West Virginia University’s robot demonstrating its excavating skills at Hilo’s Bayfront Park

The first ever PISCES Robotic International Space Mining (PRISM) competition is now officially in motion, with Day One kicking off Hawaiian style: a warm day at the beach!

Tropical Storm Wali ended up leaving just in time for PRISM’s opening day – the weather held up nicely on Monday (July 21, 2014) and allowed the visiting college teams to set their robots free to play in the black sand beach (formed from basalt rock) at Bayfront Park in Hilo.

Kahu Kimo Pihana, a member of the PISCES Cultural Advisory Committee, conducted a traditional Native Hawaiian blessing and pule (prayer) – a customary ceremony typically performed for beginnings, such as the start of special events.

PRISM BlastDuring the exhibition, the robotics teams from the University of Alabama, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Iowa State University of Science & Technology, University of New Hampshire, and West Virginia University got a chance to meet members of the local community, as well as show the public their high-tech machines in action.

Among those who showed up was Hawaii Representative Clift Tsuji, who represents House District 2 (Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea).

Day One was also spent conducting business, specifically team registration and inspections to make sure the robots meet the weight and size requirements.

The competition will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, July 23-24 (WATCH LIVE ONLINE STREAM HERE!), at the PISCES planetary analogue test site. There, the robots will take on the challenge of a simulated martian environment, and will be judged based on their ability to navigate, collect and deposit regolith (martian dirt) in a bin.

Although the test field will be closed to the public due to risks involved with the rugged terrain, those who want to watch the competition are welcome to see it from “Mission Control”, which will be set up at Gemini Observatory in Hilo.

For more information on PRISM, including a schedule of events, sponsors, and ways to support the competition, click HERE.

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