David E. Steitz
Janet L. Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass.
WASHINGTON -- NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck will be on hand Saturday, June 16, at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) as six teams of engineers from across the country compete for agency-funded prize of $1.5 million. Garver will join congressional and local officials during opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. EDT on the campus of WPI in Worcester, Mass.
Media wanting to attend the NASA-WPI Sample Return Robot Challenge should contact Tom Bradley of WPI at 860-967-5357 or firstname.lastname@example.org for media credentials. Garver's remarks also will be available via live streaming video on the agency's web at
Part of NASA's Centennial Challenges prize competitions, the Sample Return Robot challenge, is to design and develop the next generation of autonomous robots to explore the landscapes of other worlds. Competing teams are required to build an autonomous robotic system that will locate and collect a set of specific objects from a large area and return the "planetary samples" to the starting zone.
During the first phase of the competition, a robot must autonomously navigate and retrieve a pre-cached sample within 15 minutes. Teams will compete for portions of a $50,000 total prize purse, with a maximum winning value of $5,000 per team.
In the second phase, a robot must autonomously navigate and retrieve pre-cached samples, as well as other, more difficult samples distributed over the roving area within two hours. Teams will compete for as much as $1.5 million during this phase, with awards depending on the amount of points scored and number of successful competing finalists.
NASA uses prize competitions to establish important technical challenges without having to specify the approach that is most likely to succeed, while only paying for successful results. These competitions increase the number and diversity of individuals, organizations and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge of national or international significance. These challenges stimulate private sector investment many times greater than the cash value of the prize. The Centennial Challenges are part of NASA's Space Technology Program. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/challenges.
WPI is the first university selected as host and manager for one of NASA's Centennial Challenges Programs. For more information about WPI and the TouchTomorrow learning events the university is hosting in conjunction with the robot competition, visit http://www.wpi.edu and http://touchtomorrow.wpi.edu.
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