One MTSU student engineering team placed in the top 10 in the world while a second team earned two major technical awards at the 2017 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge.
Held March 31-April 1 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the event requires student teams to design, build, test and race human-powered rovers, driven by one male and one female.
The obstacles throughout the nearly three-quarter-mile course simulate terrain found on Mars as well as other planets, moons and asteroids throughout the solar system.
Assembly at the start/finish line, time to negotiate the course and incurred penalties factor in each team’s final time.
MTSU Team 2, which has earned the nickname “The Beast” because of its previous successful performances, placed ninth overall and was sixth best in the United States during the competition. Metal chain issues slowed its best race time.
With a new rover, MTSU Team 1 received the first-time Drive Train Technology Challenge Award and the Safety System Award.
Dr. Saeed Foroudastan, adviser for the Experimental Vehicles Program teams, said he was “proud of all of our students” at the competition.
Team 1 had been designing and building the new rover in the machine shop since the conclusion of the April 2016 competition. Team 2, which had a modified rover, began its efforts this January.
“They worked two days nonstop to finish the new rover,” Foroudastan added. “We were one of only a few schools where just the students worked on the rover.”
Foroudastan said race officials told him the new rover “was the best design and both were the best-looking rovers” at the event.
The University of Puerto Rico-Humacao Team 1 earned first place in the university division based on its penalty-free run in 4 minutes, 21 seconds.
Rhode Island School of Design earned second place with a 6:44 time, and Puerto Rico-Mayaguez placed third with 7:14. MTSU Team 2, which was penalized two minutes, finished in 9:28, just ahead of the Tennessee Tech Team 1’s 10:07 entry.
MTSU Team 1 placed 26th overall. Once the body was assembled in the machine shop, team members encountered issues with new wheels days before the race as well as with a rubber belt during the competition. It finished in 11:27, but encountered more than 34 minutes in penalties.
Murfreesboro’s Central Magnet School teams placed ninth and 25th, respectively, in the high school competition.
For more about the rover challenge, visit www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge.
For results, visit www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge/teams and click on the “college display report.”
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)
MTSU teams take aim at lunar rover world event at NASA-Huntsville
Two MTSU teams are setting their sights on potential high finishes at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge 2017.
The event will be held Friday and Saturday, March 31-April 1, at NASA’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center course in Huntsville, Alabama.
The challenge will focus on designing, constructing and testing technologies for mobility devices to perform in environments in the solar system family — planets, moons, asteroids and comets — and it will provide valuable experiences that engage students in the technologies and concepts that will be needed in future exploration missions.
MTSU’s Experimental Vehicles Program lunar rover entries are an annual top-10 finisher, placing third in the world and best in the U.S. twice in recent years.
Junior Brad Hobbs, senior Kelly Maynard and graduate student Thomas Kinney are captains for MTSU Team 1, which has a new aluminum body, wheels designed by Maynard for the second year and will utilize a belt system instead of a metal chain. Drivers are seniors Braxton Harter and Emma Gist.
“We’re confident we should be in at least the top three,” said Hobbs, acknowledging strong international competition from Russia, Germany, India and Puerto Rico, not to mention MTSU Team 2.
Captain Tony Cheatham, a junior mechatronics engineering major from Knoxville, Tennessee, guides Team 2, whose rover is nicknamed “The Beast.” Team members made the required 50 percent modifications required since it is not a totally new entry. Drivers are Jason Baker and Mathilde French.
“We were seventh in the world last year. With modifications, we think we can do better than that,” said Cheatham, who mentioned all the hours the volunteer team members spent preparing the rover.
Team 2 modifications include adding a camera system, a modified wheel design and an adapted breaking and drivetrain system.
Rovers will be human-powered and carry two student drivers, one male and one female, through the half-mile obstacle course of simulated extraterrestrial terrain of craters, boulders, ridges, inclines, crevasses and depressions.
As part of the challenge and before going onto the course, unassembled entries must be carried by the drivers to the course starting line with the unassembled components contained in a specific area. At the starting line, the entries will be assembled, readied for racing and evaluated for safety.
The top three winning high school and college/university division teams will be those having the shortest total times in assembling the rovers and negotiating the course. Each team is permitted two runs on the course. The shortest course time (including penalties) will be added to the assembly time for the final total event time.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams in both divisions. Schools compete for 11 additional awards. MTSU teams have earned various awards through the years.
Saeed Foroudastan, associate dean in the College of Basic and Applied Science, is the teams’ adviser.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)