A student engineering team from Michigan Tech is competing this week in the Robotic Mining Challenge, hosted by the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The event is designed to create solutions to problems faced on moon exploration missions, with 24 university teams from across the nation taking part.
Each team has spent the past year designing and building a robot that uses resources available on the lunar surface. During the competition, robots must autonomously navigate a lunar-simulated arena and excavate lunar soil, or regolith.
Michigan Tech’s robot, ARES, completed a 15 minute practice runs on Wednesday, May 24. ARES stands for Automated Regolith Excavation System. The name was selected after a brainstorm and voting, says Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Assistant Professor Paul van Susante, the team’s faculty advisor.
Ten of the Michigan Tech team’s 28 members are on site. That includes team lead Karson Linders (mechanical engineering and robotics engineering); Brian Geiger (mechanical engineering); Miranda Meyers (electrical engineering); Brenda Wilson (electrical engineering); Christi LeCaptain (mechanical engineering); Tanner Duncan (mechanical engineering); Collin Miller (mechanical engineering); Ian Giles (robotics engineering); Kyle Hintz (mechanical engineering); and Brendan McRoberts (mechanical engineering).
Many of the students are current or former members of MINE, the Multiplanetary INnovation Enterprise at Michigan Tech, which is also advised by Prof. van Susante. Several of the students recently graduated in April.
Throughout the week, teams will receive one 15-minute practice run and two competition runs. Practice runs will take place May 22-23 with the challenge beginning the afternoon of May 23 and continuing through May 26.
“We were overall pleased with our first competition run,” said van Susante. “Everything worked, but needed tweaking. “We have learned many things that we will improve today and all day tomorrow before our final competition run on Friday.”
Judges of the competition include industry professionals from Caterpillar, the Exolith Lab at the University of Central Florida and NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute.
The Robotic Mining Challenge Award ceremony takes place Friday evening. The Michigan Tech team will travel back to Houghton the next day.
This contest is separate from the NASA Lunabotics Competition, hosted at Kennedy Space Center.