Engineering team to compete in NASA robotic mining challenge

Mining Robot

The team is small, but mighty.

A group of four mechanical engineering students will compete in this year’s NASA robotic mining competition, taking place May 14-18 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This will be CSU’s first time participating in the annual national competition.

The team has constructed a robot capable of extracting resources from the surface of a planet.

The team
CSU’s robotics team and its sponsors

Mars ice deposits

NASA has found deposits of ice underneath the surface of Mars using rovers. Now, they are interested in mining this ice in large quantities to better understand the possibility of sustaining human life on Mars. University teams from across the nation are charged with presenting their most creative ideas on how to do it.

“What we have developed is a rotating auger that is capable of drilling through a surface, extracting the material underneath and then storing that material in a container on the device,” said Jake Bryant, student project manager of the robotics team.

Presented at E-Days

The CSU team has been working on the project since August 2017, and they presented their final design during the Engineering Days Senior Design Showcase in April. The team has managed to design and construct the device using only the facilities at CSU. The small CSU team of four will be competing against roughly 50 teams, many of whom have over 30 students.

“There is no secret to how we were able to finish the project in under a year with just the four of us,” said Bryant. “We were pulling 80-hour work weeks, and I am excited to see how far we’ve come.”

Jianguo Zhao, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering who developed an interest in robotics as a student in China, is the students’ faculty advisor. He is helping the students navigate the technical challenges of the competition.

The team has been sponsored by Allied Electronics, which provided the students many of the components they needed to develop their prototype robot.