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Centennial Challenge Sample Return Robot: NASA Social at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
June 7, 2013

NASA and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will host a day and a half event for 20 social media followers starting at 1 p.m. EDT Friday, June 7, and then a full day beginning at 8 a.m., Saturday, June 8, during the NASA-WPI Sample Return Robot Challenge. This is the first NASA Social hosted in the Boston area. The challenge will take place on the campus of WPI.

During the 2013 NASA-WPI Sample Return Robot Challenge, teams will compete to demonstrate that a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in autonomous navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth. The competition attracts competitors from industry and academia across the nation.

NASA is providing the prize money to the winning team as part of the agency's Centennial Challenges competitions, which seek unconventional solutions to problems of interest to the agency and the nation. While NASA provides the prize purse, the competitions are managed by non-profit organizations that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private sponsorships.

NASA Social participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour of "the pit" area to meet with teams and see the robot
  • Campus tour of WPI robotic research facilities, and robotics labs
  • Build a simple bot and have a 'battlebots" type competition
  • Invitation to breakfast and opening ceremony with prizes awarded to competing teams
  • Access to the Touch Tomorrow Festival's exhibits, speakers, interactive activities
  • Invitation to the Awards Dinner, Saturday, June 8
  • Meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active on social media
  • Meet members of NASA's social media team

Registration opens on this page at noon EDT on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 and closes at noon EDT Monday, May 20, 2013.


What is a NASA Social?

A NASA Social is an informal meeting of people who use social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Participants at this event will be provided a unique in-person experience with NASA and WPI during the Sample Return Robot Challenge that they are encouraged to share with others through their favorite social network.

Guests will have an opportunity to be intimately involved in the Sample Return Robot challenge including interview opportunities with the teams and personnel involved in the challenge. Activities will include a guided tour of the extensive engineering and robotic facilities on campus at WPI.

What is the Sample Return Robot Challenge?

The Sample Return Robot challenge will help develop the next generation of autonomous robots to explore the landscapes of other worlds. During the challenge teams will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in autonomous navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth. The competition is planned for June 2013 in Worcester, Mass., attracting competitors from industry and academia nationwide.

Why is the NASA Social at Worcester Polytechnic Institute?

WPI is one of the only universities to offer bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in robotics engineering. In 2007, the university was the first in the nation to offer a bachelor's degree program in this area. Through its Robotics Resource Center, WPI supports robotics projects, teams, events and K-12 outreach programs. Each year, WPI manages at least seven competitive robotics tournaments and also has sponsored programs that foster the use of robots to solve important societal problems and encourage consideration of the societal implications of this new area of technology.

How do I register?

Registration opens on this page at noon EDT on May 15 and closes at noon EDT May 20, 2013. Twenty-five (25) participants will be randomly selected from online registrations. Registration is for one person only (you) and is non-transferable.

Additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list.

Do I need to have a social media account to register?

Yes. This event is designed for active social media users who follow Worcester Polytechnic Institute and NASA on Twitter (@NASA, @NASASocial, @NASA_Marshall, @WPInews); Facebook (NASA, NASA Marshall, WPI); or Google+ (NASA, NASA Marshall). The goal of the NASA Social is to allow people who regularly interact with each other via social networks to meet in person and discuss space exploration.

Users on all social networks are encouraged to use the hashtag #NASASocial. Updates and information about the event will be shared on Twitter via #SRRbot and @NASASocial and via posts to Facebook and Google+.

What are the registration requirements?

Registration indicates your intent to travel to the Sample Return Robot Challenge held on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA, and attend the day and a half event in person (note: Friday, June 7, activities will not start until approximately 1 p.m.). You are responsible for your own expenses for travel, accommodation, food and other amenities.

Some events and participants scheduled to appear at the event are subject to change without notice. NASA and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are not responsible for loss or damage incurred as a result of attending. NASA and Worcester Polytechnic Institute moreover, are not responsible for loss or damage incurred if the event is cancelled with limited or no notice. Please plan accordingly.

All registrants must be at least 18 years old. Proper identification must be presented at the time of registration.

Does my registration include a guest?

Because of space limitations, you may not bring a guest. Each registration provides a place for one person only (you) and is non-transferable. Each individual wishing to attend must register separately. If you have a guest, they can still attend the public portions of the Sample Return Robot challenge.

What if I cannot come to Worcester, MA.?

You can follow the conversation using the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter. NASA may broadcast a portion of the program during the competition. You can watch the races on June 8 on the NASA Marshall Ustream page. NASA and WPI will provide regular updates on the competition @NASA, @NASA_Marshall, @NASAprize and @WPInews.

If you cannot make this NASA Social, don't despair; NASA is planning others in the near future at various locations. Check back on http://www.nasa.gov/social for updates.

When will I know if I am selected?

After registrations have been received and processed, an email with confirmation information and additional instructions will be sent to those selected and those on the waitlist. We expect to send notifications by May 23.

If you are not selected for this event, don't despair. You can still attend the public events at WPI in Worcester.

Does registration for and/or attendance at the NASA Social qualify me for media accreditation?

Your NASA Social registration and/or attendance does not qualify you for news media credentials, now or in the future.

Have a question not answered here? Need more information? Help is available by sending an email to hq-social@nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: Jason Townsend