Members of Team MecaLIKS and their mentor. Members of Team MecaLIKS and their mentor.

Mayan moon mission wins Google prize

Young robotics students off to Japan after winning Moonbots Challenge

A lunar rover designed by three Mexican girls has won them an international prize and a trip to Japan, where they will meet the competitors in the US $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.

The three members of Team MecaLIKS, Jana Jezabel González Castrejón, 9, Jade Titania Díaz García, 12, and Ámbar Nicole Díaz García, 9, used the astronomical knowledge and the beliefs of the Maya civilization as an inspiration to design a lunar rover and five space missions for it.

As a result of their work at the robotics club Liks, where they were mentored by director Adolfo Ferrer Jaime, the three young girls from Cuautitlán Izcalli in the State of México participated with their project in the 2015 Google Moonbots Challenge along with 235 other teams from 29 countries, winning the grand prize after two selective phases, along with two U.S. teams and one more from Italy.

Ferrer described the five lunar missions the girls designed for their robot: The first consisted of activating a clock based on the Piedra del Sol, the famous Aztec stone calendar, which would measure the robot’s time on the moon.

In its second mission, the robot had to transport supplies to a Mayan lunar base. For the third mission, the girls instructed the robot to activate a space elevator inspired by the Mayan pyramid at Palenque, Chiapas.

For it last two missions, the robot had to activate an oxygen supply system that would allow for a Mayan civilization to live on the moon and finally, the robot had to wave a Mexican flag on the lunar surface, symbolizing the presence of Mexico on Earth’s natural satellite.

The girls presented their project to the international jury for the Moonbots prize through a videoconference and, says Ferrer, made a positive first impression by surprising the jurors with the setting of their classroom, which craftily resembled the lunar surface.

“Team Mecaliks showed ingenuity and innovation in their robotic building and programming, and were creative and imaginative in the way they interpreted their moon ‘tale,’” said Chanda Gonzales, senior director of Google Lunar XPRIZE. “Jana, Amber and Jade were incredibly engaging, and their mission will provide inspiration for kids all over the world.”

The girls’ involvement in the Moonbots challenge also meant contributing to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. They shared what they learned during the development stages of their rover and space missions with children of the Centro de Formación Paris A.C. – an organization in Atizapán de Zaragoza in the State of México created to expose children to different activities and programs with the ultimate goal of keeping them in school and contributing to their personal development.

The Moonbots program is often referred to as the Google Lunar XPRIZE for Kids. The adults’ version is a competition in which the winner will successfully place a robot on the moon’s surface and explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.

Mexico’s Moonbots winners will be in Japan from October 25-30.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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