College of Engineering to Host National 2023 Robotic Mining Challenge

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama College of Engineering will host 24 university teams from across the nation for the Robotic Mining Challenge May 22-26.

Sponsored by Caterpillar Inc., the event is designed to create solutions to problems faced on moon exploration missions. Each team has spent the past year designing and building a robot that uses resources available on the lunar surface. During the competition, robots must autonomously navigate a lunar-simulated arena and excavate lunar soil, or regolith.

This will mark the second time that the college’s award-winning Alabama Astrobotics team has hosted a robotic mining competition. This contest, though, is separate from the NASA contest typically hosted at Kennedy Space Center.

A rover-type robot on a high table with people around it working on it.
Last year’s Alabama Astrobotics team members work on the robot on campus.

“We look forward to serving as the host and welcoming teams to UA’s campus once again,” said Dr. Kenneth Ricks, Alabama Astrobotics faculty advisor and interim department head for electrical and computer engineering. “This is an event that our team looks forward to each year, and we are honored to have other teams join us for an exciting week of competition at our facilities.”

Throughout the week, teams will receive one 15-minute practice run and two competition runs. Practice runs will take place May 22-23 with the challenge beginning the afternoon of May 23 and continuing through May 26.

Judges of the competition include industry professionals from Caterpillar, the Exolith Lab at the University of Central Florida and NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. Since UA has a team participating in the challenge, the University has no part in establishing the competition rules or judging.

“This is a great competition because it gets students excited about creating solutions for real-world problems,” said Ricks. “NASA and the whole aerospace industry are still trying to solve many of these problems. So, this is cutting-edge engineering which helps prepare our students for their careers.”

The competition week will conclude with a banquet and awards ceremony at the Bryant Conference Center on the evening of May 26. The top-performing teams will be recognized with first through sixth place autonomy awards and first through third place mining awards.

Alabama Astrobotics enters the competition as a dynasty in robotic mining contests after placing first in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition: Lunabotics 2022. The team, comprised of about 70 students, has placed first eight times in previous NASA competitions.

“Our team has worked really hard to get their robot competition-ready,” said Ricks. “There are always obstacles to overcome, and this team has done that with a great attitude and positive energy. Hopefully, that will translate to a good performance.”

Additional sponsors of the event include Visit Tuscaloosa, Honda, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Florida Space Institute, Alabama Space Grant Consortium, i3, Cintas and 3M. Members of the public will be able to view the competition rounds of the challenge via a livestream on YouTube.

To learn more about the 2023 Robotic Mining Challenge, visit the competition’s website.

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.


Anna Claire Toxey, College of Engineering coordinator of external communications,