Patrick Robinson
Asa Beuhler and Kyle Jensen designed, built, programmed and tested their version of lego robot on a simulated lunar landscape at the newly opened wing of the Museum of Flight as part of the 'Moonbots Challenge' sponsored by Google and Lego. The effort is meant to stimulate more interest in science, technology and math and is part of the Lunar X prize, to get a real lunar robot on the moon. CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE MORE OR SEE THE GALLERY BELOW.

West Seattle boys built a moonbot to compete in the Mindstorms Challenge


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Two West Seattle boys, age 9 made a presentation of their science and robotics skills at the newly opened wing for the Space Shuttle Trainer at the Museum of Flight on Sun. Nov. 11.

Asa Buehler, and his friend Kyle Jensen worked for the past six months on an international robotics competition called " The Mindstorms Challenge", part of an effort sponsored by Google for the Lunar X Prize, and toy company Lego.

The competition is meant to stimulate more interest in science, technology, engineering and math and aimed at future robotic missions to the moon.

The boys, formed a team they call the Penguin Men (from a previous school project) and submitted a proposal, for a "Moonbot" including a video in June in the contest for 9 to 15 year olds that saw 300 teams from around the world vying for the prize.

Thirty teams made the first cut, including The Penguin Men who were not only the youngest team in the competition but the smallest with other teams numbering five or more.

The boys received a Lego Mindstorms robotic kit and designed, built and tested a robot they dubbed "Inspiration" that can carry out several missions on a lunar landscape that they also designed and built (with a little parental help). They chose the name, (after first considering calling it 'Billy Bob') after watching the Mars lander "Curiosity."

That landscape included lunar soil (sand from the hardware store) a large lunar ridge (made from styrofoam and spray paint) and at the presentation their goal was to get their robot to, using software they programmed, head over the ridge, pick up some "ice" (a stand in object) and bring it back.

They encountered a few problems including a low battery but they learned so much in their numerous iterations of each step of development it was all worth it.

The presentation was transmitted live over the internet to judges for the competition who could award them points. The boys estimated they scored "around 100 points" . Points were awarded for design, capability, and community outreach.

While no specific prize was mentioned, in the past the winning team has won a trip.

Matt Jensen, Kyle's dad, guided and coached the boys. He gave credit to the Beuhler family too, "Asa's parents have repeatedly given up their dining room table to this sandy, billowy, messy lunar landscape for session after session. We couldn't have done it without them."

Are these boys the future of the American space program? Don't doubt it. Kyle said he wants to grow up to be a robotics engineer and Asa said his goal is to be a spaceflight engineer.

They should know by Nov. 15 who won the competition.

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