For the past three years, Florida Tech has been a part of NASA’s annual NASAbotics competition, formerly known as NASA’s Lunabotics competition. Florida Tech has been progressively improving in this competition, moving up in placement from fifth to second place last year, and with hopes of taking over and winning the competition this year.
This multidisciplinary team consists of mechanical, aerospace, electrical engineering and computer science students. I really like this project, for I was able to participate and help judge the 2013 competition as part of my internship at Kennedy Space Center.
The NASAbotic competition is where universities all over the world come to Kennedy Space Center in order to put their mining robots test and to compete for the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence grand prize. In this competition, the robots have to mine a lunar regolith simulant made up of fly ash (a byproduct of mining coal) in order to simulate the type of surfaces these robots would be possibly digging on in space.
The theory behind the competition is that in the near future, we will be able to send a brigade of mining robots that will be able to mine and extract various chemicals and materials that are necessary for us to host life in different planets. It also allows students to showcase their engineering and design skills to major companies, such as the Caterpillar Mining (CAT), which is also a major sponsor of the competition itself. This also opens up many job and internship opportunities for the competing students, because the judging panel is composed of various engineering from a large group of major companies.
This year’s team, led by Paul Marley, is already working away at the new design in hope of taking first place. This year’s design will have two identical clone robots, which will start out stacked up on the mining field, and then separate in order to dig at double the rate of a singular robot. Concepts from last year’s robots have also been integrated into this year’s design, as the team is continuously learning from the previous year’s accomplishments and mistakes. Last year’s robot also won the President’s Award for Best in Show! So this year’s team definitely has quite a bit to live up to, but with a great leader and determined team members, this team has all the right skills and tools to come out on top.
Stay posted to keep learning about more senior design projects this year! Until next time, Panthers!