surprising. Because cost is an issue, a
lot of teams simply move the robot
with an Xbox control, through a Wi-Fi
signal transmitted by a normal home
router. In order to see what the robot
sees, many teams just use store-bought webcams, or the Xbox Kinect.
Teams have their own ways of
practicing for the competition. One
typical way teams test their robot's
mobility is by creating their own
regolith mix. Some teams successfully
mimic the competition regolith — like
the team from Florida Tech. Their
mixture consists of 50% fly ash (which
was donated by a local cement
company) and 50% play sand. Other
team’s mixtures are less successful.
The University of North Carolina,
Charlotte's regolith was made of fly
ash, Portland cement, and play sand.
The competition regolith clumped up
more than they expected. Although
this threw the team, they adapted,
adding additional lips to the rotating
drum to better corral the regolith into
One of the robot designs that
impressed me the most during my
first trip to Lunabotics was from
Embry-Riddle University. It featured a
rotating drum that both collected and
stored the regolith, foregoing the
more traditional hopper design. It
spun one way digging up the regolith.
When it came time to dump the
regolith, the drum spun the opposite
direction, extracting it. This year's
competition had several teams using
that design. However, it was not
shameless plagiarism; teams took the
spirit of innovation, expanding and
bettering their design using lessons
learned from past events.
Scoops were added for better
collection, and holes were widened to
collect more. Advances in technology
rarely come from a purely original
idea. It's far more common to expand
other ideas to make better, more
That does not mean this year's
competition didn’t present its own
fresh ideas; original designs were
extremely impressive. One such design
SERVO 09.2014 35
The team from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks poses with their robot.
Go to www.servomagazine.com/index.php/magazine/article/september2014_Berry to comment on this topic.
The robot from Florida Tech featured an impressive carbon fiber based design.