Robots, the space program and innovation

A robot from last year's National Robotics Week Robot Block Party.

A robotics competitions gets underway on Monday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. College students have to build and design a robot that can dig lunar solid, for example, to be used during a mission to Mars.

Experts say competitions like these help foster innovation and can even help bring ideas to market.

 "That's one area where I think you might be getting neat ideas on the cheap," says Ross Mead, a doctoral student studying robotics at the University of Southern California. 

He says the competitions are exciting and also give companies, or NASA, the opportunity to see problems solved in different ways.

Given the deep budget cuts to NASA, competitions are an especially good idea for the space agency. 

"NASA's leveraging the budget they have with trying to stimulate people working outside of NASA to come up with things that could be really helpful to them," says Tom Kinnear, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. 

But perhaps the greatest reason competitions work Kinnear said, is that people love to win.

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