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  • Kiara Kulkarni

Astrobotics at Virginia Tech: A Design Team That Participates in the NASA Lunabotics Competition

All images in this article are taken from and
All images in this article are taken from and

In this vast expanse of space, our thirst for exploration knows no bounds, and our relentless pursuit of understanding the cosmos and pushing the boundaries of space technology has led to remarkable advancements in the field of robotics. At the forefront of this endeavor stands the Virginia Tech Astrobotics Team, a group of talented and ambitious engineering students dedicated to shaping the future of space exploration.

The Virginia Tech Astrobotics Team, housed within the esteemed College of Engineering and based out of the Joseph F. Ware Advanced Engineering Laboratory, is a shining example of how student-led initiatives can contribute significantly to the advancement of technology. Founded with a vision to participate in the prestigious NASA Lunabotics Competition, the team has grown into a multifaceted entity that continues to push the envelope in space robotics.

The NASA Lunabotics Competition is an annual event organized by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and its Swamp Works, in collaboration with the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA). It presents a unique challenge to undergraduate engineering students to design, build, and operate autonomous lunar robots capable of demonstrating the technologies necessary for long-term human presence on the Moon and other off-world locations like the Martian soils. Participating in this competition allows students to benefit from various engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical, aerospace, and computer science, which nurture cross-disciplinary collaboration and innovative thinking.

The teams design the robots at Virginia Tech’s Ware Labs and use the CAD application SolidWorks to craft individual parts. The Mechanical Team assembles the robots, ensuring that all parts fit flawlessly and function smoothly, allowing the robot to perform optimally. The Control Sub-Team generates the circuitry and the code for the motors, sensors, actuators, and navigation devices.

One of the team’s standout innovations is their advanced computer vision system, enabling robots to identify and analyze terrain features with remarkable precision. Combined with intelligent decision-making algorithms, these robots can autonomously optimize their paths, maximize resource collection, and avoid obstacles effectively.

Furthermore, the team has pioneered new methods of energy-efficient propulsion for robots, allowing for extended exploration and reduced reliance on traditional power sources. This commitment to sustainability and resourcefulness aligns perfectly with the principles of space missions.

Beyond the confines of the NASA Competition, the Astrobotics Team understands the importance of nurturing young minds passionate about space and engineering. They regularly engage in outreach activities, visiting schools and communities to inspire students. Through interactive workshops, demonstrations, and talks, team members share their experiences and showcase the potential of engineering, contributing to the growth of STEM education in the space industry.

As they continue to refine their robots, engage with industry partners, and contribute to cutting-edge research, the Virginia Tech Astrobotics Team propels the university to the forefront of space exploration. Their tireless pursuit of excellence and their boundless curiosity fuel the momentum needed to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos and pioneer humanity's journey to the stars. They encourage Undergraduate students to join the Virginia Tech Astrobotics Team via Gobblerfest or by filling out a form at

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