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Wanted: Hands-on Problem Solvers!

An artist's rendition of a planetary explorer parachuting down from space to the planet surface below NASA is looking for great diversity of hands-on problem solvers to enable future aerospace projects and research. The United States and the world need hands-on problem solvers for economically, ecologically and politically sustainable development.

Hands-on technical activities can be both fun and educational experiences for future engineers, scientists, project leaders, and citizens of diverse interests.

Students huddled around a robot
K-12 students, working in teams under the direction of knowledgeable teachers and coaches, can learn about technical problem solving by participating in robotics competitions. Mini-projects for robotics competitions require the application of physics, math, and communication skills in a problem solving environment that is an important and exciting educational activity.

Here are three robotics competition problems that can be easily replicated in a school or community venue and provide a challenge for students with FIRST LEGO League or Botball robotics kits:

  • LEGO-based Sumo Challenge: Two autonomous LEGO robots face-off on a small game board inside a perimeter defined by two concentric black lines. The last one to touch the outer line wins.
  • Line Running Challenge: Similar to a warm up exercise for basket ball, this is a timed race to find the fastest robot to run from a starting point to each of three farther lines and return.
  • Line Following Challenge: This timed race requires following a path with both curved and straight line segments to find the fastest robot which can follow the line.

We suggest holding community demonstrations and competitions using these challenges and then send Terry Grant an e-mail ( with the winners and the lessons learned.

No active challenges

Previous challenges and winners:

3/08/2003: Simple Machines Robotics Challenge '03
2/05/2002 - 3/15/2002: 4-Can Challenge
4/24/2001 - 6/01/2001: Line Following Challenge '01

FirstGov NASA
Curator: Drew Price
NASA Official: Lucien Junkin
Last Updated: April 28, 2020
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