Building a Lego Self Propelled Vehicle to Save Stranded Astronauts

My first encounter with self propelled vehicles was when I was in 5th grade. That year I joined a group of kids to participate in the FIRST LEGO League. The FLL was organized by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) as an international robotics competition for elementary and middle school students. We had to design, build and program a Lego robot to perform a series of tasks in an obstacle course. The year I participated there were 975 teams competing. The competition has significantly grown over the years and has increases to 18,323 teams this past year.

I had no idea that the year I participated in the league was the inaugural season. That first season, and all the follow seasons, had challenges revolving around a central theme. My theme was First Contact. A group of astronauts were stranded in a space station on the moon and running out of oxygen. It was our task as engineering protégées and masterminds to create a robot that would deliver oxygen to the poor astronauts. The mission involved building a Lego robot that could pull a lever and move yellow foam balls.

I have to admit, I don’t remember how well we performed. This was over ten years ago. However, I still remember building and testing the robot. We used a computer to program our robot and tried to come up with the best way to accomplish our mission. In a way, we were building a replica AGV. Both are computer-controlled vehicles made for material handling. If this was a real mission, I’m sure someone would be building a special AGV to deliver oxygen tanks to stranded astronauts. Well that or just have more astronauts deliver the oxygen, but where is the fun in that?