"Montana ALE" is a robot built entirely by MSU students to assist in research for NASA.
"This is a student designed and fabricated robot that is going to be competing in the NASA Lunabotics competition at the Kennedy Space Center," said Brock Lameres, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Montana State.
The Lunabotics Mining Competition engages engineering students from around the globe to design and build lunar excavation robots that can dig up and deposit at least 10 kilograms of regolith, or moon dust, within 10 minutes.
Some of the designs are then actually used by NASA for space missions.
"NASA's really upfront that they want to try to engage universities to help them brainstorm on ways to solve this regolith mining problem. And so you get 60 different universities down at the center all with a different idea, you know some of those ideas are going to be incorporated into the NASA design," Lameres said.
MSU won the inaugural competition two years ago, but since then the rules have changed drastically.
The robot can weigh up to 80 kilograms, but this year NASA is handing out extra points for smaller bots. "Montana ALE" weighs about half that.
Additionally, teams will score higher amounts of points if they can make their robots work independently, without any sort of controls, which is exactly what the group at MSU has done.
"It's really the culmination of the electrical engineers, the computer science and the mechanical engineering side of everything coming into one project that really brings everything together and makes it interesting," said Mechanical Engineering Technologies student Kevin Love.
Love estimates he's spent over 1,000 hours on the project alone but said it has inspired him to become a design engineer when he finishes school.
"There's nothing I won't take more away from this than any other project I've done. This has been the really high point of my career at Montana State University," he said.
The project cost about $23,000. If MSU wins the students get to attend a NASA launch.
The competition runs from May 21st to May 26th. If you want to watch the Lunabotics Mining Competition online, you can do so by clicking here.