Building a base on the moon and extracting water from lunar craters are goals some might call pie-in-the-sky.

But a group of dedicated students at the University of British Columbia has taken on the out-of-this-world challenge and will be showcasing their efforts at a robotics competition next week.

The Thunderbird Robotics club will set their moon dust-shoveling machine in motion as part of a NASA-run competition in California, an event held to promote the development of space technologies.

The club has been pulling some late nights -- even tinkering until 3 a.m. on Friday -- in order to work out last-minute bugs and kinks.

"We've had a bunch of problems," UBC student Taylor Cooper said. "That's how these projects go, really. It always ends up like this."

The team's robot, the product of at least 3,000 hours of work, will compete against others to prove its agility in excavating moon rock.

"I'm confident we can compete and do well," Cooper said.

"I'm not sure that we're going to win the competition or anything," he added. "If we do, great. If we don't, I'm still totally happy with what we've done."

The robots will shovel regolith, a soil which covers the entire lunar surface but can also be found on Earth.

Teams are vying for $500,000 in prizes and an opportunity to contribute to future NASA missions.

The club leaves for California on Wednesday.

With files from The Canadian Press