A Two Harbors-based LEGO robotics team is ready to launch their trip to Houston after winning the grand prize in a statewide competition.

The Robo Dweebs spent the past few months preparing for a competition sponsored by NASA on July 18 in Minneapolis. The contest was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The team was able to successfully fly a remote-controlled drone; land it on an 8-by-10-foot map of the moon’s surface; modify and program a LEGO robot to explore the lunar surface and bring back a rock sample in under the 10-minute mission time limit. The students successfully avoided all obstacles in just under six minutes and beat out 26 other teams for the top honor.

"The drone part was what set us apart," head coach Jenna Udenberg said. "The students had to operate a drone and have it take a payload off the ground and land it without dragging it. Many teams struggled with that and having the payload not drag. That’s something we exceeded in."

The RoboDweebs lunar lander delivers its payload, a replica rocket, to its rightful spot on the lunar map within the green concentric circles. The closer the rocket is to the center, the more points the team will score. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
The RoboDweebs lunar lander delivers its payload, a replica rocket, to its rightful spot on the lunar map within the green concentric circles. The closer the rocket is to the center, the more points the team will score. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

The Robo Dweebs won the grand prize — an all expenses paid trip to Houston, Texas, where they will receive a behind-the-scenes look at the Johnson Space Center and demonstrate their simulated moon landing and exploration.

Unfortunately, the grand prize only covers five of the eight students on the team as well as one chaperone.

"We have three students who we want to get down to Houston so that the whole team can be rewarded for their accomplishments," Udenberg said.

The team has set off a fundraising campaign to get the rest of their team to Houston. The students will be bagging groceries at Super One Foods in Two Harbors on Friday, July 26, and Monday, July 29. The students have also been making the rounds to solicit donations from various businesses and boards, including a visit to the Lake County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, July 23.

"I have to say, first of all, congratulations on all your hard work and accomplishments," commissioner Rick Goutermont said. "It's impressive to see you come this far."

The board voted to award the team $500 toward their $4,000 goal to pay for the remaining students and a couple more chaperones. The team has also started a Facebook fundraising campaign that has raised $2,800 in two days, as of the News-Chronicle's press time.

To find out more about the Robo Dweebs and check out the video of their winning competition run, visit the Robo Dweebs' Facebook page.