Students take new steps toward space exploration


As the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing and Ohio-born astronaut Neil Armstrong’s legendary words, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” a new generation of space pioneers from Ohio is emerging.  A team of University of Akron engineering students placed among the top three teams nationwide in the NASA Moon Tasks Competition for college students. Charged with the mission to design a battery management system for the next manned lunar rover, the UA team’s proposed system addresses issues of battery performance and safety.

Led by faculty adviser Dr. Tom Hartley, professor of electrical and computer engineering, UA’s team is composed of junior electrical engineering students Karin Bodnar of Mayfield Village, Courtney Gras of Aurora, Greg Haren of Lowellville and Michael Ludwig of Louisville, and recent UA computer information systems graduate Ben Magistro of Olmsted Falls. The team was invited to present its technical report to NASA scientists and researchers as part of a student day at NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) lunar analog testing near Flagstaff, Ariz. in September.

Specifically, the UA team will present its findings for a battery management system that monitors cell voltage and balances the battery charging process. The system also is capable of reporting data from the individual cells back to a master controller wirelessly.

“Our paper included calculations for lunar power requirements, and an analysis of the system applied to two different battery chemistries, one [battery] being the lithium ion batteries NASA currently employs and the other being an alternative cell chemistry of lithium-iron phosphate that we proposed,” says Gras, who wrote the UA team’s technical report.

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