years to perfect the mechanics and nuances of driving and
mining, and were now able to focus on the programming.
“We have a full 24 x 12 ft pit full of masonry sand”
stated the sponsor. A pit of their own is actually more than
many teams had. The UCF team who were in their first year
of the competition used a local beach volleyball court to
practice. Although UCF didn’t place this year, they’re
encouraged for next year, when they’ll be able to perfect
their auger method.
Being a rookie team in this competition is very
challenging, but the teams that have returned come back
with a full year’s work and knowledge with them.
Alabama’s practice pit is state-of-the-art, and although they
couldn’t fill it with BP-1 — which is actually synthesized
moon dirt — they did fill it with pure masonry sand, “which
is actually finer than the BP-1 material,” stated an Alabama
University student. “We have more traction here than we
do back home. If we can drive there, then we can drive
Alabama boasted the added benefit of having students
in nearly every scientific discipline you could think of:
So, another year of innovation has come and gone at
NASA. This year was certainly eventful and useful. Before
going and seeing the competition, I really had no idea what
to expect. When I got there, I was surprised by the sheer
volume of people, rows and rows of robots, and teams
repairing them. A tent filled with machinery noise, saws
ripping through metal, people trying to talk over those
saws, then more people trying to talk over those people
trying to talk over the saws.
However, I didn’t need to hear anyone to see what this
competition was all about. I didn’t need to hear the almost
rehearsed sounding answers to “How long have you been
practicing, oh and how’s your mining method doing, and
how are your wheels holding up?” to understand the
importance of this competition.
Not only is NASA gaining new ideas and solutions to
problems they may face in space and seeing firsthand trials
of potential technologies, but they’re also bringing out the
best in a huge group of some of the
smartest young adults in the country.
They’re letting these students express
their ideas and exercise their critical
and analytical thinking skills through
real life practical situations, and then
rewarding them for it.
I personally look forward to seeing
how ingenious these robots become
over the next few years. SV
Fans watch teams run their robots in
the BP-1 sand pits.
A team poses with their robot before a mining run.
A team shows off their robot on the open viewing day.
56 SERVO 09.2015