Prize-Winning Robot to Help WPI Break Ground for Sports and Recreation Center

Student-designed Moonraker, which won the $500,000 NASA Regolith Challenge, will take part in the May 14 ceremony
May 06, 2010

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WPI is the only university in the nation to offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in robotics engineering. So it is appropriate that a robot will play a key role in the groundbreaking for the university's new Sports and Recreation Center, which will include dedicated space for robotics competitions.

Moonraker 2.0, created by Paul's Robotics, which is led by robotics engineering major Paul Ventimiglia (shown here with Moonraker), won the $500,000 NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge in October 2009, beating out 22 other teams of professional engineers and college, university, and high school students. The NASA challenge required robots to excavate at least 150 kilograms of simulated lunar soil within a 30-minute period, demonstrating a task that will be important for future lunar construction and processing projects.

On May 14, Moonraker will join WPI President Dennis Berkey, members of the WPI Board of Trustees, and representatives of the campus community in turning over earth to officially start construction of the 140,000-square-foot center that will be built into the hillside at the west end of the WPI Quadrangle. The new center is scheduled to open in August 2012.

The groundbreaking ceremony will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the west end of WPI Quadrangle.

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"The Sports and Recreation Center is an exciting and much needed addition to the WPI campus," President Berkey said. "Students have cited the center as the most important campus need. The new center will provide substantially more space for our growing population of students, faculty, and staff, and their avid interests in sports and recreation."

The Sports and Recreation Center will contain 14,000 square feet of fitness space, a four-court gym, a competition-length pool, new squash and racquetball courts, and an indoor jogging track. It will provide attractive space for large-scale events, such as admissions open houses, career fairs, and national academic conferences. In addition, the facility will have space dedicated to WPI's multifaceted robotics program, enabling the university to support regional and national robotics competitions.

The center will present an attractive two-story facade to the main campus and a dramatic five-story face to the playing fields below. As part of the construction, a connecting structure between Harrington Auditorium and Alumni Gymnasium will be removed, opening a picturesque greenway from the Quadrangle to the Higgins House gardens.