This is the very first year that Florida Tech is taking part in Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge. This competition started in 2007 and has occurred annually ever since. The competition allows university teams from all over the world to come to the deserts of south Utah in order to have their rovers compete head-to-head in a series of tasks.
The sample return task is where the teams have to gather 25 grams of terrain samples and document each site where the samples were gathered.
The astronaut assistance task is where there are two tools that must be picked up and delivered to a person around the terrain. There is an equipment servicing task in which the rover must go and operate some sort of task, such as flipping switches or turning a valve. A few more tasks, such as the terrain traversal tasks and the repeater drop off task, make it a long list of abilities that we must implement into our rover in order to score high.
Florida Tech’s team is multidisciplinary, made up of mechanical engineers, aerospace engineers and computer science majors. The mechanical team is focusing on the chassis, suspension and robotic arm of the rover, and the aerospace team is taking care of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, which will supplement the rover in the competition along with composites for the body of the rover and control systems.
In the end, everyone is going to end up helping out on everything and getting hands-on in the areas in which he or she is the strongest in. For our team, we have two fearless leaders (one for mechanical, and one for aerospace) who make sure everyone is keeping on track and fulfilling his or her part of the work. The aerospace lead is Tiziano Bernard, and the mechanical lead is Christopher Zarlenga.
I sat down with Zarlenga and asked him a few questions about being team lead, and his hopes and thoughts for this senior design team.
Why did you decide to be team lead for the Florida Tech Mars Rover team?
Zarlenga: “I’ve always been a leader in anything I do, whether it be other organizations or sports teams and I’d like to think I’m a good leader, so I wanted to step up for a task such as this.”
Zarlenga: “The biggest obstacle I believe will be the integration of such complex systems [such as] Arm, Rover, UAV, and Communications in order for them to work seamlessly and effectively with one another.”
What are you most excited for in this project?
Zarlenga: “I am most excited to work on the fabrication and testing of parts and components.”
As the school year progresses, we will be moving forward with our senior design project. Be sure to stay tuned in order learn about other senior design projects at Florida Tech and see the progress our Mars rover makes along the year!