Drive Tracks (Smaller).png
Drive Tracks (Smaller).png

The Challenge


NASA Robotic Mining Competition 2017

Design it. Build it. Dig it.

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The Challenge


NASA Robotic Mining Competition 2017

Design it. Build it. Dig it.

 

The Challenge

This international competition challenges university level students to build a robot capable of tackling the harsh martian environment. The goal is to excavate a martian regolith simulant called Black Point 1 (BP-1), and deliver it to a collection bin opposite the mining area in an enclosed field. This task is more difficult than that, however. BP-1 is extremely silty and easy to sink into, and combined with boulders and craters scattered along the field, it's easy to get stuck and end the mission early. Robots also need to be energy, data transmission, and weight efficient to avoid point penalties, and can make up for losses by collecting icy regolith (gravel) buried deep beneath the BP-1, having a dust tolerant design, and completing the 10 minute run autonomously.

Outside of the robot construction, teams must also submit a technical paper detailing the functionality and construction of their robot. Teams also actively engage with their community through STEM focused events, with a goal to give back as much as possible, and inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists, physicists, and mathematicians. This all culminates in a week-long competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with teams participating from all around the world. Here, robots face the simulated competition arena, some touching regolith for the first time, and teams give detailed presentations on their robot, and the results of their outreach efforts and marketing campaign to a panel NASA engineers.

Competition Components


Competition Components

Competition Components


Competition Components

Mining Scoring

 

Designed around requirements set for NASA rovers, the competition scoring system reflects the difficulty associated with sending a rover to Mars, and provides an extremely realistic challenge for participants.

Technical Documents

Teams are required to submit a systems engineering paper that details overall robot design, and describes how its different components work together to complete the mining challenge. This paper is scored for professional formatting, and thorough content as described in the official NASA rubric.

Read our 2017 systems engineering paper

A critical part of this competition is engaging with our community through STEM oriented events and activities. Our team makes an active effort to participate in and host these types of events, including: community fairs, workshops, and interactive events. You can see the scoring criteria in the official NASA rubric.

Read our 2017 outreach report

The Robot


The Robot

The Robot


The Robot

Prototyping

The first stage of our design process is coming up with different ways to tackle the challenge. After narrowing down our options to three different digging mechanisms, we created prototypes to test in simulated BP-1 and gravel.

After assembling these prototypes, we created a scoring system to evaluate designs based on performance in BP-1, gravel, and to compare other qualities such as simplicity, reliability, and dust tolerance.

Bucket Belt testing in gravel.

Bucket Belt testing in gravel.

 
Scoring system utilized to evaluate digging mechanisms.

Scoring system utilized to evaluate digging mechanisms.

Coalminer Prototype Testing in simulated BP-1.

Coalminer Prototype Testing in simulated BP-1.

Software and Electronics Testing

Test drivebase during early software testing.

Test drivebase during early software testing.

In order to test our software and electronics before completing the full robot assembly, we built a prototype chassis. This chassis is not made using the same manufacturing methods or materials as our final drivebase, but matches the real one in dimension to maintain predictable performance. 

 

Wheel Testing

Standard wheel testing.

Standard wheel testing.

Testing a custom wheel design.

Testing a custom wheel design.

Designing wheels that can tackle the incredibly silty BP-1 surface is a difficult task. In order to determine what wheel design works best, we created a scaled down drivebase that matches the proportions of the real robot. Affectionately named "Mecchiato", this robot allows us to test a variety of different wheel designs using 3D printed wheels that we can quickly and easily produce.

Testing the wheels involves two stages. The first is testing with standard rubber wheels on standard pile carpet. In this scenario we time the robot driving five feet, and then separately for a full revolution. We then repeat these tests with our test wheels on simulated BP-1. We can use the standard test times to create percent efficiency values for our test wheels, and then compare designs.

Daybreak

Daybreak. (Smaller).png

Our robot for the 2018 season is named "Daybreak." We are currently updating our website, and will post more information soon!