The University of Alabama’s robotics team added another championship to the college’s pile over the weekend.

Alabama Astrobotics, made up of engineering, computer science and other students from UA and Shelton State, bested nearly 50 teams from other institutions in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition. Their challenge? Build a robot capable of navigating and excavating a simulated Martian terrain.

Robots are judged based on their ability to operate without input and on their ability to gather soil.

But it’s not the first win for Alabama Astrobotics — they picked up the same prize last year, making them the first team to win back-to-back NASA titles, and bringing their total wins up to three.

Lead team member Joshua Yarbrough said he’s proud of their achievements.

“It’s never been done before in the seven years of the competition,” he said. “We worked our tails off all year long to get there, and it was very relieving to see our hard work pay off at the end of the week.”

Alabama Astrobotics team adviser and UA associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Kenneth Ricks said the team performed wonderfully this year.

“Every year the level of competition improves across the board,” Ricks said in a UA news release. “What separated the UA robot from the others is that it performed well in all three areas: digging and collecting, robot mass and autonomy. That combination was unequaled by the competition.”

The competition was hosted at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Alabama Astrobotics placed first in the mining, autonomy and technical presentation categories, snagging the team $10,000 they’ll use on next year’s robot. The team is made up of about 40 students, and is advised by Ricks and Renea Randle, a math instructor at Shelton State.

To read more about the team’s win, visit

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