News Release

Top Programmer Winners Announced Today in Global Space Robotics Challenge

Competition Helped NASA Advance Deep Space Exploration

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HOUSTON, June 30, 2017 – NASA awarded $300,000 today 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.

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 Niskayuna, New York
  • 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.

“The required tasks represented a significant challenge to competitors, and the participating teams truly rose to the occasion. We were extremely pleased with the high level of talent demonstrated by all teams involved, and we are confident that this program will help NASA move closer to achieving its goals,” said NineSigma CEO Dr. Andy Zynga.

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 two-day celebration also included Houston-area students competing against each other in a live hackathon with help from the SRC top 20 finalist teams who acted as mentors.

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.

For more information about the Space Robotics Challenge, visit www.spaceroboticschallenge.com and www.spacecenter.org.

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About NineSigma

NineSigma helps organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors find new solutions, knowledge and partners to accelerate innovation. The leader in creating ‘unexpected connections’, NineSigma has the largest open global network of solvers and an extensive database of existing solutions spanning numerous industries and technical disciplines. The company helps for-profit and nonprofit organizations address problems of a global magnitude through its Grand Challenge innovation programs. Learn more at www.ninesigma.com.

About Space Center Houston

The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit science and space learning center with extensive educational programs. Space Center Houston is the cornerstone of its mission to inspire all generations through the wonders of space exploration. The center draws more than 1 million visitors annually, was called “The Big Draw” by USA Today and generates a $73 million annual economic impact in the greater Houston area. Space Center Houston is a Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center. More than 200,000 teachers and students from around the world visit the center annually to experience our educational space museum with more than 400 things to see and experience. For more information, go to www.spacecenter.org.

About NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent government agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA’s goal is to extend our senses to see the farthest reaches of the universe, while pushing the boundaries of human spaceflight farther from Earth than ever before. The Centennial Challenges program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Through public challenges, STMD gathers the best and brightest minds in academia, industry and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology focus areas. Learn more at www.nasa.winit.

Press Contacts
Bronwyn Monroe, NineSigma, monroe@ninesigma.com, 216-295-4800

Meridyth Moore, Space Center Houston, mmoore@spacecenter.org, 281-244-2139

Molly Porter, NASA Centennial Challenges, molly.a.porter@nasa.gov, 256-544-0034

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