by David Geer
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Akron
Competition Robot Roundup
Events such as RoboGames attract bright minds and hungry
competitors from across the country. The University of Akron’s
student roboticists were well prepared with well-designed,
efficient, and intelligent mobile robots.
University of Akron roboticists designed and created
PiRATE with a focus on competing in the NASA sponsored
Lunabotics Mining competition. In this competition, robots
maneuver to a given locale, collect moon soil, and return to
deposit it in a pre-appointed collection container or bin. The
activity is a staged simulation of the actual Lunar Rover
collecting Lunar regolith on the surface of the moon.
A differential drive moves the steel robot on tracks like
Tom Hartley, professor of computer and electrical engineering
at the University of Akron, points out the simple and easy-to-implement design of Lunabot PiRATE (Piloted Remote All-Terrain Excavator) — a lunar mining robot. PiRATE’s bucket, for
instance, can scoop up 15 kg of lunar sand by remote control
via Internet from miles away. Lunabot’s lightweight, compact
lithium battery is markedly more efficient than its conventional
lead counterpart and its lightweight polyurethane tracks
efficiently maneuver across lunar surfaces.
10 SERVO 11.2010
they would on a tank. “The tracks were made from table
chain which are conveyor belts used for transporting items
in manufacturing systems,” says Dr. Tom Hartley, robotics
advisor, University of Akron. Linear actuators raise and
lower the front facing plow used to collect the moon soil.
The robot’s operators control it remotely via Wi-Fi. The
operators view the robot from a separate area via cameras
mounted in the arena. Three wired Ethernet-based cameras
enable the robot’s own sight. The roboticists mounted them
on the front and back of the robot, and adjacent to the
plow at the proper angle so its operators could view the
The builders created the operator interface in Visual
Studio. The robot employed PIC and Arduino
Lunabot PiRATE, with engineering student designers (l-r):
Tom Vo, Richard Johnson, and Bruce Haas.