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Students ‘Dig Deep’ in Mining Competition
06.07.13
 
Mining Competition

Image above: Team LunaCY from Iowa State University won the grand prize, the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence at NASA’s Fourth Annual Robotic Mining Competition held May 20-24 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. At far left is Kennedy Director Bob Cabana. Photo credit: NASA/Tom Farrar
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Engineering Students

Image above: At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, college students arrived May 20 to compete in NASA’s Fourth Annual Robotic Mining Competition. The mining competition was coordinated by Kennedy Space Center’s Education Office for the agency’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossman
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Overcoming challenges, displaying teamwork and sharing team spirit were all part of NASA’s Fourth Annual Robotic Mining Competition, coordinated by Kennedy Space Center’s Education Office and held May 20-24 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Fifty college and university teams from the U.S., Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Mexico and Poland brought their unique robotic miners to the visitor complex. During four days of intense competition, the teams placed their robots in the mining arena to dig in the rocky terrain of simulated extraterrestrial regolith and deposit at least the minimum amount of 10 kilograms in the hopper.

Teams also prepared and presented a systems engineering paper and slide presentation, demonstrated their robotic miners to a panel of judges, displayed team spirit, performed outreach education projects and worked to display efficient use of communications power during robotic operations.

When the “dust” settled May 24, several teams were recognized at the awards ceremony held in one of the visitor complex's IMAX theaters.

The grand prize, the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, was awarded to Iowa State University Team LunaCY for accumulating the most points during the competition. The team also received the First Place On-Site Mining Award for collecting the most regolith.

“We weren’t sure how it was going to work out,” said Katie Goebel, the project director. “It was amazing and very nice that our hard work as a team paid off like we wanted it to.”

Iowa State has competed in all four mining competitions and has about 30 team members.

“It was another successful competition,” said Rob Mueller, lead technical expert and mining judge. “We appreciate all of their efforts. We learn from their efforts. We saw a new level of friendship here this year.”

Teamwork and team spirit were especially evident when first-time competitors Team HUSAR from the Warsaw University of Technology in Poland arrived, but only half of their robot arrived. With a “Failure is not an option” banner displayed on the wall above their “pit” area, they rose to the challenge.

“We had to build a new robot,” said team leader Lukasz Godziejewski. “Other teams helped out by donating parts and tools.”

They persevered and were able to compete in the mining area on the final day of competition. For their efforts they received a special recognition, the Perseverance Award.

Team EKUSH from the Military Institute of Science and Technology in Bangladesh received first place in the Luna Worldwide Campaign and the Outreach Project categories. Team ROBOCOL from the Universidad de Los Andes in Columbia received first place in the Best Use of Social Media category.

Another first-time team, KU Moonabotics, from the University Institute of Engineering and Technology at Kurukshetra University in India, needed help rebuilding an electronics package because their original was lost in transit. Devon Peck, from the Florida Institute of Technology’s Team Persistence, stepped forward to help them out. This helped earn FIT the top Team Spirit Award.

West Virginia University’s team Mountaineers received second place in the Joe Kosmo Award of Excellence. In their third year of competition, the team met the challenge of building two robots, one for this competition and another for the RASC-AL competition coming up in Houston.

“The challenge was to start early enough so we weren’t rushed at the end,” said Tim Godisart, team leader. “It takes about eight months from design to build complete. We had two teams working almost simultaneously.”

“It was fun. Every year gets more interesting,” said Justin Headley, a systems engineer from the University of Alabama’s team LUnAH. In their fourth year of competition, the team received third place in the Joe Kosmo Award of Excellence.

No stranger to the competition, the University of North Dakota’s Team RAPTOR placed second in the On-Site Mining category. The university won the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence in 2011 and has competed all four years. This year they were able to collect nearly 200 kilograms of regolith during two separate runs in the mining arena.

Team LunarEX from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, developed a novel locomotion system that features active suspension, independent steering and 3D-printed wheels that adjusted traction as the robot mined the regolith.

“One of the challenges we had this year was failure of the electrical components, but we were able to successfully replace them so we could compete,” said Nick Speal, the project leader.

“It’s been really exciting to be here, compete for the first time and see the other teams’ robots,” said Daniel Linton, the University of Sydney, Australia team leader.

“It was a labor of love, and even with the challenges, we were able to have an exciting and inspiring competition,” said Gloria Murphy, mining competition project manager. “Reading about the teams and their dedication to this competition energized me and all of the event coordinators and volunteers.”

“I hope you learned what inspires you and what challenges you,” said Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana during the awards ceremony. “It’s our destiny to go beyond Earth. We are explorers.”

The competition garnered interest from government representatives. Patrick Gavin from U.S. Rep. Bill Posey’s office and Susan Fernandez from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office toured the competition area and viewed the robotic miners in action.

For more information about NASA’s robotic mining competition, visit: Robotic Mining Competition

Full List of Winners

The Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence:
- First Place: Iowa State University
- Second Place: West Virginia University
- Third Place: University of Alabama

On-Site Mining Award:
- First Place: Iowa State University
- Second Place: University of North Dakota
- Third Place: University of New Hampshire

Systems Engineering Paper:
- First Place: University of Alabama
- Second Place: Military Institute of Science and Technology (Bangladesh)
- Third Place: John Brown University

Outreach Education Project Report:
- First Place: Military Institute of Science and Technology
- Second Place: Kirori Mal College (India)
- Third Place: Iowa State University

Slide Presentation and Demonstration:
- First Place: University of Alabama
- Second Place: John Brown University
- Third Place: University of Akron

Team Spirit:
- First Place: Florida Institute of Technology
- Second Place: West Virginia University
- Third Place: Military Institute of Science and Technology

Judges Innovation Award:
- First Place: Montana State University
- Honorable Mention: New York Polytechnic University
- Honorable Mention: North Dakota University

Efficient Use of Communications Power Award:
- First Place: University of New Hampshire
- Second Place: Montana State University
- Third Place: Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia)

Special Perseverance Award:
- University of Warsaw (Poland)

Luna Worldwide Campaign Award:
- First Place: Military Institute of Science and Technology
- Second Place: Kirori Mal College
- Third Place: Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

Best Use of Social Media Award:
- Universidad de Los Andes

 
 
Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center