Astronomy

PISCES to Launch International Robotics Challenge

October 4, 2018, 11:41 AM HST
* Updated October 5, 8:17 AM
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Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and Caterpillar Inc. are partnering to launch a new international robotics competition on Hawai‘i Island next year. The first-annual Hawai‘i International Space Exploration And Robotics Challenge (HI-SEARCH) will bring college teams from around the world to compete with innovative robot designs in the lunar-like lava terrain of the Hawai‘i Ocean Science and Technology Park run by NELHA in Kailua-Kona. The event is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 2 to 8, 2019.

UHH – Rover Slide. PC: PISCES

Caterpillar is the main sponsor for the event, which is based on NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition (RMC). The Hawai‘i Island event will open the arena to international teams and hold the competition outdoors in a volcanic lunar analog landscape. Participating teams will compete using robots designed for lunar and Mars surface exploration to gather the most off-world resources in a given time.

HI-SEARCH will incorporate the principles of In-Situ Resource Utilization, or ISRU. ISRU is crucial to establishing human settlements in space, allowing people to “live off the land” by taking natively sourced, raw materials and transforming them into useful resources like oxygen, shelter, water and rocket fuel.

The multi-day competition will be open to the public and intends to encourage innovation in space technology. Twenty-first century space exploration requires skilled engineers and programmers who can build and operate robots capable of working on the Moon, Mars and other off-world locations. The competition also intends to inspire local youth in STEM and related fields by providing an up-close look at emerging space technologies in action.

“We are excited to be working with Caterpillar and NELHA to organize this world-class robotics event,” said Rodrigo Romo, program director at PISCES. “Thanks to Caterpillar’s generous funding, we have an excellent opportunity to promote STEM education for local youth while leveraging Hawai‘i’s unique volcanic landscape to contribute to the collective human effort of space exploration. This is going to be a great event.”

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Caterpillar and PISCES are currently distributing invitations for the competition to universities around the world. Teams from Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe, Hawai‘i and the U.S. mainland are expected to attend. PISCES is also seeking potential sponsors on Hawai‘i Island who can provide additional support in the form of event services, food and entertainment.

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For more information, email [email protected] or call (808) 935-8270. A website with more information about HI-SEARCH will launch soon.

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