Out of this world ingenuity: Team's robot races rivals on lunar course


UA Robotics Team 2012

Lunabotic Mining Competition team members from left to right, top row: John Quayle, Dr. Tom Hartley, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Richard Johnson and Richard Steiner III. Middle row: Rachael Innocenzi, BenChaffee, Deboshri Sadhukhan and Ian Drake. Bottom row: Cameron Clarke, Duncan Campbell and Andrew Balfour.

UA robot S.T.E.V.E. is on a space mission of sorts, showing off his speed and excavation capabilities in a simulated lunar environment. S.T.E.V.E., a 41.5-kilogram lunabot, and his 11 engineering student designers, are going head-to-head against more than 50 international teams this week in the third annual Lunabotics Mining Competition at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Fla. where robots excavate and deposit lunar dust in timed races.

“We designed S.T.E.V.E. to scoop moon dirt from the front and dump it from the back so that he can travel across the competition course quickly, without turning,” says team leader Ben Chaffee, a junior mechanical engineering major.

Chaffee and his teammates say S.T.E.V.E.’s special features such as infrared sensors that detect rocks and other obstacles on the course, simple three-motor design, and custom-made circuit boards promise to keep the robot, otherwise known as Small Tactical Electronic Vehicular Excavator, in the game.

UA students have participated in the competition since its 2010 beginning. Designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, the event provides a competitive environment that could result in innovative ideas and solutions potentially applied to future NASAmissions.

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Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.