Blog for MoonBots:

A Google Lunar X-PRIZE Challenge:

8/26/10 Final Entry

posted Aug 26, 2010, 7:49 AM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Aug 26, 2010, 10:44 AM ]

Documentary and Live Mission Run links are on the navigation panel to the left.

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Final Vlog

Stardate 20100826.0950: The crew of got robot? had an alien encounter with an entity called James of Moonbots Admin. James, the entity, was up on our main viewer and asked us strange questions about our mission and our ability to control a small robot programmed with artificial intelligence.

Okay, enough of that. Our Moonbots live mission run was yesterday at 2:00 PM CDT. Although we had hoped to accomplish much more than we did we're satisfied with the outcome--we did our best and we stuck with it until the end. Our final strategy was to score 90 points during the mission run and we did. 

I want to thank James, the judges, the sponsors, the X PRIZE Foundation and everyone who worked to put on this challenge. We were honored to be part of it. Congratulations to all the Moonbot teams. We enjoyed following your progress and we wish you all continued success.

Highest Regards,

-- Team Captain (retired)


posted Aug 23, 2010, 2:29 PM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Aug 23, 2010, 4:40 PM ]


The weather here in Chicagoland finally broke and we're enjoying temperatures in the 80's with lower humidity. The Moonbots Challenge field is set up in our garage where we have the room to spread out. In previous weeks it would have been unbearable to be there. Thank you God.

We had a bit of a cliff hanger Sunday as Matthew couldn't get a hold of Sam and Jake for the programming on Jake's laptop. This had Matthew in total PANIC mode as he and Jake had worked out the compass sensor algorithms and he beginning to fear he'd have to start from scratch. The program eventually arrived via email and Matt spent most of yesterday and today programming his strategy. He's making great progress.

Anyone who's followed our blog is aware of the difficulties we've had during Phase II. So it should be no surprise that we didn't have the team documentary ready for the August 22nd Phase II deadline but Matthew is determined to be ready for our live mission run on Wednesday.

I'm proud of Matthew. I'm seeing a different side of him that is new this summer. When we started Moonbots last May Dan and I made it clear that the work would be shouldered by the three boys. It's been fun to see them step up to the challenges and see what they can do. I'm amazed at all they've accomplished.

--Team Captain


posted Aug 20, 2010, 1:22 PM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Aug 21, 2010, 6:48 AM ]

No progress this past week. All our team members were at the Illinois State fair showing projects that had won Grand Champion at our local county fair.

I won a Superior Ribbon for my Segway Line Following Robot. My sister, Kristen, also won a Superior Ribbon for her Vex robot and RobotC entry.

Team resources are dwindling. Jake and Sam are getting ready for school to begin next week. This is their first time back in public school after many years of homeschooling. They are also still getting settled into their new home. There are boxes everywhere.

Today my dad and I drove over to their house to pickup the robot and mission field so we can set it up in our dining room. I'm pretty much on my own right now. Dad, our team captain, will help a little but he continues to be busy looking for work. It's up to me at this point.

I'm not sure how all this will work out but I'll do my best.



posted Aug 13, 2010, 10:17 AM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Aug 13, 2010, 10:19 AM ]



posted Aug 11, 2010, 8:33 AM by Michael McKellar

Robot Progress

At this meeting we got a little bit closer to figuring out the compass sensor and built a complete sensor mast;
we also got 75% of the scythe done (our ring retrieval device). While testing out the robots navigation with the new sensor mast we found out that the robot had issues climbing over craters caused by too much weight in the back, so we are now going to move the camera to the front (this will also increase the distance between the camera and the compass helping with navigation--less metal close to the sensor). Mounting the scythe and servo motor will also help with weight issues.



posted Aug 10, 2010, 9:47 AM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Aug 11, 2010, 9:05 AM ]


We knew if we made it to Phase II that it could be a logistics nightmare. Summer schedules, county and state fairs, 4-H robotics, FLL preparation, job loss, team mates moving into a new home. vacations and week long family reunions, puppies... the list goes on. Trying to get our team together during Phase II has been challenging to say the least. Add to that the revelation that our robot, as designed, was useless. The same robot that turned perfectly on surfaces in our home tears itself apart on the studded LEGO plates. 

I'll bet many of the Phase II teams have had to do at least minor modifications to their robot since receiving the field kit. There was so much left to speculation when planning the robot during Phase I. Engineering a robot without first hand knowledge of it's intended terrain is difficult at best and disastrous at worst. I can't imagine the nail biting that must have gone on with the engineers that planned and executed the moon landings in the 60's and 70's. I marvel at what they accomplished; all with less computing power than the NXT's we're using. Simply remarkable.

Last night the boys met from 5:30 - 10:00 PM. The old robot was scrapped. A new and much improved robot has been created. It was one of those eureka moments where deadline pressure meets clarity. Built and designed in less than an hour this one can negotiate the ridges and craters with ease and speed. The next step is to create the motorized attachment bay for collecting the rings. That happens tonight.

-- Team Captain

New design

Phase 2 : Meeting 3

posted Aug 6, 2010, 9:21 AM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Aug 6, 2010, 12:35 PM ]

Meeting three commenced as moon dog cody decided moon rocks were food. Today were trying to program the compass sensor to drive the robot straight. After many a frustrating hour, Jake and Matthew (our programming wizards) had no luck. Next instead of focusing just on the compass sensor we were developing programs that the compass sensor will fit in to so we can leave that enigma for another time when, ... we discovered a fatal flaw in our robot! When the robot turns the treds slip off the drive wheels. now we have to design a whole other robot in less than three weeks and on top of that we still have to do a lot of programming! We are coming down to the wire and we still have a pile of work to do. Will got robot finish? Will we get a new robot design done in time? Will the compass sensor work? Will cody stop eating moon rocks? We will find out at our next meeting!


posted Jul 26, 2010, 8:26 AM by Michael McKellar

Phase II Meeting


posted Jul 19, 2010, 5:46 AM by Michael McKellar   [ updated Jul 19, 2010, 6:04 AM ]

The county fair ended yesterday and the boys picked up their projects from the exhibit hall. All three boys entered projects and won blue ribbons. Matt won Reserve Grand Champion and State Fair Delegate for his "LEGO Segway Line Follower" in robotics; Sam won Grand Champion and State Fair Delegate for his Passport to the World (intercultural) "Endora"; Jake won a blue ribbon for his entry in robotics and was kept busy as a 4-H Ambassador and Jr. Superintendent for robotics. Mr. & Mrs. Team Captain were busy as 3rd year Superintendents for robotics.

Our field kit is built. Now we're struggling to find time for the team to get together to work on the game. Jake, Sam and Dan are with the family on vacation this week and Matt and I are away at a family reunion next week. Both families have been working at the challenge individually but we really need time together as a team. -- Team Captain


posted Jul 13, 2010, 5:30 AM by Michael McKellar

The kids have diverted their attention from Moonbots temporarily in order to get their 4-H projects ready for the fair. Judging was today all three boys entered projects in different areas. Matt and Jake both entered robotic projects. Still waiting to hear how they did.

Meanwhile, look what arrived this week!!

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