Lunar Robots

There's a new challenge, called MoonBots, that anyone can participate in. Announced this week, the contest asks six-member teams of children and adults to design a LEGO Mindstorms robot suitable for the moon.

1 min read
A New Contest For LEGO Lunar Robots

The Google Lunar X Prize provides a $20-million purse for the first private team to land a robotic vehicle on the moon, drive it around, and send back pictures and video. (We've profiled one of the favorites, the team from Carnegie Mellon University). Unfortunately, the technology (and money) required for a prize-winning mission goes far beyond something you can build in the basement with your kids.

But now there's a new challenge, called MoonBots, that anyone can participate in. Announced this week, the contest asks six-member teams of children and adults to design a LEGO Mindstorms robot suitable for the moon.

From the MoonBots website:

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 teams with the best designs will be provided with free LEGOs to actually build and program their robots. The completed bots will compete in challenges similar to the Lunar X Prize, but on a simulated "Moonscape."

If LEGOs aren't your thing, and you want to work on a real Lunar X robot, check out Team FREDnet, which I featured in a June article about participatory space exploration.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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