STEAMBots is a team of four highly motivated young scientists and future robotics engineers (ages between 8 and 13) who are entering the Moonbots competition for the first time. We are active members of a robotics club and passionate about using robots for space explorations. One of us had been a participant of the 2015 FIRST World Championship as the youngest member of a highly awarded FRC rookie team.
We are more than ready to take on a challenge putting our abilities and knowledge to work designing and building our moonbot prototype, and hoping to be chosen to move on to phase II. Blast off to the Moon!
Last spring our robotics club visited a Planetarium to see the presentation about the Moon and moon missions. That tour was so inspirational so we decided to write a story using the facts learned from the field trip.
The story was entitled “ALEX'S LUNA ADVENTURE“
Alex, a ten-year old boy, whose team was working on a project for an upcoming science fair, was so excited about the theme of his research-”unmanned moon missions”. He spent two weeks at a library trying to learn everything he could possibly find about the topic. The last few days were extremely busy for team members with the event date just around a corner. Alex fell asleep sitting at his table filled with books and drawings.
Next thing he knew Alex was sitting inside a rocket on the way to the Moon. He immediately started rehashing everything about space travel he had learned from books. In order to travel through space, his rocket must first escape Earth's gravity. A junior adventurist looked around and saw three men not far from him. Alex immediately recognized them. They were three famous astronauts- Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins on a board of the spacecraft. He saw their pictures in a book he had recently read. They were talking but did not notice Alex.
I guess, I am invisible thought Alex, bursting with excitement. They would be very surprised to find me on board Apollo 11.
The next few hours were silent for Alex until he felt a bump. This young explorer could not believe his eyes; he landed on the Moon. Looking around he recognize the place of landing- the Sea of Tranquility. One thing Alex knew for sure that he wanted to be next to Neil Armstrong during that historical moment of the first moon walk on July 20, 1969. There are a lot of people who would gladly trade places with Neil Armstrong for the chance to walk on the surface of the Moon. A footprint may last for a million years here, because there is no air nor wind to disturb it, thought Alex.
He remembered that the Moon's gravity is one sixth that of the Earth's. This is a result of its size, which is one fourth of the Earth's.
“My spacesuit is almost weightless”, said Alex addressing himself. “With weak gravity the bouncing and summer salting opportunities will be endless on the Moon”.
Alex jumped but he did not land at the same spot. “This is weird!” he said jumping again much higher. This time he moved even farther. Floating in space could give him a feeling of an unlimited flight but he was not ready for such adventure.
While looking around the area of landing, he was hopping instead of walking. The Moon surface was covered by fine, gray dust called regolith and was heavily crated. There was nothing to protect it from the meteorite hits. Most maria had many ridges, which looked like small hills. Dusty lowland seas did not contain water, they were just low areas with fewer craters, formed as the result of lava that once had flowered from volcanoes on the moon. The light areas were highlands filled with craters of all size. Cracks and long trails of rocky debris stretch outward for miles in all directions from the larger craters. Alex reached his hand down to touch the soil. He noticed it was finer than the beach sand. The feel reminded Alex of powdered sugar, but it was gray color. He tried to shake the dust off his gloves but it did not work. This young astronaut decided to continue his journey, hopping away from the spacecraft.
A few hours later Alex appeared in a new location. It was another lowland area with few craters.
It must be another sea thought Alex.
As a confirmation of his thoughts he saw something he never thought he'd see. He actually touched one of the first two moon rovers made by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. “Lunokhod”, Alex read the sign written on the vehicle. He walked around the rover. Everything he had read came back.
The first Soviet remote-control robots were powered by solar panels and weighed 1,850 pounds. Each rover had eight wheels, with independent suspension, a motor, and a brake for each wheel. They traveled with a speed of about 1mile/hour. The rovers sent back valuable data concerning the composition of the soil, close up views of the local topography, and carried out many important tests.
I am walking through history of moon exploration thought Alex.
The dream of space exploration and landing on the moon excited many scientists. It was not easy getting people to the Moon. The United States and Soviet Union put a lot of efforts into safely landing a man on the moon. Humans can not survive in a harsh moon environment with its extreme temperature sway. There is no air, water or food available in space, that is why a lot of NASA forces and other engineering minds around the world were involved in design and build of robots to support the mission of moon exploration. And I am a part of it!” -said Alex to himself. He smiled and continued his moonwalk.
This young astronaut was still on his way, discovering moon secrets. The moon landscape was pretty much the same-dusty crated lowlands and highlands. It does not look like Earth at all with its high mountains and seas, streams and oceans filled with water. thought the boy. Alex remembered reading about the possibility of ice existence in deep craters at the North and South Poles of the Moon. It might be stored in patches the size of ponds or lakes. Sunlight could never reach the floors of these craters. That is why the ice had never melted. One day humans might be able to use ice to make water on the Moon.
Alex's journey was very tiring. He spotted something large sitting on the ground. That might be a large rock. He had read that some rocks could be as big as large houses. So far, he saw only small and medium size rocks. Those rocks did not get worn down by wind or flowing water, as earth's rocks do. They remained the same over time. Getting closer to the point of his destination Alex realized that it was not a large rock as he had suspected. It was a Robot!
Something inspiring and familiar to Alex was in that bot. It looked like a large ape on wheels equipped with solar panels, seismographs and high-def cameras. “Nice machine!” thought Alex.
“Hello, Alex!”said the bot.
“How do you know my name?” asked Alex.
“I just know” replied robot.
Alex looked closely at the robot and saw the name tag on its body said “Alex-1”.
“Hello again! Alex greeted his new friend. “What is wrong with you?”
“I am not sure, but I think I have problems with my control board. It needs to be re-programmed. I can not do it myself. I could not call for help because my computer got re-set. So I had been stuck here for several years. I am glad to see you. May be you can rescue me.” said robot.
“I am happy also, but I am not sure I can really help you.” said Alex. I do not know how to program robots.
“Sure, you do!”said robot. “You did it before!”-replied surprised bot.
Alex thought the robot was kidding him but decided not to dig deeper. Alex opened a door on bots' back to get to the electrical control board. He looked at bot's on-board computer and everything became very clear and simple. Alex was so surprised that he was able to re-code Alex-1 and brought him back to life. Robot's internal status “Healthy” was shown on a chest screen. Alex-1 moved and “master Alex”(that is what the robot named Alex) realized that his friend was in order.
“It is time to go!”said the bot. “I had been gone a long time. I am looking forward to getting back to my base. Come along, I want you to meet my colleagues and friends.”
“OK!”-agreed Master Alex.
Alex followed the bot to its buggy. It was a four passenger vehicle equipped with solar panels. The bot scanned his palm on an ID scanner to activate the Rover. The engine started and Alex finally had a chance to relax looking forward to a surprise, promised to him by the robot. Alex got comfortable in one of the seats and the Rover started chugging alone moving toward the south.
The moon looked empty and strange. It had different shades of black, white, and gray. Rocky soil was everywhere. After not too long journey they finally arrived to a moon settlement.
There were several houses, they looked like igloos connected to each other by tunnels. They were buried for protection from meteorites and the sun's rays.
The bot and the boy walked inside the main building; it was very well lit. Several humanoid robots worked in cooperation with men. Bots had human-like mechanical arms, that could allow them to carry out a diverse range of tasks. Humanoid robots had its joints protected from soil with arms exchangeable for different tasks. Its legs had springs allowing them to jump. They were equipped with small capacity on-board solar battery. The robots analyzed soil samples, ran different tests and worked on assembling something. Several of them were communicating with one man whom they all addressed as “Master Alex”.
“Why did you call me “Master Alex” when we first met?” Alex asked his robot-friend.
“Don't you know by now?” Alex-1 answered with the question.
“Do you mean it is I?” asked Alex.
“Yes, “Master Alex”. I was named after you,” answered robot with a smile. You designed me as well as other robots you see here.” Young Master Alex was so happy to find out that he achieved something big in his life.
Alex felt some coldness and thought that moon night was approaching. He opened his eyes and realized that it was just a breeze. Alex had been sitting at his desk covered with books. He got up and walked to a window. The young explorer was enchanted by the moon's light dancing over the oceans waves. Bright stars looked like sparkling diamonds spilled on the surface of a black velvet of night. It was so mesmerizing and breath-taking.
“I guess I was moon dreaming” said Alex to himself. He put a hand in his pocket and fetched something out of it. He opened his hand and saw a shiny metal name tag “Alex-1” written on it. He checked another pocket and found a small rock in it.
“I did travel to the Moon in my dream!” exclaimed our hero. Suddenly, Alex's future became so clear to him. He knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to become a robotics engineer and an astronaut!
I hope our moon story will inspire youth to pursue the careers in STEM field. Recent technology innovations, new engineering designs are putting several countries such as USA, Russia, China and Japan back into the race to establish a leading position in robotic presence on the Moon. While Russian Federation is planning to send its Luna Glob Lander in 2016, USA and Japan are hoping to build moon bases by the middle of 2020s.
Our team is so inspired by all these recent and future moon projects; we are very glad to join a large on-line community and participate in this robotics competition. The enigma of the Moon will continue to spark the creative spirit of mankind. See you on the Moon!
"Our hero ten-year-old Alex sees the moon in a dream, and relates detailed, pertinent information to the reader through his thoughts. This is creative and informative writing. It is refreshing to experience the moon's enigma through his eyes, and his curiosity and intelligence serve as a great example for children who wish to engage the sciences and engineering disciplines." Tom Winter, college graduate.
"In this story the lines between reality and imagination are blurred leading the reader on a trip that stimulates the senses. While the reader is indulged with fantasy and sentiment at the childlike wonder that is outer space, I can also see a variety of science fact that enriches the fiction presented. There is a good amount of realism in the story. A library is where so many people are discovering their interests, finding an unmeasurable amount of information. It feeds the protagonist of our story and leads him on what so many of us indulge in daily, a daydream or “Moon Dream”.
It is not pure fiction, the reader sees the inspiration of moon history with a variety of historical facts and relics. that are not limited to the obvious and publicized American achievements. What I enjoyed the most was the re-assurance to young readers that your dreams and passions are fueled by what you enjoy and learn,and that you can follow your passion. Alex’s robot provides a piece of advice that bears amazing truth. “ ‘Sure, you do!’said robot. ‘You did it before!’ replied surprised bot.”. While this robot sees inexperience in the younger incarnation of its creator. He see’s something that many people fail to recognise. Potential. Today's youth have an amazing amount of potential that is untapped and squandered on mind numbing activities.
However, I believe this story recaptures the glowing essence that is potential of youth. I believe this story will inspire others to chase their dreams with abandon and look to the stars in their career path." Daniel Ellerbrock, MUS&T student.
Thanks for inviting me to read your moon story. I enjoyed the essay! You were creative at putting the information you learned into an interesting story. I especially liked the way you challenged the reader to enjoy learning and pursue your dreams. Reading the essay inspired me to think more about how technology (robots) have helped us learn more about our Universe." Delores Desemone, home school mom of five children.
"I truly enjoyed "Alex's Lunar Adventure" and found it to be both informative and captivating. I know very little about the moon and space exploration, and learned quite a few fact about moon exploration in a fun and entertaining dream story. The robots and lunar homestead showed creativity and forward thinking. The story provided just the right mix of fact and fantasy to keep me interested and left me wanting to learn more. The character of Alex showed the innocence of a child, contrasted by the view into the future of his accomplishment in robotics and space exploration. The story is educational and enchanting."
Cordially, Cindy Borden, Implementation Project Manager