A robot built by a team of mostly female UCF students will compete in the Sixth Annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition from May 18 to May 22 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The UCF team, made up of 35 members, will be one of 48 other teams from universities across the country competing in various categories, according to a news release.

The winners in the categories will be awarded team scholarships, trophies and invitations to launches at Kennedy Space Center.

Each team's robot must be capable of traversing across simulated Martian soil, in addition to mining surface soil and underground ice samples. Robots will also have to overcome various other challenges and obstacles.

The purpose of the contest is to help NASA discover new ideas for its own designs for robotic landers, according to the release.

The UCF robot, which the team named Xkadrill, uses a corkscrew-like auger, or drill, to mine soil and underground ice as opposed to a system that uses scoops and buckets that is common at the competition. Xkadrill was built using a combination of high-tech components and off-the-shelf-parts found at a hardware store.

"To produce something and present it to NASA engineers who could say, 'That's a great idea, we're going to put it on the robot and put it in space,' that to me is exactly what I live for," Kelly Lai, the group's leader and aerospace engineering major, said in the release.


Eric Gutierrez is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @atticus_adrift or email him at

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