farmers harvest grain. We can lower the robots however
much we need to in order to match the surface level.”
So, unlike many of the teams that build off each other
and improve each other’s designs, John Brown University’s
Eaglenaut Robotics Club took the opposite approach. They
saw all of these similar looking robots and decided they
needed to be different, and then they went with it.
Unfortunately for the Eaglenauts, their design was not
enough to win the competition, although they did place
third in the system’s engineering paper and slide show
presentation. Their creativity did enough to bring home the
Judge’s Innovation Award, which got their school a trophy.
So, how did teams do this year at the competition?
Last year, we saw the West Virginia Mountaineer team
bring home the Joe Kosmo trophy, taking first in both the
onsite mining challenge and the outreach project report.
The Mountaineers this year, however, did not return to
defend their title. Instead, Alabama University in
collaboration with Shelton State repeated their 2012
winning of the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence. Alabama
took first place in the mining segment and the slide show
presentation, and also managed to grab second in the
outreach program and systems engineering paper. In
addition to the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, the
Alabama and Shelton State team won the Autonomy Award
and the Efficient Use of Communications Power Award.
Alabama has been absolutely devastating at this
competition, competing every single year it’s occurred. In
the last three years, they’ve taken third, second, and in
2012, first. They’ve had the advantage of building on not
only six years of previous work, but six years of extremely
successful work. They could take all the former winning
designs, mechanics and electrical knowledge, and overall
knowledge of the competition, and then polish and perfect
everything. The John Brown University team didn’t have
that advantage starting from scratch. All the designs they
had were brand new, so all the programming had to be
done from the bottom up.
Alabama also had those six years to set up the funding
and infrastructure of their team — something other teams
were not so lucky to have going. They had a full practice pit
filled with masonry sand which is actually finer than the BP-
1 used in the competition arenas. Many teams did not have
that advantage. Some teams used beach volleyball courts;
some didn’t even get good practice runs before coming to
Florida and were using their beachside hotels to test their
robot in the sand. One thing is for sure in this competition.
Experience helps, and the Alabama University and Shelton
State team witnessed that first hand.
So, the Sixth Annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition
is in the bag, teams are all back at their respective schools,
and as many students told me, are already back trying to
improve their robots. Like anyone else going into this
competition with little previous information, I was
impressed and overwhelmed by everything I saw. Students
still in college were building things I couldn’t imagine
One thing is for sure, though. Although only some
teams took home prizes and awards, everyone involved
with this event benefitted. As Johanboeke put it,
“Everybody wins. The students get real world engineering
experience, and we get design and innovation ideas. It’s
good for NASA, it’s good for America, and it’s good for all
of us.” SV
The grand prize winning Alabama University robot.
SERVO 09.2016 49
The Montana State team showing off their robot.
The John Brown University robot during a mining run.
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