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Winners Announced In Global Space Robotics Challenge
July 6, 2017

NASA awarded $300,000 recently to four teams of citizen inventors as part of the multi-phase Space Robotics Challenge at Space Center Houston. Representatives from the Challenge’s top 20 finalist teams, along with robotics thought leaders and innovators, participated in a celebration event that culminated with the announcement of the final four winners of the Challenge.

Kevin Knoedler, (center) Team Coordinated Robotics was awarded first place in the Space Robotics Challenge receiving $125,000 plus a $50,000 bonus award for accomplishing a perfect run where they completed all of the tasks. (From left) Challenge leadership joined Kevin to honor his first place award: William T. Harris, Space Center Houston’s president and CEO, Angela Herblet, PMP, Nine Sigma, Inc. strategic programs project manager, Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen, NASA Johnson Space Center’s human robotic systems deputy manager, Monserrate Roman, NASA’s Centennial Challenge, Tracy Lamm, Space Center Houston’s COO and Daniel Newmyer, Space Center Houston’s vice president of education.

The competition began with 92 teams from 13 countries who were tasked with developing software for NASA’s humanoid Robonaut 5 (also known as Valkyrie) to perform representative tasks to advance the technology and autonomy of dexterous humanoid mobile robots. The top 20 finalist teams that made it through the qualifying phase represented six countries, including the United States, Japan, Spain, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. The final four winners of the challenge are:

• First place, $125,000: Coordinated Robotics of Newbury Park, California. Coordinated Robotics is also receiving a $50,000 bonus award for accomplishing a perfect run where they completed all of the tasks.
• Second place, $100,000: Walk Softly of Erie, Pennsylvania
• Third place, Team Olympus Mons of Barcelona, Spain*
• Fourth place, $25,000: ZARJ of St. Paul, Minnesota
(*International team can win honors, but are not eligible for prize money)

The Space Robotics Challenge is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, which uses prize competitions to advance technology and engage a diverse group of citizen solvers. The SRC was announced in August 2016, and more than 400 teams from 55 countries pre-registered. Ninety-two teams from 13 countries competed in the qualification round. The Top 20 advanced to the finals and received $15,000 each. A prize purse of $600,000 was available for the final round of competition.

“The rigorous science learning in this international competition helped programmers develop software for humanoid robots who will someday assist astronauts exploring deep space in future missions,” said Space Center Houston’s Vice President of Education Daniel Newmyer. “Participants worked together to solve real-world problems, transform lives and inspire others through the wonder of space exploration.”

The top four teams also will work with a Robonaut 5 Host Team to apply their simulations to an R5 robot for a period of two weeks in a code implementation partnership.

As part of the celebration event, visitors to the center learned about the future of robotics in space and the latest in aerospace during a Thought Leader Series panel joined by Kimberly Hambuchen, deputy manager for NASA’s Human Robotic Systems project; Luis Sentis, associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Ana Huaman Quispe, post-doctoral researcher at TRACLabs; and Dr. Marcia O’Malley, professor of mechanical engineering, computer science and electrical and computer engineering at Rice University.

The nonprofit science and space learning center Space Center Houston, innovation firm NineSigma and NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program united to engage people around the world with exceptional STEM learning opportunities. Space Center Houston draws more than 200,000 teachers and students annually from around the world to participate in its educational programs.

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