Milestone Update: Florida Tech Mars Rover

After a long and relaxing winter break, I jumped right back into my very last semester of my undergraduate career ready to keep working furiously on my senior design project.

Before winter break, my senior design team and I had managed to design an almost-finished concept of our Rover and UAV combo, write up our Critical Design Review paper, and put on a fantastic presentation for our advisory board. That being said, there was still plenty for us to do while off on break and as soon we got back!

From Ideas...
From Ideas…

My team and I had a preliminary design completed, ready for analysis and ready for us to present to our advisory board. We came up with the idea that we’d have a large enough UAV in order to help accomplish some of the competition’s tasks.

This is a new take on the competition because in previous years, no one has actively used their UAV to compete just for surveillance, if they had a UAV at all, because they aren’t required.

We also decided that our Rover would have a lightweight composite body with a rocker bogie suspension. This will allow our body and electronics to remain level with the ground, and it will allow us to keep our center of gravity balanced as we overcome rough terrain. We also decided to go on a seven degree of freedom robotic arm (this was my baby I oversaw and designed) in order to accomplish the other tasks in the competition as well.

With this design, the team learned many valuable lessons that helped shape not only the team, but our design as well, in order to improve it upon returning from the break. The competition’s harsh weight limit in the rules hindered the extent of our design, and therefore, many things had to be changed in order to make our system “lose weight.”

The robotic arm lost a degree of freedom, the suspension is being made out of light carbon fiber, and the UAV had to downsize some in order to comply with the rules. I also felt that meeting the deadline of our Critical Design Review (the big report at the end of the fall semester that basically shows the advisory board all of the work and research we’ve done at that point and why we believe we’re going to be successful) really made us improve our communications skills as a team to assure that every sub group was on the correct page and all the individual pieces will fit together seamlessly in the end.

...To concept...
…To concept…

Being part of the leadership of this project has also taught me many, many lessons in how to be a fair but stern manager while still being an effective engineer. It’s difficult to sometimes have to make the executive decision to steamroll through an idea and see it all the way through due to lack of time instead of being more open-minded and considering more possibilities. It’s also really scary pushing your design and product to the point where you begin spending your funding on it, because no matter how many times you’ve redone the calculations, remeasured the diameter of every hole, and sacrificed a freshman to the engineering gods, you will still always have that little voice of doubt that nothing will work and you will have wasted time, money and possibly your team’s chance of competing. There have been nights where I lose sleep going over a new part’s every feature to assure everything is absolutely perfect and nothing will go wrong.

Now this just may be my take on my senior design project, and some other students must be much more relaxed and easy going on their ideas, but I know that for me, it’s my passion that drives me. I really like this project, what I have been able to overcome and achieve and the loads of experience I have been getting out of it. As much as it sucks, this validates our entire four-year career as mechanical engineering students, and I love that.

To product!
To product!

So keep sticking it out with me and keep reading about the ups, downs, successes and mistakes of my senior design project. Until next time panthers, keep designing your hearts out!

Also, if you are interested to learn more about my project, or would like to become a sponsor, go to our website.

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